The World Bank has named Nigeria among 115 countries that, in the past year, launched the boldest “ease of doing business” reforms. Altogether there were 249 such reforms which, according to the bank, “made doing business easier for the domestic private sector in the countries, paving the way for more jobs, expanded commercial activity, and higher incomes for many.” In that respect, Nigeria climbed 15 places from its 146th position in 2018 to place 131 this year. This leap forward is captured in the bank’s Doing Business 2020 study.
The Doing Business Index is an annual ranking that objectively assesses prevailing business climate conditions across 190 countries based on 10 ease of doing business indicators. The index captures the ease of doing business reforms that have been validated by the private sector and offers comparative insights based on private sector validation in the two largest commercial cities in countries with a population higher than 100 million. In Nigeria’s case, the study focused on Lagos and Kano. Mr. David Malpass, President of the World Bank, has been quoted as saying “governments can foster market-oriented development and broad-based growth by creating rules that help businesses launch, hire, and expand.” According to him, “removing barriers facing entrepreneurs generates better jobs, more tax revenues, and higher incomes, all of which are necessary to reduce poverty and raise living standards.”
The bank’s global rankings place India as “the most improved” economy for the third year in a row, moving up by 14 places to number 63. The report notes that “the country made it easier to start a business by abolishing filing fees, lowering the time and cost of seeking construction permits and making trade easier with port improvements and an improved electronic platform for submitting documents.” The other seven economies where business climates improved the most included Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan.
The World Bank released its latest rankings while Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was attending the Russia-Africa economic forum summit in the Russian city of Sochi. In his reaction to WB report, he said “the recognition given to Nigeria as one of the top 10 most improved countries that have implemented the most reforms this year is significant because we were not even able to achieve some of the key reforms we had pursued, but what we have done so far is being recognized. This validation confirms that our strategy is working and we will continue to push even harder to deliver more impactful reforms.” The President said further: ‘With the impending ratification of the Companies and Allied Matters Bill and the introduction of the Business Facilitation (Omnibus) Bill, 2019 in view, along with other pending and ongoing regulatory, judicial and sub-national reforms, our mandate to move into the top 70 doing business destinations by 2023 remains achievable.”
Buhari, in 2016, set up a Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC). Its secretary is Dr. Jumoke Oluwole. She explains: The private sector remains the fulcrum of the ease of doing business interventions. We are committed to more engagements (with) reform-implementing organs of government and the private sector players, and we are happy to see that these have resulted in a more favourable validation of the reforms by the private sector.This result (Word Bank’s validation) will serve as an encouragement to sustain the deepening of these reforms and make it even more tangible for businesses and the citizenry. The PEBEC is focused on delivering even more substantive reforms for the improvement of the general business climate.”
Coming from the World Bank, not given to flattery, we welcome its favourable commentary on our country. It is an influential rebuttal of the impression often given by doomsday prophets that Nigeria is fast losing its position as the most favoured foreign direct investment destination in West Africa. We must say that this improvement in score and ranking is not one off. It has been so since 2017. Therefore, there should be no fear it won’t continue to be the case under this present government that started the upward climb. Let it sustain the momentum.