By Anne Nzouankeu
Benin set up a service early in the COVID-19 pandemic to allow people to register their business online, and now the West African country is the world’s fastest place to start a business, according to a U.N. agency.
Sandra Idossou, owner of a store selling art in Cotonou, Benin, submitted her business application online and received approval and legal documents within three hours.
She said if the e-registration system did not exist and she instead had to go stand in line to start a business, she never would have done it.
To create her business, Idossou went online to monentreprise.bj, a platform in Benin to create and formally start a business. The site was launched in February 2020 by the country’s Investment and Export Promotion Agency, which did not want people to come into their offices during the pandemic.
Applicants fill out the required information, download the required documents and make a payment online. The documents arrive at the agency’s headquarters, where staff verify the information and mail business certificates to those who are approved.
Laurent Gangbes, general manager of the Investment and Export Promotion Agency, said in 2019 the agency was at 28,000 businesses created. In 2020, the figure went to over 41,000. He said the agency now processes an application in about three hours.
The online service helped make Benin the fastest place in the world to start a company, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.
The businesses must be located in Benin; however, people abroad can use the service if they are in the process of setting up a business inside the country.
Economists like Albert Honlonkou see big benefits for entrepreneurs.
He said the online service reduces costs, reduces delays and avoids corruption. It also avoids carrying papers around and, in the COVID period, it avoids contacts.
The Investment and Export Promotion Agency said it will continue to review the procedures and work with the private sector to further improve the process.