FEATURE STORY

Easy as Automatic: World Bank Group helps Kenyan counties automate construction permitting

March 31, 2015

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The new e-construction permit website. Applications and all relevant documents are now stored in the cloud.

World Bank Group

Irfan Hobaya, an architect based in Kenya’s Mombasa County knows only too well the burden of submitting an application for a construction permit. To apply he has to physically go to the county’s Planning and Development Department, carrying in hand all the building plans and documents, before following up on the progress of his application using an agent or a middleman. “The process is lengthened when documents submitted go missing, and tracing them becomes an ordeal,” says Hobaya. 

World Bank Group is helping to improve this.

With the support of the Kenya Investment Climate Program 2, a three-year program financed by UK Aid and the Dutch government, Mombasa County launched an electronic construction permits system in early March 2015. The program team collaborated with the county to design, develop, test, and deploy the online system. 

The automated construction permit system will reduce the time needed to review applications and ease the burden on county officers. Previously, the lengthy and complex process often created a backlog. Now, reviewers can simultaneously assess and comment on applications, reducing the time to issue a permit from between at most 20 days to a maximum of three days. The automated system will also enable higher volumes of issued construction permits from the present monthly average of 80 without increasing human resources. 

The new electronic system eliminates physical documents and archives all building proposals submitted, working in an entirely paperless manner.  It will streamline and make the process of reviewing submissions more transparent as applicants will be able to monitor the status of their application in real time, through a web and SMS-based tracking and notification system. This system also has the potential to ring-fence building permit fees that are a critical revenue stream for the county.

Lastly, the electronic system is expected to increase compliance in the industry through simpler processes, more efficient monitoring and enforcement and proper record of inspections, ultimately enhancing public safety. 

“The County of Mombasa is experiencing rapid urbanization and construction projects are increasing in number all around the county,” said H.E. Hassan Joho, Governor of Mombasa County. “The launch of the e-construction permit therefore comes at a critical time for the county. Citizens are demanding for fast, efficient and transparent public services. The e-construction permit will enable us to not only deliver on our mandates but also significantly improve the county’s business environment.”

For Manuel Moses, IFC’s Head for the East Africa region, “automating construction permits will lead to an improved investment climate at the counties by easing the burdens on business such as logistics and unexpected costs through middlemen or liaison officers. This will help businesses to conduct their operations more simply, lead to cost savings and enable them to grow.” He also stated that the electronic system will create an enabling business environment that will attract more investors to Mombasa County. 


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Construction permits archives before automation.

World Bank Group

" The e-construction permit will enable us to not only deliver on our mandates but also significantly improve the county’s business environment. "

H.E. Hassan Joho

Governor or Mombasa County


This system, which is expected to boost construction, a key contributor to economic growth and job creation, can be replicated not only in other Kenyan counties but also other countries in the region as well. Currently, 11 e-construction permit projects in Kenya, Rwanda, and Lesotho have been completed or are awaiting implementation.

Catherine Masinde, Head of the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice for East & Southern Africa, stressed the need to be sensitive to the interests of businesses in their revenue mobilization efforts and that systems such as the e-construction permit can play an important role in consolidating county revenue while paving the way for further automation of similar revenue streams. 

The World Bank Group’s Kenya Investment Climate Program 2 supports both national and county governments in the design and deployment of business-enabling solutions aimed at improving their competitiveness. The program works with four pilot counties, helping them reform their business environments in order to facilitate the creation of businesses, reduce the cost of doing business, and ultimately attract more private investment. 


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