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For Kenya, the future is brighter

COMMENTARY
By Adan Mohamed | May 5th 2016

From a hopeless continent in 2000 as referenced in the Economist, Africa is now the world’s newest and most promising business frontier and well on its way to becoming the hub of global growth.

At the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2015 in sub-Saharan Africa, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, was a clear demonstration that Africa is on the move.

Several factors account for Africa’s present and prospective growth, notably the continent’s predominant youth, its natural resources, slow but steady progress towards regional integration, increasing intra-regional trade and the emergence of a new generation of middle-class-driven business thinkers advocating for improvement.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been intensively reforming the business environment. The World Bank Group’s Doing Business report has done well to reflect this unique reform momentum. In the Doing Business 2016 report, reforms implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for about 30 percent of the 231 reforms implemented worldwide during the past year. Of the 32 reforms made globally in the area of getting credit, 14 were carried out in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The region boasted half of the world’s top 10 improvers, under countries that implemented at least three reforms and moved up on the global rankings scale, making it the most reforming region in the world.

While these results are encouraging, more needs to be done to maintain the reform momentum, sustainably improve the business environment and increase private investment in an ever competitive global market.

There is  room for improvement when, in cross-border trade, border compliance procedures take exporters 108 hours and $542 on average, compared with a global average of 64 hours and $389 respectively.  In the Doing Business in the East African Community 2013, EAC Partner States ranked on average 117th (among 185 economies) on the ease of doing business.

Yet if all EAC countries adopted the best practices across all areas of regulation covered, the EAC would rank 26th, equal to the United Arab Emirates and evidence that reform ingredients are deeply entrenched in the EAC and in the wider Sub-Saharan Africa region.

What remains is a stronger culture of peer learning to grow within the community, and beyond. In recognition of this need to share knowledge, the Ease of Doing Business Initiative (EDBI) Conference, a peer-to-peer learning platform on Doing Business reforms, was set up at the request of African countries with support from the World Bank Group.

Now in its 7th year, it will be hosted by Kenya in May 2016. The EDBI conference aims at showcasing and facilitating replication of best practice and best fit in reforming, and ultimately help pave the way for bigger and better business and investment flows in Sub Saharan Africa.

This year, the conference focuses on how to leverage technology and digital trends to accelerate reform and economic growth. A befitting thematic for the country harboring the M-Pesa revolution!

Kenya’s momentum for reform is high and there are early results. In the latest Doing Business 2016 Report, Kenya experienced a significant leap in rankings, up 22 places to rank 108 from 129. It was featured as one of the world’s top 10 global reformers.

These improvements are primarily due to four key reforms Kenya implemented in the areas of Starting a Business, Getting Electricity, Registering Property, and Getting Credit - enabled by applying ICT in simplifying and improving how Kenya delivers key government to business services

In addition, the Government of Kenya recognizes the private sector's role in shaping regulations, and as a beneficiary in ensuring proper implementation of and compliance to regulations leading to more sustainable reforms. As a country among African economies fast shaping into attractive business destinations due to reformed business and regulatory environments, the Government of Kenya highly welcomes this opportunity to host reforming countries, learn from their experiences but also share Kenya’s reform successes and challenges.

The Ease of Doing Business Initiative Conference (2016) places Kenya in a thought-leadership role in facilitating conversations towards building African business environments with the right blocks, which will ultimately attract more investments, create jobs, and allow sub-Saharan Africa to compete to its potential in the global economy.

Ultimately, a transparent and business-friendly regulatory framework enables firms to start up, invest productively, create new jobs and grow. This remains the key objective of the Ease of Doing Business Initiative through which we foster enterprise creation and sustain growth by improving the regulatory environment for doing business

Africa is at a crossroads. The global commodity downfall does put exporting African economies under pressure. But at the same time, it offers an opportunity to manage resources better and more sustainably, as well as to diversify the continent’s huge business offering and optimize its competitiveness.

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