The Consumer Protection Agency of Egypt, CPA, is pleased to have hosted, for the first time, the 7th annual African Dialogue conference on consumer protection.
The venue was held at the Sofitel EL Gezirah hotel during 17-20 August 2015, and was attended by 45 experts from 15 African consumer / competition protection regulatory authorities, 3 international organizations and 38 Egyptian consumer experts. The Ambassador of South Africa, and Tunisia were present as well as delegates of 9 African embassies in Egypt. The CPA board, CP NGIs and market regulatory bodies have also participated at the opening session.
By virtue of its mandate as the regulator of consumer protection in Egypt, CPA believes firmly in the importance of collaboration on the international and African levels in the field of consumer protection aiming to secure the much needed protection of all consumers, and its impact on sustainable consumption movement.
The conference was opened with welcome speeches by Mr. Atef Yacoub, Chairman of the Consumer Protection Agency of Egypt, Mr. Charles Harwood, Director, Northwest Region, U.S. Federal Trade Commission (U.S. FTC), Hon. Dr. Khaled Hanafi, Minister of Supply & Internal Trade, Egypt, in addition to Brief Salutations from Ms. Mr. Ebrahim Mohamed, Southern African Representative (NCC South Africa), Mrs. Dupe Atoki, West African Representative (CPC Nigeria), and Ms. Cecilia Kyenze, East African Representative (CA Kenya).
H.E Minister Prof. Dr. Khlaed Hanafi expressed his content to have the AD conference coinciding with the inauguration of the new extension of the Suez Canal which is expected to facilitate the flow of goods and revive the slow economy of Egypt. He expressed his anticipation to see increased rate of African goods coming through and into Egypt. A situation that would require more attention to local, regional and international consumer and competition protection. Dr. Hanafi confirmed CPA’s free will to adopt policies and procedures, based on scientific research to promote its work, engage young generations and upgrade communication with market players. He said that Cairo has taken steps to provide more protection to consumers by amending the consumer protection law, and opening new CPA branches in Upper Egypt, the Delta and Alexandria to boost citizens' awareness of their rights, the minister added. He urged the civil society, consumer protection associations in particular, to contribute to the process, stressing that the government cannot possibly do the job alone.
Charles Harwood, Director of the US Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said Egypt has played a pivotal role in the Arab region and world and expressed his happiness to have the AD conference hosted in Cairo.
Harwood said the commission is acting to protect citizens and revive the economy. The inauguration of the New Suez Canal, according to Harwood, constitutes a quantum leap in the Egyptian economy.
Chairman of the Consumer Protection Agency Atef Yacoub said that having the conference in Cairo sends a clear message to the world that Egypt is restoring its natural position among African and world countries.
It also assures the world about security and stability in the country, Yacoub added.
The conference aims to enhance cooperation between African countries regarding cross-border consumer complaints, he said. It also aims to outline mechanisms by which to exchange information and expertise among member states, he added.
The agency is waiting for President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to sign into law a new consumer protection bill, Yacoub noted.
The agenda included interesting and important topics such as the current issues and challenges facing enforcers in Africa and the United States, law enforcement and cross-border collaboration: Investigative plans and evidence in consumer protection matters, best practices and collaborations, including during investigations and cases, with sectoral authorities, hands-on techniques in consumer protection and competition case study format to analyze different evidentiary issues, civil society engagement , financial services, and financial literacy, innovative consumer education initiatives with a special focus on social media, cross-border law enforcement techniques and best practices, with a focus on evidence in investigation, Strategies for investigation, best practices and collaboration during investigations and cases, with sectoral authorities, and challenges associated with merchants and service providers.
The conference brought together representatives from all 18 countries and international organizations. The workshop gave the participants an opportunity to present their experiences of enforcing competition and consumer protection laws focusing on policy, the legal and institutional framework, on-ground implementation, advocacy activities, regional and international cooperation, as well as the challenges that face them.
The conference lively discussions highlighted definite needs!
· The importance of collaboration of African countries to take consumer protection within an international perspective to a higher level, aiming to prevent smuggling and the black intention of irresponsible traders to turn Africa to the garbage place for unqualified and expired products.
· The right of consumers to access goods at the right price needs to receive more attention at the policy level.
· Africa's share of e-commerce reached about 33.3% of the global trade volume, yet its share of the total fraud operations is about 48.1%. More policy and implementation efforts are needed in this respect.
· There is still a large nee to coordinate between consumer & competition policies
· More countries need to have independent consumer protection laws, 52% of countries have national policy on consumer protection
· Most African countries need to address emerging issues- mobile phones contracts rates; Food safety labeling; remittances and others.
International Organizations had their share of informative participation at the conference:
· COMESA explained about its function and activities, commenting that the limitations in domestic legislation; national issues; lack of harmonization of laws, legal restriction in the sharing of information insufficient mutual interest to facilitate formal engagement its cross border collaboration techniques and best practices, and confirmed closer cooperation to be encouraged.
· The Africa INTERPOL encouraged the increase of partnership to prevention and suppression of common law crimes. There is a need to determine how and what information is to be shared, language to be used after national investigations is done.
· UNCTAD explained the positive developments for the adoption of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection. At the present stage, the Draft Resolution is being issued in the Second Committee of the General Assembly for discussion.
· A mock trial presented lively yet challenging discussions on telecommunication violations and legal measures. The friendly and professional atmosphere helped the African colleagues to nail down the violators with a loud clap at the end! Of the mock trial.
The African Dialogue website is temporarily uploaded on a test basis as http://acpdg.org/ and the members are waiting for the final approval of FTC to include its logo.
The excursion tours around Cairo monumental and cultural locations added a fresh breath to the conference
Finally, the consumer Protection Agency of Egypt recognizes the need to enhance collaboration with African countries, and took practical steps towards encouraging North Africans to get more involved at the African Dialogue during the discussions of the bilateral agreements with Tunisia & Algeria. CPA expects the conference to take the collaboration between the African countries to a higher level.