Launched in September 2022, the Trust and Competition in Digital Economies: Promoting an Enabling Environment for Consumer Protection and Competition Across Africa initiative is a collaboration between USAID and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

With USAID support and catalytic funding, the Trust and Competition in Digital Economies initiative harnesses the FTC's technical expertise, capacity-building programs, convening power, and relationships across the region to help authorities adopt and implement policy, legal, regulatory, and enforcement frameworks that protect consumers and competition.

This initiative identifies and pursues priority engagements through: 

  • Assessment and consultations - These engagements determine which digital economy issues are of most urgent concern for authorities in Africa (e.g. a spike in online fraud in one country or evidence of monopoly control over digital infrastructure in another). Through consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, the FTC uses insights to determine its approach to experience sharing, capacity building, and training.
  • Consensus building - Once priority issues are identified, the FTC uses its convening power and relationships to promote a shared understanding and support for actions to advance pro-competition and pro-consumer outcomes.
  • Capacity building - Once priorities are identified and buy-in with relevant stakeholders is secured, the FTC devotes its staff resources to a series of experience-sharing and capacity-building activities. This might include, for example, workshops, targeted technical assistance, and international fellows programs, and involve experts from across the U.S. Government, as appropriate.
  • Learning and dissemination of insights - Throughout implementation, the FTC will work with stakeholders to understand what types of engagement are the most effective and lay the groundwork for new efforts, coalitions, or partnerships among authorities on the continent to address these issues over the long term.

Through this initiative, the FTC will work in concert with other U.S. Government counterparts, such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, regional bodies on the African continent, and country-level counterpart authorities to strengthen the legal and regulatory frameworks and institutional capacity necessary to ensure that the benefits of the digital economy are not undermined by anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive practices.

Robust frameworks for competition and consumer protection are indispensable foundations for partner countries seeking to promote inclusive economic growth, sustain economic competitiveness, promote gender equality and equity, support resilient democratic institutions, and strengthen the rule of law. If in place, these frameworks can also protect against harms that are unique to the digital economy, as well (for example, online fraud, scams, cyber attacks, algorithmic bias, and the misuse of data).

This initiative advances USAID priorities outlined in the USAID Digital Strategy to strengthen inclusive, open, and secure digital ecosystems and advances broader U.S. Government strategies, programs, and initiatives, including the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership (DCCP), Declaration for the Future of the Internet, U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, and National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.

The Trust and Competition in Digital Economies initiative is managed by USAID's Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub's Technology Division and Center for Economics and Market Development.

Program Highlights (2023)

  • FTC collaborated with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Competition Commission during a five-day consumer protection and competition workshop, held in July. With over 90 participants from 18 COMESA member state regulators and consumer protection authorities and a team of expert facilitators from five jurisdictions, workshop participants analyzed digital markets case studies, using the analytical toolkit to identify and assess competition and consumer protection concerns in digital markets.  
  • In July 2023, FTC participated as an expert reviewer in a peer review for Gabon organized by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The purpose of the review was to assist Gabon in drafting a consumer protection law, including provisions relating to e-commerce and privacy. FTC provided input on the background report and posed questions to Gabonese officials during the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) session. 
  • In September, with the Competition Commission of South Africa, FTC, and DOJ shared experiences during an intra-agency digital dialogue with six African competition authorities. African competition agency officials discussed digital case examples and strategies for overcoming challenges in complex investigations. Based on topics and challenges identified during the dialogue, FTC Chair Khan led an interactive session in October with Heads of Agency and senior officials from competition authorities from COMESA, Egypt, Gambia, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, and South Africa aimed at sharing agency experiences addressing those challenges in digital cases.
  • FTC and DOJ contributed to two African Competition Forum workshops, one focused on merger analysis in September and another on anticompetitive cartel conduct in October. Workshop participants analyzed hypothetical case examples, gaining hands-on, practical experience with the analytical toolkit used to assess the myriad competition issues arising in the digital sector.
  • From September to December, FTC hosted an international fellow from the COMESA Competition Commission. The Fellow joined an FTC merger division for three months, working alongside FTC colleagues to review specific mergers, gaining first-hand experience with the practices and approaches that the FTC uses in merger matters.
  • In collaboration with Namibia’s Ministry of Industrialisation & Trade (MIT), FTC created a workshop in November 2023 for Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) consumer protection officials and participants across the Namibian government. The purpose of the event was twofold: (1) to assist Namibian officials in drafting a consumer protection law; and (2) promote coordination and collaboration among SADC member states in cross-border / digital consumer protection matters.
  • In May 2023, FTC organized a webinar for African Dialogue participants regarding the Right to Repair. FTC staff experts from the Division of Marketing Practices explained key concepts from our previous workshop as well as regulatory issues at the state level. Other speakers included representatives from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of Zambia, the Competition Commission, South Africa, the National Consumer Tribunal (South Africa) and the National Consumer Commission (South Africa).