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RDB steps up efforts to Register businesses electronically

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While the government has been spearheading the promotion of ICT, making more and more  public services online, it seems the public has been slow to make use of it. A good example  can be found at the Office of the Registrar General, which is part of the Rwanda Development  Board, which has been offering free online business registration for some time.

Apart from the fact that  it spares business-people the time and  money to travel to the  Registrar’s offices and queue to  submit their documents, it has  the added advantage that they  are exempt of the registration fee  of Frw 15,000. Yet In 2012, only  11.7% of new businesses (1153)  were registered on-line, against  8686 applicants who chose to  do it physically and pay the fee.

However, that was already a significant improvement against  2011, when out of 9068 registrations, only 473 (5.2%)were done  electronically. But Registrar General Louise Kanyonga says she  is confident that Rwandans will  catch up with the times and em-brace their e-services.

The tar-get at RDB is to achieve at least  50% of all registrations to be  made online this year. In order  to reach that goal, RDB continues to work with private sector  structures to create awareness  on the availability and reliability  of the e-registration service.

Last  month, RDB in collaboration with  the Private Sector Federation,  conducted a nationwide training  of staff at Business Development  Centers, owners and operators  of private cyber cafes as well as  PSF staff in the districts on the  online registration of businesses. “The training was successful with  an impressive turn-out and we  hope that this will be a turning  point that will result in more people using the online services,”  Kanyonga said.

The objective  behind the training is that with  skilled and knowledgeable people at BDCs and private internet cafes, it will increase the access  of the service. It will also help to  tackle another challenge for on-line registration, which is the still  low level of computer literacy in  the country. It might even create a business opportunity for  cyber café owners to either organize computer training or offer  assistance in registering a business for a fee. As for prospective business owners, especially  those upcountry, they have the  advantage that they don’t have  to travel  to Kigali anymore to incorporate their enterprise, but  can do it close to home.

“This will  be quite helpful because the services will be closer to the people  but also, those who don’t own  a computer can still access our  online services,” explains senior  registration officer Yves Sangano. Meanwhile, RDB is involved  in an intensive online registration  awareness campaign with spots  on radios and TV and messages  in newspapers in all the national  languages to ensure everybody  gets informed.

Simplified registration

Also in response to feedback  from some members of the public, who complain the on-line  registration process is long and  complicated, RDB says the office of the registrar  general is examining ways of refining and condensing the forms  in a bid to further simplify the  process.
The plan, according to  Kanyonga, is to reduce the registration steps from six to two  which would reduce the amount  of time required to complete the   process. In addition, RDB has introduced two additional desks at  the registration center in Kigali  where officials do the registration  online in the place of the applicant.

“Some people simply want  to be served at a desk and even  when they could have received  the same service elsewhere,  these two desks accelerate the  process,” Kanyonga explains.
According to the registrar general,  the services at the two desks are  free and some two months after  their introduction, the response  from the public is increasingly  positive. She explains that in the  first week, the desks would process an average of only 3 out of  the 50 to 70 daily registrations at  all RDB, but there is a steady in-crease. “Now we are registering  at least ten per day,” Kanyonga  says.

It is part of an overall in-crease in the use of the online  system. For instance, between  January and April 15, over 500  new companies had been registered through the on-line system. At this rate, it’s clear that  more companies will get registered electronically than the  11% of last year. Yet it is a fact  that the mentality among most  people is that a physical certificate or receipt given by an officer is still trusted more. “Many  people want that but the electronic certificate is as good as  and even more genuine than the  physical one,” Kanyonga notes.   After the successful completion  of the electronic company registration process online, the applicant will receive a n electronic  certificate with an electronic signature but no stamp. However,  the Registrar General says the  absence of the stamp doesn’t  mean the electronic certificate  is not valid. Moreover, with the  interconnectivity of government  agencies, the details of the company ownership would be immediately accessible by all the other  relevant agencies.

New Zealand Inspiration

All those efforts to make business  registration easier and quicker  are part of the government’s  drive to make the business environment more attractive to investors. Currently, the best reflection  of this is the Doing Business index compiles by the World Bank,  which ranks countries according  to various aspects of running an  enterprise, including starting up  a business. Since its creation in  2004, the index has been playing an increasingly important role in  swaying big companies to decide  to invest in country X or Y. That’s  why the index is very important  to Rwanda – not just for prestige  but because they are a major  source of reference for investors.  The more investors our reforms  attract, the better the lives of  Rwandans through direct or in-direct benefits resulting from in-creased economic activity. Ease  in registering/starting a business is the first indicator under the WB’s Doing Business criteria. While Rwanda is ranked 8th  globally by the WB’s 2013 Doing  Business report when it comes  to the ease of registering a business, the government’s ambition is to emulate New Zealand,  which occupies the top spot.  Online registration is key to do  so. “When you look at all those  countries we aim to emulate,  you will see that they know only  one method to register a business, which is online,” Kanyonga  points out. Other economies are  also moving in that direction and  improving their business registration process; Guinea Bissau,  for instance, managed to move  up 63 places in 2013 rankings.  Therefore, Rwanda is not only  striving to improve its ranking  in registering a business, but  should also beware of lesser-ranked companies catching up.  Making electronic registration  the norm is the only way to secure our position.

What customers think

REGISTERING A BUSINESS: Rwanda VS New Zealand  

Rwanda’s business registration procedure  takes a single day and between one to three  days to pick up the certificate of registration.  Any payment involved is an option because  when done on-line the entire process is free;  and when done physically at RDB offices, an  applicant pays Frw 15,000.

Technically, businesses in Rwanda are registered in just six hours. However, the World  Bank looks at the average time it takes be-tween the submission of the application and  the reception of the certificate.

While the office of the registrar general guarantees that the certificate  can be picked up six hours after a  complete dossier has been present-ed, most entrepreneurs prefer not  to wait for it and come back to collect it a few days later; hence the  three days reported in the index.  “If we can get our people to use the online  registration, the process should take six hours  or less because the certificate is delivered  electronically,” Registrar General Louise Kanyonga explains. As for New Zealand, it takes one procedure  to apply for registration with the Companies  Office on-line in New Zealand. It costs 10.22  NZD (Frw 5340) for company name reservation  plus an additional 155.33 NZD (Frw 80,123)  for company incorporation.

 Libert Niyetegeka  

Twenty-seven-year old Libert Niyetegeka travelled from Nyanza  district in the Southern Province to  collect forms and register a grain  milling company. However, when  he reached RDB offices, he noticed the online service with all its  advantages. “Thirty minutes later,  I was sorted and I didn’t have to  pay any money. It was fast and I  got my certificate instantly, I can’t  believe it!” he said with amazement. Niyetegeka believes this is  what Rwandans need and if people have access to computers and  internet, then they don’t need to  travel and waste money unnecessarily. “I only urge RDB to upload  a registration form written in Kinyarwanda so that those who can’t  use English are not discouraged,”  he observes.

  Kuradusenge Agencies 

Pamela I. Dzala and Pelagie Kurudusenge have recently registered their Kuradusenge Agencies Ltd using the  e-registration system. Kuradusenge Agencies Ltd will deal in  mainly flower business, export trade, courier and logistics,  event management and others, and the two women were  very pleased with the on-line registration system. “We had  the most amazing experience, especially since some of the  directors are Kenyans. We were impressed with the service  provided by the officials especially the registration assistant  who helped us and another lady; we were impressed by  the speed of application and the quick approval. In total we  spent just three hours between applying online and getting  our certificate,” Dzala said.

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