16 Feb 11 - Simplifying business and investment regulation in West Africa

UNCTAD E-regulationUpcoming forum in Bamako, Mali, co-organized by UNCTAD, will discuss ways to improve the regulatory framework in West African countries in order to spur business creation and facilitate foreign investment.

The complexity of administrative procedures is a major obstacle to the development of the private sector and to investment in West African countries. It is not uncommon for an aspiring entrepreneur to have to take as many as 50 steps in order to register a business and lease government land for offices. Often, even state bureaucrats themselves are unable to explain the associated rules and procedures.

To discuss some of the ways this situation can be improved, UNCTAD is co-organizing a high-level forum on business and investment facilitation in Africa, to be held in Bamako, Mali, on 17-18 February 2011. The event will bring together high-level representatives from more than 15 African countries to examine best practices and exchange successful experiences on the issue.

Clearly, simplifying the regulatory environment, improving governance and developing incentives to respect the law would stimulate entrepreneurship. Over time, easier creation of companies would lead to more and better jobs, increase government revenues, and enhance the capacity of the State to reinvest into economic, social and infrastructural programmes. However this simplification needs to be implemented in practice, and often requires tailoring to a country's specific context in order to produce the desired effect.

UNCTAD, through its e-Regulations programme established in 2007, has built up considerable experience in this area, having successfully provided assistance to about a dozen individual countries. It has, for example, helped the Government of Viet Nam to make foreign investment procedures transparent and to standardize government procedures across its cities. UNCTAD is expected to start working soon in ten African countries to set up a fast-track process for the creation of micro-businesses. This assistance, and the forum in Bamako, are financed mainly through a grant from the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

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