Digital platforms and competition policy in developing countries

Article published in Eleanor Fox Liber Amicorum, N. Charbit and al. (eds.), Concurrences, 2021.

Big tech platforms have become a subject of intense antitrust scrutiny in developed economies, most recently in the United States. The thesis of this article is that the power of platforms is not just a first world problem, however, but is also an issue of importance for competition policy in developing countries. These platforms present different costs and benefits for developing countries than for developed countries; in particular, the major big tech platforms have become important tools for further digital platform innovation in developing economies. The article begins with a discussion of the connection between competition law, innovation, and development. The article then discusses how digital platform technologies are employed in Africa in four areas—online retail sales, value chains, financial technology products (fintech), and sharing platforms. The article concludes with a discussion of the lessons these developments have for competition policy in developing countries.

Introduction 1. It was just a few years ago—I date it from 2017—that concern for the power of the “big tech” platforms moved from the pages of the law reviews to the pages of major U.S. newspapers. “We are, all of us, in inescapable thrall to one of the handful of American technology companies that now dominate much of the global economy,” wrote New York Times’s technology columnist Farhad Manjoo. [1] In that same year, after Amazon acquired U.S. food retailer Whole Foods, the Wall Street Journal’s technology columnist, Christopher Mims, wrote that “America’s biggest tech companies are spreading their tentacles (. . .) [P]ower and wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few companies in a way not seen since the Gilded Age.” [2] 2. Manjoo dubbed these tech companies “the Frightful Five”:

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  • NYU School of Law (New York)


Harry First, Digital platforms and competition policy in developing countries, May 2021, Concurrences N° 2-2021, Art. N° 100660,

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