One-stop shops streamline start-up procedure

Sherine El Madany
5 Min Read

CAIRO: Want to register your company? Egypt will take you by the hand and help start up your project in two days. Not only that, you will also be provided with after-establishment services to ensure the investment is worthwhile – at least that is what the General Authority for Investment and Free Zone (GAFI) vows to do through its widely celebrated one-stop shops.

“We seek to further enhance business start-up procedures provided by the one-stop well as automate these procedures, said Assem Ragab, chairman of GAFI.

Ragab was referring to the second phase of the one-stop shops, which will introduce after-establishment services to investors in Egypt.

“The second phase will also include rolling out one-stop shop projects nationwide to include around three new cities, he added.

To that end, GAFI signed Tuesday a memorandum of understanding with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to create an integrated platform for business start-up procedures at the national level.

Managed by the IFC, the one-year project will bring the government together with the private sector to identify issues that hinder processes for obtaining licenses and permits.

IFC will introduce international best practices, replicate pilot reforms at the municipal level and streamline approval procedures required by public entities.

“The whole project is labeled the Business Start-up Simplification Project in Egypt. What we are trying to do jointly with our partners is to make it easier and simpler to [start your own business] here in Egypt for the sole purpose of strengthening the investment climate, increasing incomes and creating more job opportunities, explained Frank Sader, IFC’s senior operations manager.

“The project will look into all business procedures, from business start-up processes, to building permits, industrial registration and operating licenses.all requirements from the government to make it simpler to start a project in Egypt, he added.

Tuesday’s agreement is part of a broader initiative launched in 2006 to implement business simplification solutions. Since then, IFC has joined forces with GAFI, in a bid to simplify business start-up procedures in Alexandria on a pilot basis. The first phase of the project saw the inauguration of a one-stop shop in Alexandria in May 2007.

IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, allocated $800,000 to fund this project in Alexandria. Its first phase created a new process for industrial licensing in Alexandria, which reduced the time for applicants by 42 percent and costs by 27 percent.

Building on its success in Alexandria, the IFC announced last April it would roll out its one-stop shop project nationwide to include three to five cities in its second phase.

The IFC will also support operating license reform within industrial zones as well as help develop a new law reflecting best regulatory practices within these zones.

The project comes at a strategic time for Egypt, as the Ministry of Trade and Industry has recently embarked on establishing a number of private industrial zones throughout the country, attracting investors from Turkey, Spain, China and Russia, among others.

“This second phase will not only streamline business start-up procedures, but it will also assist investors after they [launch] their enterprises, Ragab pointed out. IFC expects the project s second phase to reduce cost and time required to register a business across major Egyptian cities by 40 percent. The corporation will co-finance the project, but the lion s share of funding comes through a $500,000 grant from the Swiss government.

“This project is a very good opportunity to strengthen our cooperation with the private sector in Egypt, Denis Knobel, deputy head of mission at the Swiss Embassy, told Daily News Egypt.

Initially, he explained, this project is a multi-donor instrument managed by the IFC that seeks to improve private sector engagement in Egypt. After witnessing success of the pilot-phase in Alexandria, the Swiss government got tempted to take part in rolling it out nationwide.

Swiss embassy officials explained that the project would help boost trade and investment capacities between both countries. “Since it’s good for any enterprise in Egypt, then it’s [naturally] good for Swiss enterprises here, Knobel stated.

He added that there were dozens of Swiss enterprises operating in Egypt, making Switzerland among the top 10-12 foreign investors in Egypt.

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