Attracting investment through improved e-business registration
THE compelling statistics that over 100 million Nigerians have access to voice services and 63 million are engaged with the internet on a regular basis, is a pointer to the fact that any government that is desirous of delivering quality services to its citizens cannot afford to ignore the open window of information communication technology (ICT) to achieve same.
In a society where policy makers always claim that they are doing all they could to put corruption and sundry sharp practices at bay, it has become imperative for the government to convince the whole world that it is matching action with words and not merely playing to the gallery on issue of corruption.
For instance, customers of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in time past had to go through lots of stress, time wasting processes and high cost to get their businesses registered. It was as a result of this that Nigeria was rated 129 out of 189 countries by the World Bank on ease of doing business. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, said the rating was borne out of many cumbersome stages entrepreneurs had to go through before getting their businesses registered. Putting the number of stages at about 15, the minister said there is no way any country can attain meaningful growth and development when so much time and money is wasted on things that could be done within hours at a reduced cost.
At the launch of the CAC company registration portal in Abuja recently, Aganga said the World Bank put the average time for a business to get registered at one month, but said this estimate has, however, been disproved by the feat attained by the Corporate Affairs Commission where businesses can now be registered with the commission through a users’ friendly portal.
He said: “One of the key enabler of the industrial revolution plan is to improve the investment climate by removing bottleneck in the entire life circle of the business and beginning with the procedures of starting and registering business. The CAC e-business platform will revolutionise the business incorporations in Nigeria”.
He added that the ranking of Nigeria as number 129 out of 189 countries in ease of starting business would be overturned with the CAC’s e-portal as businesses would now be registered within hours and not days.
He said the unacceptable norm of having to undergo up to fifteen processes before business was registered in Nigeria resulted in the ranking. But with the launch of the e-business portal, he is optimistic that Nigeria will emerge as one jurisdiction with the fastest registration time in the world,as the system would have eliminated all the stages of the registration processes counted against the country. The impact, he said,would not be lost the next time the World Bank or any institution chose to rank Nigeria in that regard.
With the known fact that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the major drivers of the economy, ease of business registration would not only be beneficial to entrepreneurs, but afford the government some sense of credibility because the system is an advanced and secure tool that allows interaction with government without ever having to visit any notary or government office while persons outside the country can do same anywhere they are around the globe.
Aganga averred that only a thriving corporate sector provides jobs for the youths; provide wealth for the families; provides income for government and strives for the people and government. He said the CAC portal is a doorway through which new corporations would now be created in Nigeria in record time and in record low cost, a feat, he said, has never been achieved before.
“The platform is a single largest reform in corporate registrations within and this is the first time in our country where international investors would be able to register their businesses from their homes wherever they are in the world. And, of course, for Nigerian investors, it will reduce the time it would take to register business and also the cost. As from today, Nigerians will no longer have to incur other extra costs and inconveniences to travel to the commission’s offices to register and wait for a long period of time before they register their businesses. This will no doubt bring down the cost and the time of setting up businesses significantly in Nigeria”.
“With the CAC corporate business registration portal, we position the CAC as one of the leading corporate registries in the world. This will address a key constraint to starting and operating businesses in Nigeria. We would be introducing transparency and accountability because it will be easy to find out more about different companies and their directors as we expand the services that will be available on the portal”.
Aganga said the need to reconstruct the investment climate of the country and remove constraints and bottleneck in the process of doing business in Nigeria necessitated the need to operate within the ambit of internationally accepted best practices.
He said the knowledge that only true strong economy, inclusive growth and a competitive business environment are the only indices that can propel a nation like Nigeria aspiring for growth and development to the ranking of economically viable countries of the world.
Taking a cue from the National Bureau of Statistics, he averred that over 50 percent of the country’s economy operates informally, which means most companies not registered, workers not recorded and taxes not paid to government, Aganga said the e-registration portal would put an end to such unwholesome practices and revenue meant for government coffer would be guaranteed adding that the platform placed the CAC on a firm pedestal to play a strategic role in driving corporate sector.
The minister who said the only key performance indicator (KPI) he gave the Registrar-General of the commission on assumption of office is to ensure that Nigerians and other wanting to invest in the country must be able to register their businesses in the comfort of their homes and offices before the expiration date of the present administration added that the attainment of the KPI by the commission is a testimony that Nigerians are more than willing and ready to deliver on their mandates when given the necessary incentives and enabling environment.
The creation of the platform referred to as CRP/GSP was done in partnership with the Ministry of Communication and Technology under the auspices of the Government Service Portal (GSP), the World Bank, the GEMS 3 programme of the DFID in investment climate reform and other stakeholders. The platform can accommodate all e-payment platforms such as inter-switch, e-transact, Visa card, master card, verve card, American Express and other forms of electronic payment as it is done elsewhere around the world.
For Nigerians who are literate enough to use the internet, with the new application, customers can access and pay for the commission’s services on-line without any recourse to third party. Aganga enjoined stakeholders to take advantage of the CAC on-line registration platform which he said is part of government’s conscious effort at making the entire process of doing business in Nigeria easy, simple and as cheap as possible adding that the strategic role of the commission in a fast growing economy like Nigeria’s cannot be over emphasized.
In his remark, the Registrar-General and Chief Executive of the commission, Bello Mahmud, said the commission remained committed to ensuring that the cost of doing business is further reduced adding that the minister only recently approved a 50 and 25 percent reduction on the filling fees payable for new registration and increase in share capital for companies with threshold of N2 million to N500 million and over N500 million respectively.
His words: “The launching of the portal is among the several reforms the minister of industry, trade and investment initiated towards reforming the investment climate in Nigeria. The new system has made it possible for members of the public other than accredited agents to carry out their own transactions directly with the commission”.
He, however, said customers wishing to make any enquiry on the services offered by the portal or any of CAC functions can always put a call through or visit any formation of the commission in the 36 states of the federation including the federal capital territory.
The ministry of communication technology which provided 60 percent financial cost and technical support for the project said the initiative was part of programmes of the ministry to increase the adoption of ICT in government in order to achieve greater transparency, efficiency and productivity in governance and citizen engagement.
The Minister of Communication Technology, Dr (Mrs) Omobola Johnson, explained that the actualization of this mandate is through the ‘Getting Government Online’ initiative which has the primary objective of leveraging ICT to enhance the effectiveness of service delivery for the benefits of the citizens.
She said: “Our Getting Government Online initiative is designed with a ‘Whole of government approach in mind”. Explaining what the ‘Whole of government approach’ signifies, Johnson said every projects of government is designed and implemented in a scalable manner to facilitate utilization by various federal government ministry, department and agencies (MDAs)“In other word, we are developing high quality technologically advanced and secure e-government infrastructure that can be shared by all government agencies”. Johnson added.
Reeling out ministries and agencies that had keyed into the project to support their call centres such as the Ministry of Aviation, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Power and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Johnson said the CAC portal being launched is another validation of the initiative.