25 January 2013

Gambia: Draft Business Registration Bill 2013 Validated

Experts from the business community in The Gambia Wednesday converged on the Kairaba Beach Hotel to validate the country's Business Registration Bill 2013. The bill, widely referred to as the Single Window Business Registration System (SWBRS) is proposed by the Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project.

If enacted, the bill would help improve the business climate in the country, while averting and reducing the cost and delay of business entries. It would also be computerised, automated and enhance fast and cost-effective business in the country.

Speaking at the validation, Kebba Touray, the minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, said the document falls under the component called 'improving the business environment' within The Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project. He said the bill is aimed among other things at supporting the business environment reform programme. He explained that the support rendered under this component would ultimately lead to the operationalisation of Single Window Business Registration System (SWBRS) for the first time in the country.

The Trade minister also told the gathering that the design of the project is based on private sector expectations and was finalised after intensive stakeholder consultations and inputs. "The first consultation process began in February 2009 and it brought together abroad range of participants mostly from the private sector," he said.

According to him, it was after that process that the project became effective in January 2011, with the legal goal of contributing towards sustainable growth of the Gambia economy. He revealed that the company and business registration reform and single window business registration which is the focus of the bill is to be implemented with technical assistance and support from the Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project, the Ministry of Justice and other relevant stakeholders. He said the objective of the reform is to reduce the time and cost of business startup in the country, adding that the reform would also address matters relating to the legal framework, institutional restructuring and modernisation processes.

Minister Touray informed the gathering that the initiative is inline with the strategy of the government to improve the business environment by adopting measures that would sustain macroeconomic stability and strengthening the relationship between the government and the private sector. He stated that to reinforce its actions aimed at improving the business climate, the government has committed itself to acting in three areas between 2012 and 2015, such as trade facilitation, investment climate and quality control.

"Therefore, convening a workshop early in the New Year to validate the draft bill aimsed at improving Gambia's business competitiveness is a clear signal that we are beginning 2013 with the implementation of our New Year resolution with accelerated speed towards the attainment of our goals and the accomplishment of our objectives which are clearly spelt in our Vision 2020 blueprint," he added.

Lamin Jobarteh, the Attorney General and minister of Justice, recalled that there was a component under the Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project which deals with business environment reform programmes launched by the Gambianleader in 2011. He said The Gambia has consistently scored favourably in the World Bank Business Report, which is published annually. He also said the 2013 report showed The Gambia being ranked high in the category of tackling business.

He noted that the government under the PRSP 2007 to 2011, had resolved to reform the business environment of the country and private investment, and sought support from the World Bank to strengthen the competitiveness of key economic sectors. "The Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project is designed to support pillar 2 of the PRSP which is the promotion and Pro-Poor Growth and Employment through private sector development," he remarked.

Minister Jobarteh explained that the first component of the Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project is to improve the business environment and its sub-componentto reduce the cost and delays of business entry, including how expensive it takes to register a business, obtain tax identification, register with the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation with regards to employees and apply for a trade licence.

The Justice minister further explained that presently, the Company Registry (Business Registry) is operated manually, but with the setting up of the Single Window Business Registry System, the unit would be computerised and automated.

"To set up computerised and automated business registry, some reforms have been done in order to go along with technology and global trends of development of the world. In light of the above, these reforms could not have been done without reviewing and amending some of our laws as it relates to business and company registration," he said, adding, "if the bill is enacted, it would repeal and replace the current business registration act".

Minister Jobarteh further informed the gathering that in April 2011, the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with The Gambia Revenue Authority, Banjul City Council, Kanifing Municipal Council and the Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project signed an MoU, in which they agreed to collaborateto achieve the objectives of the project by joining efforts and resources to simplify, streamline and automate the business registration framework of the country through legal, institutional administration and ICT Reform.

According to him, the principles of the single window registry is to ensure that the business company registration in the country is performed in a single registration service and a unified standard process of registration of all companies, partnerships and sole proprietorships would be designed, put in place, and implemented, whereas several public agencies currently involved in the process of business registration would delegate the registration of one agency to handle all processes on their behalf through a single registration among a host of other principles. He assured that his Ministry would work towards the full implementation of the component of the project, while applauding World Bank for the partnership.

Other speakers on the occasion included Tamsir Manga, the Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project coordinator.

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