The latest business reforms under the stewardship of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) are a landmark in improving the investment environment and the country’s competitiveness and positioning.
Rwanda ranks the second in Africa in the World Bank doing business index 2016.
According to the World Bank doing business report published in 2015, Rwanda ranked best in East Africa in ease of doing business, and was second in Africa after Mauritius. Globally, Rwanda was assessed to be number two on the getting credit indicator. The same report indicated that Rwanda ranks 12th in the whole world when it comes to property registration. The land titles’ digitization system has made the country perform well as this has accentuated transparency, fast and efficient property registration.
Statistics show that RDB registered 144 businesses, worth $1,078 billion, in 2015. The new reforms concern business registration, acquisition of construction permits, property registration, and cross-border trade, among others, which will spur the country’s competitiveness, attract new investments into the country and support existing enterprises.
According to Gerald Mukubu, the Private Sector Federation (PSF) Chief Advocacy Officer, the reforms will enable traders to cut costs of operations.
Understanding the reforms Starting business
Business registration is done online in a maximum of 6 hours at no cost. Under this modernised registration, you create your own username and password, unlike in the past where you had to get the two from RDB.
The website is in three languages; Kinyarwanda, French or English enabling you to easily register in any language you want.
Likewise, VAT registration is now done at RDB using this online facility. If your business is registered, you just enter your user name and password and you register for VAT.
Employee’s registration also shall soon be done at RDB using this online facility. In the past when registering your company, you could only get an Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) number, but you could not get employee registration. This time, you will be able to register your employees with RSSB on company registration.
Obtaining a building permit at One Stop Center Kigali city takes a maximum of 20 days. Besides, building plans now get signed electronically. Engineers or architects only need to submit architectural plans to City of Kigali online and the officials sign electronically. So, it reduces time and costs which would have been incurred in going to City Of Kigali to get signatures.
In addition, obtaining an occupation permit together with freehold title takes less than 7 days partly because there is no requirement for a topographic survey at One Stop Center Kigali -Kigali city.
However, final inspection by One Stop Center Kigali City, before occupying a building, is mandatory.
Power tariff is always published and can be seen on Rwanda Energy Group website. Getting quotation for your power connection takes a maximum of 2 days.
And for water from Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), you cannot go beyond 15 days without getting connected.
Property registration takes only One day in one step. For instance, if one buys a plot or building, the transfer of names is done in one day. Point to note is that, it should be a commercial or industrial property and should only be done at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) head office.
All service standards can be found on RNRA website. People should read and understand the service charter (time allocated to the service they are requesting).
Maps are periodically updated and published on RNRA website. Engineers need to consult this before taking any action.
All property transfers (numbers) are published on RNRA website, which is very beneficial to the investors in real estate for they can tell easily where business is. The transfer statistics indicate district level depending on your choice including Kigali City. 2015 and 2016 as of now are all published.
In case you want to search for the true ownership of property, you use your own phone. All you need is to know the UPI number (plot number) from your seller and you key in star then UPI the hash tag and you are able to know the owner, demarcations of the plot and you can know if there is any litigation on property.
In case of disputes, a mechanism to settle them has been established in RNRA. The website provides a form for complaints on land registry services. You fill in all your complaints for RNRA management review and appropriate action.
Paying taxes and trading across borders
All taxes can be paid using online services and Mobile phones (via mobile money).
For cross border trade, there is no more requirement for Cargo release order or transit documents at all borders.
All is cleared with National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) and Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) online. By the time you reach the border, the officials are aware that you have already cleared. This applies for both exports and imports.
Courts of law
For the Judiciary, a case management system that integrates all justice stakeholders has been introduced.
This system generates reports at any time needed and any kind of report like including time to disposition report; case clearance rate report; age of pending cases report; and single case progress report.
It also connects litigants, court clerks, judges and police. The system also allows the sending of summons, orders, scheduling dates for hearing electronically. There is no loss of documents since it is digital. The cases are done in a quicker way.
The system also allows publication of judgments in all courts and for commercial courts in particular.
RDB offers advisory services on insolvency especially on re-organization of companies and a modern law on insolvency was published and it’s now in force.
Challenges and achievements of the reforms
Karim Tushabe, a legal consultant in the Doing Business Unit in RDB says the reforms face a challenge of the slow change of mindset among some people which he says should change.“The government is fast in putting in place reforms but changing some peoples’ mindset takes time. People need to change the mindset especially about e-payments,” he says.
He however cites massive achievements brought in by the reforms.
“There is reduction of the costs. The name of the country is also shining. We are assessed by the World Bank regularly and any patriotic Rwandan should be proud of our performance. Kigali is also beaming with a boom in the construction sector due to the ease of getting construction licenses. Companies are increasingly registering employees and the tax base is widening,” he said, expressing optimism that these reforms attract more foreign direct investments.
He assured that the web systems are secure with no cases of hacking so far registered and since the reforms are mostly online as the only alternative if we are to be competitive worldwide, people should be encouraged to go digital in all their business operations. The results for those using the ICT in their business have proved to be very successful in terms of reaching out in a fast and efficient way.