Winning Streak: Sub-Saharan Africa Leads the Way in Doing Business Reforms

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It was another landmark year for doing business in Sub-Saharan Africa.
After a record-setting 2015, the region was once again recognized for its impressive performance in this year’s report, Doing Business 2016: “Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency.
Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for 30 percent of all the reforms implemented worldwide in the past year, passing 69 reforms in 35 economies. The region even boasts half of the world’s top-10 improvers: Benin, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal and Uganda all made major leaps in the global ranking.
So what have we learned from a second consecutive year of strong results?
First, countries are owning the reform process. That means that technical teams within government ministries are becoming experts in the mechanics of regulatory reform. This is in part thanks to the Ease of Doing Business initiative, an annual peer-to-peer learning platform that the World Bank Group has supported over the past six years. The most recent Ease of Doing Business conference, which took place in Uganda in May 2015, gathered reformers from 16 countries to share their experiences. Exchanging best practices and lessons learned not only has helped fast-track the reform process but has also strengthened reform agendas.
Second, momentum for reform is positively contagious. Rwanda has led the pack over the past decade, and its success has encouraged other Sub-Saharan African countries to follow suit and push through business-environment reforms. This has proven to be a smart move in the wake of the downturn in commodities prices, highlighting the need for Sub-Saharan African countries to further diversify economic growth.

Third, the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C) has played a major role in the region’s reform story, with active business-reform advisory programs in 34 countries. If anything, this year’s Doing Business results are an encouraging sign for T&C’s programs and motivation for client governments.
Fourth, this year was not an exception but part of a bigger narrative in the African region. Over the past decade, Sub-Saharan Africa has implemented 25 percent of all reforms globally, making it the second-most-active region in terms of improvement on the distance to frontier score.
The impact of these reforms has been immense. In 2005, incorporating a company in less than 20 days meant having to set up shop in either Burundi, Ghana or Rwanda. Today, that number has expanded from three countries to 28.  From 2014 to 2015, only 30 percent of economies in region had implemented reforms. Today, 75 percent have done so.
As Sub-Saharan Africa continues its reform journey, T&C is committed to providing support every step of the way by strengthening multi-year advisory programs that help economies unleash their private-sector potential. 


David Bridgman

David Bridgman, Manager, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice

John Speakman

Adviser, Trade and Competitiveness

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