Comesa Competition Commission (CCC) has called for a united course in championing consumer rights in the wake of growing challenges facing the globe.

CCC chief executive officer Willard Mwemba said consumer protection stands as a crucial linchpin in safeguarding the welfare of individuals and sustaining economic activity.

Dr Mwemba said the challenges arising from wars and geopolitical tensions to climate change and health pandemics, have not only tested the resilience of global supply chains but, in some instances, led to their outright breakdown.

“The repercussions of these disruptions have been felt acutely by consumers, with their well-being and economic stability decimated,” said Dr Mwemba.

Compounding these challenges, he said, is the breakneck speed at which technology is advancing, creating a daunting information gap that consumers struggle to bridge.

CAK chairman Kariuki Shaka. Image: courtesy.
CAK chairman Shaka Kariuki. Image: courtesy.

This asymmetry has paved the way for the abuse of consumers by entities wielding technological tools beyond the understanding of the average consumer.

“In these troubled times, forums addressing consumer protection issues have become imperative to formulate effective solutions,” he said.

Speaking during the opening session of the second Consumer International Congress, Dr Mwemba said the importance of multi-stakeholder cooperation and collaboration cannot be overstated, particularly between competition and consumer authorities.

“These entities share a common goal—the optimisation of consumer interests. While competition policy seeks to foster competitive markets where enterprises vie for consumer patronage, consumer policy operates at the individual transaction level, ensuring the protection of individual consumer rights,” he said.

Dr Mwemba, who is also a director with CCC said It is crucial for these two policies to align their efforts and work in tandem to address the challenges faced by consumers.

He said by fostering collaboration and understanding, regulatory bodies can create a more resilient framework that ensures consumer welfare is not merely an afterthought but a central tenet of the economic systems.

“In doing so, we can fortify our societies against the challenges posed by polycrises and technological advancements, ensuring that consumers are not left vulnerable in the wake of these formidable forces,” he added.

Chairman of the Competition Authority of Kenya Shaka Kariuki said major steps have been taken by the Authority to protect consumers, especially in the financial services sector.

“Some of our past interventions such as ensuring fees and charge transparency in digital financial services for transactions conducted through the mobile phone have positively impacted over 20 million Kenyans,” said Mr Shaka.

He said other key interventions in protecting consumers rights have also been in the areas of microfinance, telecommunications, and fast-moving consumer goods, among others.

Mr Shaka said the congress will not only be characterised by thought-provoking discussions, but also by the emergence of shared visions, collaborations, and actionable outcomes that will drive a positive change for consumers worldwide.

The three-day workshop is a collaboration between CCC, CAK and Consumer International.