Propelling Ease of Doing Business

Osinbajo and Enelamah

Although the various executive orders of government are designed to enhance ‘Ease of Doing Business,’ the application of technology will further boost business processes in the country, writes Emma Okonji

Application of technology tools in business has the potential to speed up processes for profitability. It is on this premise that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which is an inter-governmental and inter-ministerial council of government, last week in Lagos, launched its mobile app called app. It is designed as an official public service feedback and complaints platform to support business climate reforms implemented by PEBEC that will improve transparency and ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in Nigeria.

Established in July 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari, to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business, PEBEC had since its inception, come up with various reforms that were successfully implemented by different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, to ease business processes in the country. But despite the successes recorded in the Ease of Doing Business’ in Nigeria, in relation to the latest World Bank annual ranking, where Nigeria is currently placed at 146 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business index, PEBEC has a strong belief that with the application of technology in driving business processes, Nigeria could actually move beyond the 24 places rating it had in the 2018 ranking, which was just four points above the target for 2018.

Speaking on this, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, who is also the Vice Chair of PEBEC, said the app would not only demystify business processes in Nigeria, but would also create an enabling environment for business growth and profitability.

Role of PEBEC in business

PEBEC is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and it comprises 10 ministers, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, representatives from Lagos and Kano State governments, the National Assembly and the private sector. The Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES) assists the MDAs to implement the reform agenda of the PEBEC, with the mandate to move Nigeria upwards in the World Bank rating of ease of doing business index, while striving to remove critical bottlenecks and constraints to doing business in the country and make Nigeria a progressively easier place to do business and thrive.

The mission of PEBEC is to make businesses work in Nigeria and the main barometer for measuring would be the testimonials by Nigerians themselves.

EBES and the MDAs are partners in progress, collaborating with each other to make businesses work in Nigeria. EBES is the operational team of PEBEC and has the highest political backing to motivate MDAs to implement reforms.
Given its role and mandate, PEBEC has promised it would continue to implement evolving technology tools that would act as catalyst to business growth and sustainability across the country.

Technology in business
Speaking on the important roles of technology in business growth, the minister said governments all over the world have realised the importance of technology in business growth across all sectors of the economy, and are providing the necessary enabling environment for technology to thrive.

According to him, “It is for this reason that the present government set up PEBEC in July 2016, to oversee Nigeria’s business climate reform agenda and the Council in its wisdom, has decided to further drive business processes across all sectors of the economy, especially with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), using the appropriate technology.”

Enelamah said the mobile app would further make it easier for all Nigerians to do business with ease, and that it is in line with the objective of government in job and wealth creation, driving economic growth and industrialisation, business diversification, among others.

“The app has been designed as a digital tools that will enhance ease of doing business in Nigeria and it is another avenue to engage government, agencies of governments, and service providers and also an avenue for business owners to channel feedback to government in terms of their observations and experiences. The app is so important that will promote more action with less talk,” Enelamah said.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, said the app, which is also a website, would facilitate the escalation and resolution of issues encountered with Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) towards ensuring a more business-friendly environment.

The mobile app is available on the Google Play store, and is coming soon to the iOS store to enable users give feedback or complaint that will drive continuous improvement in service delivery and public protection efforts.
“Before the design and launch of the mobile app, PEBEC had designed a web portal where people log in to complain and the response time was delayed, but now with the mobile app that could be downloaded on the mobile phone and given the increasing usage of phones in Nigeria, I am confident that the app will make a big difference, since we are leveraging technology to achieve better services for the masses,” the minister added.

Enabling business environment

In order to build an enabling business environment through appropriate technology tools, PEBEC had in the last three years, implemented 140 reforms that led to 360 per cent reduction in time for filing corporate income taxes from 14 days to 72 hours; 60 per debt reduction in time to register property in Lagos and Kano; 51 per cent reduction in time to obtain development permit in Lagos from 61 days to 30 days; 51 per cent reduction in time to get electricity and number of procedures from 9 to 7, N695 billion value of over 35,000 financing statements listed on the National Collateral Registry as at October 2018; 26 per cent reduction in cost of registering a business; 30 per cent reduction in import documentation and 200 per cent reduction in average airport clearance time for visitors, among other impact of PEBEC reforms.

