Regulators approved Wal-Mart’s 17 billion rand (about $2.4 billion) bid to buy a controlling share of a South African chain in a ruling Tuesday that followed a fierce debate over protectionism in the country with the continent’s most promising economy.

Unions and government officials are worried the arrival of the world’s biggest retailer will hurt jobs and local manufacturing. In its ruling, the Competition Tribunal, the government agency charged with promoting competition and protecting consumers, said Wal-Mart and South African retailer Massmart could not lay off any workers for two years, must respect Massmart’s existing labor agreements for three years and must invest in training South African suppliers.