Role of URSB in implementation of business licensing reforms in Uganda

Apr 04, 2016

URSB has successfully conducted a number of sensitization workshops, trainings and meeting with MDAs.

By Bemanya Twebaze

The Government of Uganda has proposed to undertake a number of initiatives to create an enabling business environment and minimize the cost of doing business in order to attract more domestic and international investments.

The move is a reflection of the commitment to improve the country's performance in the global Doing Business (DB) Report and the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index.

This means that both current and potential investors may rely on the global competitiveness and Doing Business reports as an indication of a country's receptivity to business and such reports can influence investment decisions.

In an effort to make it easy to start a business and acquire a business license from a single point, government tasked URSB to coordinate with all licensing regulatory agencies in the implementation of business licensing reforms, in this case implementation of the e-licensing portal.

The licensing regulatory agencies are tasked with; designating a focal person to work with URSB and make sure that online licensing information is up-to-date; assist URSB to respond to inquiries from users concerning their licenses; participate in Working Group planning; and jointly plan for integrated services and future reforms.

The e-licensing portal, which is housed at URSB is a central repository for all business licenses in the country which makes it possible for potential investors anywhere around the globe to easily get information on any license they would need to operate from whichever part of Uganda in any sector. Benefits envisaged in this process are;

a)      Improved government transparency through one-stop access to all relevant information.

b)      Improved regulatory compliance by businesses through better understanding of the requirements.

c)      Improved accountability and reduced opportunities for corruption through the use of online transactions.

d)     Potential for increased revenue through greater SME participation in the formal sector.

e)      Improved regulatory oversight and ability to monitor firm compliance.

f)       Improved management information for regulatory agencies (e.g., license processing times).

g)      Reduced time, cost and procedures to start business hence a better doing business ranking.

Last year at the launch of the World Bank Doing Business Report, Uganda was lauded for the registered improvements which have enabled the doing business environment ranking shift from position 156 to 122.

The focus of the report was on Business Licensing and Tax Reforms and Key among the areas to tackle were the excessive regulatory burdens and the multiplicity and overlap of business licenses, levies, fees and permits at national and sub-national government levels.

The business licensing reform work was overseen by a high level committee; the Business Licensing Reform Committee (BLRC), appointed by the Hon. Minister of Finance Planning and Economic development in March, 2011 with a mandate to spearhead the review of business licenses, make recommendations on ultimate disposition of the licenses and following adoption of agreed recommendations, drive implementation of agreed reforms.

The BLRC came up with a report which highlighted a number of findings and recommendations. Key among these recommendations was the establishment of an official e-registry, to house all information on all approved business licenses.

The e-registry would serve as the definitive repository of information on licensing requirements and delineate legally required licenses in all sectors of the economy thus increasing transparency/ease of access to licensing information and the likelihood of compliance by the private sector. Subsequently, it would be enhanced to serve as a virtual transactional platform for all business licenses through which a license shall be issued and renewed.

Activities of the e-registry:

1. A fully functional e-registry office, well-furnished and staffed was set up to implement and manage the e-licensing portal. Key among other tasks assigned to this office is to obtain, analyze and upload up to date licensing information from the different regulatory agencies onto the portal.
2. Field consultations have been held with all licensing regulatory agencies to get up to date information on all business licenses being issued in Uganda. Such consultations are also aimed at getting information on licensing laws and gather recommendations from agencies on what amendments should be undertaken to streamline the business licensing regime. These field consultations are continuous because of the evolving nature of licensing information and requirements.
3. URSB has successfully conducted a number of sensitization workshops, trainings and meeting with MDAs, who are key stakeholders in the implementation of the business licensing reform. These meetings are aimed at obtaining support from the regulatory agencies and also get up to date licensing information from them and also create awareness of the licensing reforms in general.

4. Radio talk shows have been held in selected municipalities across the country with the sole objective of creating awareness of the e-licensing portal.

Some achievements have so far realized and more continues to be done so as to have a fully functional licensing portal and a licensing reform embraced by each and every one for the better of the doing business in the country.

1. Uganda's ranking in the global index of ease of doing business has been improving and this has been attributed partly to the automation of business licensing applications at URSB and KCCA. This is according to the World Bank Doing Business Report, latest release. Uganda jumped 13 places from 135 to 122 out of 189 economies surveyed in the last 12 months. In the Sub-Saharan Africa region, the report says Uganda is the 12th best ranked out of 47 economies.

2. URSB has been able to support the reform effort at the national, sub-national or municipal level through sensitization workshops/meetings and trainings with members of both the public and private sectors.

3. URSB has also managed to strengthen synergies with licensing regulatory agencies thus making it easy to obtain business licensing information and laws governing the different licensing regimes. Key among the implementing partner agencies are Kampala Capital City Authority, Capital Markets Authority, Ministry of Trade Industry and Cooperatives, Uganda Revenue Authority to mention but a few.

 4. The electronic licensing portal has also registered a steady growth in numbers of people viewing the licenses across the globe. These numbers have been growing since google analytics was installed on the portal on 1st July, 2014.  Currently the number stands at 15,451 sessions from 131 economies across the globe, with Uganda leading at 10,714 followed by the USA on 637 UK at 542 and so on.

Under the World Bank support Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project (CEDP), the current informational e-licensing portal will be transformed into a fully transactional e-licensing portal that will facilitate online applications and payments with support for back office processing from all the regulators.

Some of the other reforms to be implemented include establishment of a one stop centre that will aid in streamlining business registration and licensing procedures and the establishment of a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) frame work to ensure that regulations are efficient and effective in a changing and complex world.

URSB is honoured to be working with majority stakeholders who are positive towards the implementation of business licensing reforms most especially PSFU and all licensing regulatory agencies for the support and guidance on business licenses issued in Uganda.

The writer is the Registrar General and Official Receiver Uganda


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