Nigeria has moved up 24 places in the World Bank’s Doing Business report to 145th position, implementing 5 reforms making it easier for doing business in Lagos and Kano. CNBC Africa’s Kenneth Igbomor caught up with Jumoke Oduwole the Coordinator of the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat and discussed the reforms that made this possible.
We are indeed up 24 places up this year. It’s been a lot of hard work. It’s taken a lot of collaboration. It just speaks to the power of government working together at various levels. The Federal government, ministries, agencies and departments. A lot of ministers pulling together. We also worked with the National Assembly. Two deals were passed within 90 days. People said it couldn’t be done, but it was done We worked with State governments, Lagos State, Kano State, and we worked with the private sector as well. We got a tremendous amount of support from a cross section of private sector players.
I bet getting all of these arms of government together for this was not an easy job. What role did political will play in this?
No, it was not an easy ob. Political will is key. In January last year, the Vice President met with the World Bank for the first time and we decided that this was the project we were going to take on. The Vice-President of PEBEC, the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, presented to the Federal Executive Council and got this approved. The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, chaired by the Vice President with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment as Vice Chair. 10 ministers were on it, the CBN Governor, the head of the Civil Service was on it too. Later on we got top level representatives from the National Assembly, Lagos State and Kano State, and the Private Sector. What this meant was that everybody that needed to be in the room to make decisions and see that actualised was there. The Ministers of Power, Foreign Affairs, Environment, Justice were there because these issues are often cross cutting. It isn’t something that one Ministry can change alone. The political will from the presidency itself made sure that the project came to life.
How does this translate to job creation, SME growth and reducing the amount of corruption that businesses face?
The entire project is focused at MSMEs to give more more transparency to reduce costs and to improve the ease and speed of doing business in Nigeria. It was meant to make sure that we have systemic change. It opens opportunities for smaller businesses to thrive. We have the transparency requirement but I should mention the executive order that was signed and all the things that were put in place. When we started the reforms in January, just this January, we took 7 areas from the World Bank ranking and we added our own. To get concrete, if you’re starting a business, the corporate affairs commission had about 6 forms. We consolidated them and put them online. This gave us the ability to stamp documents online as well. After getting all of these things updated and available online, the portal was not stable. There was about 45% down time. We made sure the agency was able to upgrade its servers, and the private sector came through here too. You will recall that we had a 60 day National Action plan and CAC wasn’t able to complete it in that time so the Council gave us an extra 30 days. The private sector came forward and helped. What we did then was that we closed all other methods of registration, so everyone in 5 cities was forced to online portal. It reduced rent seeking opportunities, promotes transparency and makes sure that processes can be timed and tracked and makes sure that things get done. Now you can register a company in 24 to 48 hours. That is a practical example.
That’s just one of the reforms. How about the others?
Working with state governments in registering property and construction permits, Lagos and Kano state governments worked very hard at transparency. Working very hard to ensure that everything was online, reports were online and that reduced the time and the cost for businesses. Lagos State did things like removing the requirements for sworn affidavits for property registration so things like that. Simple, but not always easy. Sometimes you need a lot of political will to remove a simple bottleneck that nobody knows why it’s there in the first place. So working with state governments and making sure that we removed some of these things together we were able to see that these reforms were made.