REGIONAL INTERGRATION : Now let us do business

There was a collective moment of national pride last week as Rwanda was named the top reformer in a global survey of 183 nations. The report commended Rwanda for the rapid progress in removing obstacles to trade and easing bureaucracy.

There was a collective moment of national pride last week as Rwanda was named the top reformer in a global survey of 183 nations. The report commended Rwanda for the rapid progress in removing obstacles to trade and easing bureaucracy.

The areas in which nations were rated are in 10 categories that indicate a business-friendly climate.

Rwanda rated well in seven out of 10, giving it the title of top-reformer; most of this was due to the new company law introduced last year and has revolutionised business dynamics in Rwanda.

Rwanda faired excellently in: starting a business, employing workers, property registration, access to credit, protecting investors, ease of border trade and closing a business.

However, as an ambitious nation, we cannot afford to relax at this critical time. The report cited that we need further reform in three main categories such as dealing with construction permits, paying taxes and enforcing contracts.

All these are vital for our further development and becoming a stable middle-income economy.

A word of caution, we are a regional economy now and it is not good enough for Rwanda to be haven of tranquility in a chaotic region.

The reforms in Rwanda need to be replicated regionally otherwise they will be of little advantage to us.

For example border trade; it can take up to a week to cross the Kenya/Uganda, or two weeks to clear the Port in Mombasa, so these trade bottlenecks harm our competitiveness.

Rwanda as a nation is looking for comparative advantages to exploit in the East African community and we have just named seven, if these advantages can be allied to a digital communication system, then Rwanda can be the IT hub it aims to be.

The three criteria that we are yet to fulfill will be met when the commercial courts are fully operational and can enforce contracts.

Payment in Rwanda is the main problem businesses face; one can wait months for payment for goods or services rendered.

Many Rwandans are unaware that there are legal means to pursue small claims and contract arbitration; we often have a chain of debtors who will not pay, because they are themselves waiting for payment.

Taxation was a category that was overlooked, in my opinion; taxation has been streamlined to a great extent. Rwandans are trusted to self-assess and submit their own taxes, provided they can stand up to an audit.

In the coming year Rwanda should rate higher in this regard. Simply put, less regulation = less corruption every obstacle put up is an opportunity for a corrupt official to elicit bribes.

Transparency and availability of information are also in need of improvement, both nationally and regionally.

The report called for consistent reform, not a quick rush of measures, policies have to consistent and complimentary; the recent financial crisis will either hasten the need for reform or entrench obstruction in our global economy.

For example a fall in tax revenues might lead some reforming nations to complicate their tax systems.

This report is a challenge to Rwandans as a whole; we need to take advantage of these reforms early on, before other nations in the region catch up.   

Ends

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