Confirming the impact of the reforms in the last three years, the Project Manager, EBES, the implementation arm of PEBEC, Mr. Ayokunnu Ojeniyi, said the reforms were focused on automating services and training staff to use new technology tools to drive and sustain businesses, especially SME businesses.

“The reforms were introduced and implemented to improve business performance, effective business management, internal monitoring and evaluation systems. The reforms served as escalation mechanisms that allow the public to report MDAs for non-compliance and poor service delivery. The website and mobile app, will further help in lodging complaints and receiving feedbacks that will enhance and speed up business processes in the country,” Ojeniyi said.

In his presentation titled ‘The Journey to an Attractive Economy’, Ojeniyi said from 2017, PEBEC implemented three short-term National Action Plans (NAP) that helped in demystifying business process across the country. He listed them to include NAP 60, NAP 2.0 and NAP 3.0.

“In the plan, we detailed what initiatives had been priotised for the first 60 days by reform module, sharing both the pain points and PEBEC proposed solutions. For each reform module, we shared what impact Nigerians could expect if we completed our mission and we also shared who was responsible if our mission was not completed, in order to achieve full transparency,” Ojeniyi said.

According to him, PEBEC laid out seven bold aspirations for 2018 to build on the success of 2017, and listed the aspirations to include NAP 3.0, Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), PEBEC Report, Omnibus Bill, Subnationsl Project, National Trading Platform and Airport Concession.

While the NAP 3.0 focused on deepening reforms across nine indicators, CAMA contained several provisions, which directly affect the Ease of Doing Business, and the PEBEC Report expanded the web-based feedback mechanism that allowed technology to drive ease of doing business in the country. The Omnibus Bill proposed amendments to several existing laws to institutionalise the business reforms and improve ease of doing business in Nigeria. The Sub-national project involved collaborating with state governments to implement initiatives to improve business processes, but the National Trading Platform acted as a single window trade portal to expedite and simplify information flow between trade and government, while the airport concession led to government approval for the concession of Lagos and Abuja airports to be implemented, using modern technology equipments.

Ojeniyi said in 2019, PEBEC would be consolidating on its reforms agenda and also implement fresh strategic goals and initiatives, such as improving Nigeria’s ranking to sub-100 in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Index, using modern technology tools.

Infrastructure in business

During the panel session, issues of how infrastructure affects business, were raised. According to the panel, inadequate infrastructure has been a major challenge to business growth in the country. They identified infrastructure like power, transportation, road network and broadband infrastructure for internet connectivity. They commended the efforts of PEBEC for the launch of the mobile app, which they said would boost infrastructure development, and called for more empowerment of PEBEC by government, to enable it do more.

Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, who featured as a panelist, highlighted the challenges faced in the oil and gas sector of the economy in the area of ease of doing business’. He called on the federal government to take a critical look at the constraints of investors in the downstream and upstream part of the oil sector in Nigeria, with a view to addressing the challenges. He called for implementation of sophisticated technology tools that would drive processes in the oil and gas sector of the economy.
Oduwole, who was also one of the panelists, spoke on government efforts, through PEBEC in addressing ease of doing business via global best practices that are driven by technology. She also spoke on the efforts of PEBEC on private sector engagement, geared towards achieving ease of doing business, using technology tools. She, however, spoke on some of the limitations of PEBEC like budgeting, but explained that collaboration with different government agencies, has helped in addressing most of the challenges.

Commending the efforts of PEBEC in creating enabling business environment through infrastructure to address the concerns of the private sector, the Chairman, Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Mr. Adedotun Sulaiman, said the app would be a tool to address all the complaints of the private sector, as it relates to their business experiences.

“Nigerians complain a lot about what is not working well in the economy and the app is a platform to channel such complaints. Every complaint about the provision of services by government agencies that is log into the app receives immediate attention. Nigerians are therefore advised to download the app and use it to get faster response time to all their complaints and reports,” he said.