GABORONE, March 28, 2012 – More than 100 delegates from 15 African countries gathered for the Third Regional “Doing Business” Conference, a peer-to-peer workshop, which provided a platform for Eastern and Southern African countries to share reform experiences and practices for replication. The conference was co-hosted by the World Bank, the Botswana government and the Mauritius’ Regional Multidisciplinary Centre for Excellence (RMCE).
Honorable Lt. General Mompati Merafhe, vice president of Botswana, said the government considers improvements in the business climate to be a strategic national priority. He also told participants that His Excellency President Lt. General Seretse Khama Ian Khama appointed a six-member committee of Cabinet Ministers to guide the reform process.
“As a result, Botswana is ready to seize the opportunity presented by this conference to learn from those countries which have successfully implemented the reforms,” he said.
In 2010, the pilot regional peer-to-peer workshop was attended by 14 African countries in Mauritius, co-hosted by the World Bank and the Mauritius government. Delegates’ demand for a program of regular learning events that focus on reforms and peer- to-peer learning resulted in the establishment of a Steering Committee of four governments (Botswana, Mauritius, Rwanda and South Africa), which is leading this initiative.
The program was launched at the Steering Committee’s first meeting in September 2010. Rwanda, the country that improved the most in the ease of doing business in 2009/2010, hosted the second conference. Both workshops consequently resulted in informal bilateral exchanges between participant countries of these workshops.
Ruth Kagia, World Bank Country Director for Botswana, emphasized the importance of the event, especially its emphasis on South-South learning for the benefit of African countries.
“This event focuses on four key areas of investment climate reforms namely registration of property, gaining access to credit, efficiency in enforcing contracts and handling of insolvency cases,” Kagia said. “These reforms lie at the heart of successful business enterprise. We are taking a regional approach to improving the business climate, capitalizing on nascent regional efforts to boost trade promotion initiatives, and facilitate peer-to-peer learning through communication, dialogue, and exchange.”
One of the key challenges raised by delegates was the lack of political support for enacting business-friendly reforms. Participants felt that peer learning events such as the one in Gaborone would go a long way in generating momentum for reforms and help create the conditions for stronger political support for improving the business climate of individual countries.
Honorable Dorcas Makato-Malesu, Minister of Trade and Industry for Botswana, shared keen insights on Botswana business reforms with participants. For example, the establishment of the National Doing Business Committee (NDBC) in May 2011 was a key step to propose and implement reforms of the business climate and improve global competitiveness. He noted that membership of the NDBC was diverse and comprised of representatives from public and business sector and parastatal organizations and noted progress in significant reforms such as starting a business, construction permits and trading across borders.
The event was successful in bringing African country delegations together to share knowledge and experience on investment climate reforms and inspiring each other to take their reform actions to the next level.
Speaking about the rationale for peer-to-peer learning events, Constantine Chikosi, World Bank Country Manager for Botswana noted that “Doing Business” reforms need to be seen as an essential and integral part of efforts to secure growth, promote economic diversification, generate jobs and provide sustainable livelihoods.
Helen Mealins, Executive Director of RMCE, mentioned the benefits of business reforms for countries in Africa.
“These benefits of business environment reform are greater when an entire region is reforming. Peer to peer learning is an important tool for bringing the region together to share good practices,” she said. “Your collective efforts count. The Eastern and Southern African region needs to catch up with countries where doing business is simpler, faster and cheaper. The global market is increasingly more competitive and each country will need to maintain the momentum of its reform effort if it wishes to secure its share of investment.”
Papers presented at the peer-to-peer learning workshop are being placed online so that participants can continue to draw and benefit from them as they implement the next phase of business-friendly reforms in their respective countries.