The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating effect on many economies but at the same time, it made many governments outline measures to contain the virus and minimize bureaucratic hurdles for businesses. Also, due to lockdown measures, many government services migrated online, including small businesses.
According to a U.N. agency, Benin became one of the countries that capitalized on the pandemic to reduce bureaucratic hurdles by offering improved government services via online business registration.
The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said the tiny West African nation is the world’s fastest place to start a business, thanks to the pandemic. The country created monentreprise.bj platform for people to create and formally start a business.
The platform was launched by the country’s Investment and Export Promotion Agency, which did not want people to come into their offices during the pandemic.
When applicants log onto monentreprise.bj, they fill in the required information, download the required document and make a payment online. Once the applicant completes the registration process, the documents arrive at the agency’s headquarters where the information provided is verified. The staff of the agency mail business certificates to those who are approved.
Albert Honlonkou, an economist, told VOA that the new business registration model has benefits for entrepreneurs. According to him, online services reduce costs, delays and corruption. It also avoids carrying papers around and, in the COVID period, it avoids contacts.
According to the U.N. agency, businesses must be located in Benin to use the service. However, those abroad can also use the process provided the business would be located in the West African nation.
The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said online business registration has made Benin the fastest place in the world to start a company. It added that a third of Benin’s new entrepreneurs are women, half were under 30 and a half were based outside Cotonou.
The number of companies created through the monentreprise.bj platform tripled between February and July, reaching 3,600 applications a month, according to the U.N. agency.
Sandra Idossou, a Beninese entrepreneur selling art in Cotonou, submitted her business for approval and got her approval certificate within two hours after providing all the necessary information.
Laurent Gangbes, who runs Benin’s Investment and Export Promotion Agency, said the success of the platform shows that Africa was leapfrogging ahead of the rest of the world.
“Entrepreneurs and foreign investors told me they wanted to set up a business from their mobile phone so as to avoid unnecessary travel. We brought together several government services and worked to simplify forms and cut procedures to the strict minimum required,” he said.
“This shows that when it comes to digital government, African countries are leapfrogging ahead of the rest of the world to be the best,” he added.