Yaounde (National Times) – Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has instructed his Prime Minister, Chief Dion Ngute and his newly appointed government to ease the process of doing business in Cameroon, but what does it entail to boost the country’s ease of doing business?
There are several factors that affect a country’s ease of doing business, including infrastructure, regulatory processes, taxes, getting credit, bilateral trade and investments, education and skills among many others. But addressing some of these issues entails huge economic and political determination and costs. Here are the three that the current government can address without significant economic and political loss.
- Digitize and Automate the Process of Registering Businesses
Registering a business is one of the most crucial part of starting a business. As such, if the government want to ease the process of doing business in Cameroon, the government can start by digitizing and automating the process of registering businesses.
Digitizing is the process where text, pictures, or sound are converted into a digital form that can be processed by a computer. So application forms and business registration forms are converted into digital forms that can be processed by the computer.
This will entail, first, creating a website where prospective business owners can register their businesses using digitize forms, at the ease of their home. Second, automating the process of company registeration such that the automated system can evaluate and approve the digitize registration forms within five hours or not less than ten hours. Finally, creating a central or regional database where records of all registered companies can be located and assessed.
- Improve the Postal System and Transport Network
Bureaucrats at Cameroon’s Ministry of Trade and Commerce are familiar with the World Bank’s requirement of starting a business like getting electricity, dealing with construction permits, creating a modern network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, power grids, water systems, and other public works to facilitate trade and commerce.
However, all too often an important aspect of the modern economy is often neglected, a fast, reliable and efficient postal agency system. That is a system where people can buy and sell stuff online, and be able to post them.
Most of the businesses that will be registered in Cameroon in the next decades will be e-commerce businesses. E-commerce businesses are business that sell their products on online markets. These businesses cannot operate in a country where the basic e-commerce infrastructure are absent.
These basic infrastructure are houses that are numbered, and postal agencies that transport goods. Therefore, to address this particular challenge, the government of Cameroon should introduce a comprehensive massive-scale public housing numbering system. This will not only increase local businesses’ ability sell goods online, it will also enable businesses to have more reliable transactions with their customers. Second, the government should invest in both private and public postal agencies.
And efficient postal system is central to Cameroon’s ease of doing business as well as the country’s competitiveness. It matters because while state-of-the-art transportation, telecommunications, and energy networks–the connective tissue of the nation–are critical to moving goods, ideas, and workers quickly and efficiently and providing a safe, secure, and competitive climate for business operations, only if there is a structure that serves as go between of businesses and consumers, can businesses and consumers harness the benefits of these transport infrastructure.
Address Corruption! Address Corruption! Address Corruption!
While the Cameroon government has promised to fight and eradicate corruption in the past, corruption is still the biggest barrier to ease of doing business in Cameroon. Some entrepreneurs pay as much at five times the official cost of starting a business. And beyond the economic cost, corruption distort the efficient distribution of resources, while increasing the time it most businesses spend in dealing with public officials. In business, time is money.
There are two ways the government can address the negative impact of corruption on businesses. First, reduce the involvement of government officials to a minimum level. Businesses should only be required to meet government officials where it is either required by state security agencies, or banks. The processes of tax registration and gentlemen, businesses registration (as stated above), registering for electricity and land titles, should all be digitized and automated. If businesses can do without meeting government officials in person, that will not only reduce the time cost of traveling to government offices, it will increase certainty and trust in the system.
Another way of fighting corruption in public service is by increasing the level of detection and severity of punishment for corruption. By increasing the probability of detection, the government can make it certain to bureaucrats who are involved in corruption that they will be caught. That means the government can boost monitoring assets, but digital and human monitors.
However, if officials believe that they will be caught, but the punishment will not be severe, they will go ahead nonetheless. So, the Government should increase punishment for involvement in corruption, from the imposition of huge fines, loss of jobs and entitlements, and severe punishment terms for asking and taking bribes.
Improving a country’s ease of doing business climate requires infrastructure, digitization, automation, and clear strategies to fight corruption, but even when these infrastructure is present, both government and private officials will need the will and culture to make Cameroon a competitive business environment.