The Rwanda Development Board’s innovative online registration platform risks loosing relevance among the local business community as its usage is yet to be embraced by a vast majority of persons seeking registration of their businesses, according to a cross section of entrepreneurs that talked to Business Times.
RDB initiated the online registration platform as part of the wide ranging reforms aimed at placing the economy at the forefront of business competitiveness in the wider East African Community (EAC).
However, the system seems to be in urgent need of a bigger awareness campaign amongst the business community, given the fact that so many entrepreneurs still line up to formally register their businesses at the office of the registrar of companies.
Launched late last year, the service aims at reducing the time it takes to register a company from a day to just one hour.
“The larger Rwandan society still lacks awareness regarding the online registration, so failure to benefit from the service,” Edwin Bahati, an entrepreneur said as he queued up at RDB’s business registration counters.
As an online platform, he said, the system should ideally address certain business challenges, including time wastage as well as reducing expenses especially paying for transport and other unnecessary costs involved in undertaking formal registration at RDB headquarters in Kigali.
When Business Times visited RDB on Monday, most people intending to register business formed long queues and by the closing time, 3:00 pm, some clients were left disappointed.
The service to ease registration of businesses online, gives an opportunity for anyone to register a company in the comfort of their homes or at any internet café without necessarily going to the RDB offices in Kigali.
Rwanda is currently ranked top in the EAC in easing doing business according to the region’s report dubbed “Doing Business in EAC 2011” launched this month.
However, despite such high rankings, a vast majority of business operators on the ground are yet to embrace such tools.
“I heard about online registration but I thought it was for Rwanda Revenue Authority to ease clearing of goods,” Bahati said.
He said apart from lack of awareness, entrepreneurs complain that most of the documents are in English and that the registration forms are complicated to understand.
Louise Kanyonga, the Registrar General of Companies said: “It is true that the system is currently configured only in English and therefore users must have knowledge of English to navigate it, however translated (Kinyarwanda) application forms are available online.”
Entrepreneurs say that the move to pay people to fill in the registration forms is a common practice partly because business persons find such forms difficult to read and complicated to understand the terms used in such documents.
Some blame RDB officials for reluctance to ease registration of businesses as is required by law.
“I came here for three days and could not finish the process. Eventually, I had to pay some one to fill the forms for me,” said Colleta Uwamwiza, a businesswoman in Kigali city.
Information from RDB indicates that liaison officers have been recruited in all districts to help in the process of online registration. However, such officers acknowledge that awareness about the service is still low.
Kanyonga emphasised that the being relatively new form of service delivery, her office will need to engage strongly with the public to shift from the conventional culture of physical presence and queuing at offices to receive a service.
She added; “There is still need for further awareness of the advantages of the online facilities.”
Failure to utilise the system is mainly attributed to lack of infrastructure (internet) and the capacity by various business persons to comprehend different legal terms used in the registration documents.