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Rwanda means business

By Kabona Esiara

Rwanda ranked best business destination, Best world reformer

The Doing Business 2010 report by the World Bank Group has ranked Rwanda the top reformer in the world for passing seven reforms encouraging domestic and foreign investments.

The reforms create a better legal framework, streamline procedures, reduce bureaucracy, and improve service delivery.

Out of the 183 countries surveyed, Rwanda was the 67th, improving from last year’s 143rd position.

Last years’ 143rd position did not impress the leadership in Kigali, a senior official in Rwanda Development Board said, instead they were tasked to push for more reforms that would improve the country’s ranking to two digits this year and make Rwanda more competitive in business.

With a secretariat housed at RDB, some of the reforms including easing starting a business, employing workers and dealing with construction permits were passed.

Registering property, getting credit and protecting investors has also been eased.

Currently the procedures, time, and costs to build warehouses are simple.

The country has also put in place regulations that facilitate cross border trade and closing business.

The costs and procedures involved in importing and exporting have been made easier.

With these reforms in place, an investor can walk in the country and within two days start a business, a process which used to take 14 days.

The reforms have further eased accessing credit and protection of investors.

The credit legislation comes at time when a credit reference bureau is set to start in Rwanda in December. The bureau promises to increase availability of credit and spur economic development.

Most Rwandans have not been able to access credit vital to grow businesses as banks have tightened the lending procedures.

Loans in Rwanda are collateralised to the extent that to access one, the bank will require a house, a car and a land title as collateral.

Under the reforms, Rwanda now has a new company law, labour law, the law on commercial recovery and settling of issues arising from insolvency.

Employers who have been facing difficulty in hiring and firing workers because of Rwanda’s rigid regulations will have an easier process because of the new regulations designed to protect both the employer and employee.

Penelope Brook, the acting Vice President, Financial and Private Sector Development at the World Bank-IFC, says she is impressed by the reforms which improved Rwanda’s rankings. She is quoted by the local press in Rwanda as saying, ‘Business regulation can make an important difference for how easy it is to reorganise troubled firms to help them survive, to rebuild when demand rebounds, and to get new businesses started. ‘

The reforms captured by the World Bank Group are just part of the many Rwanda has carried out in recent times to make the country a business and investment favoured destination.

When Rwanda was admitted to the East African Community economic bloc, President Paul Kagame promised to scrap work permit fees. This did not take long. Today EAC citizens walk in Rwanda and start working, so long as they can find a job.

With a non-discriminatory policy, it is in Rwanda that the private sector employs ‘anybody’ they deem qualified.

Walk in hotels, you will be welcomed by Kenyans, go to construction sites and garages Ugandans are dominating the sector, ask for a hair cut and, people from the Democratic Republic of Congo offer the service.

The openness of the leadership in Rwanda has won many admirers including Ambassador Juma Mwapacu, the East African Community Secretary General.

“The greatest wealth Rwanda has is a leader who is accountable, the wealth many African countries lack.” He made these remarks last year, at a dinner after the East African Investment Conference in Rwanda Kigali. The conference was to market investment potentials in East Africa and also the region to learn from the rest of the world best business practices.

A year later his remarks have been repeated by Nathan Lloyd, Chief Executive Officer DN International, a real estate developer in Rwanda, who also says Rwanda government listens to the private sector.

Joe Ritchie, Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) says Rwanda takes reforms very seriously. He said this shows that Rwanda really means business.

Joe Ritchie is one of the President Kagame’s advisors. He suggests that the country should now declare a war on delays. His remarks come at a time when investors in the real estate business complain that district officials still delay the construction process frustrating investors.

“I think if we can have a national campaign and focus on one thing, this is how we can get the biggest gains in making it easier to do business in the next year. A one or two year campaign on addressing the problem of delays is needed,” he is quoted saying in The New Times.

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