Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a blog. You can read Part 1 here.
In recognition of International Women’s Day, we highlight the accomplishments of five leaders who have delivered much needed regulatory reforms benefiting entrepreneurs. Each of them works in their unique economic and political environment, but together they play a broader role inspiring and paving the way for a new generation of women decision makers.
In Côte d’Ivoire, Mrs. Ramatou Fall – Business Environment Director at CEPICI, the Government’s Investment Promotion agency, has been leading the country’s reform process since 2013. The Prime Minister set an ambitious goal: for Côte d’Ivoire to be amongst the top 50 countries on the Ease of Doing Business.
The results speak for themselves. Since 2013 Côte d’Ivoire has gained 67 positions on the Ease of Doing Business index (from 177th to 110th) and has been acknowledged three times as a top reformer. Mrs. Fall’s team led the adoption of sixty legislative texts and the implementation of over 80 reforms. In 2015, following the Prime Minister’s commitment to the digitization of the Public Administration and Services, a range of services were rolled out including online business registration, tax payments, the publication of court decisions and more. The introduction of e-services was a game changer for entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire who previously had to battle lengthy paper-based transactions in their interactions with the public administration.
In the words of Mrs. Fall “her team moved from the place of “dreamers” to the place of the “indispensables.” It took, leadership, clear vision, ‘savoir-faire’ and resilience to overcome the difficulties along the way.
In Nigeria, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole – Special Advisor to the President on the Ease of Doing Business – has been spearheading the reform process since 2015. In her role as Secretary to the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Dr. Oduwole oversees the team that is responsible for Nigeria’s impressive leap of 39 places on the Ease of Doing Business ranking and being among the top ten reforming countries in the last three years.
The reform program was developed from scratch by her team in 2016 and involved extensive collaboration across government ministries, departments and agencies at both national and subnational levels, the legislature, the Judiciary, private sector and civil society. Key success factors of the program led by Dr. Oduwole have been the strong coordination, empirical tracking of reform results, and continuous progress driven by political will, while also earning the trust of private sector through frequent engagement.
Under her leadership, the PEBEC has delivered tangible results for micro, small and medium enterprises. With over 150 business climate reforms implemented across all arms and levels of government, the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat has tracked a reduction of the time for filing corporate income taxes from 14 days to 72 hours, a 60 percent reduction in the time to register property, a 24-hour automated company registration, and well over 35,000 financing statements of movable assets valued at over N700bn on Nigeria’s National Collateral Registry.
In Saudi Arabia, reform implementation was driven by HE Dr. Eiman Al-Mutairi, the Assistant Minister of Commerce and Investment and CEO of the National Competitiveness Center, the highest ranking female official. She has been at the heart of the business environment reform agenda, leading and actively overseeing the design, implementation, monitoring, and communication of reforms. Her work ethic is simple: “Be more ambitious. We can do more and be better”. Dr. Al-Mutairi always challenged government colleagues to aim for global best practices and her efforts have paid off. Saudi Arabia was recognized as the top reforming economy in Doing Business 2020, implementing 9 major regulatory reforms, supporting the ease of doing business for the private sector.
Throughout the reform process Dr. Al-Mutairi tackled challenges at all levels. Advancing the enactment and amendment of new legislation such as the Insolvency Law, or setting up digital platforms for company registration, construction permits and electricity connections required strong collaboration across many government agencies. Tough reorganization decisions had to be made when Ministries were not delivering. She also realized that getting regulatory or legal changes passed was not enough and worked hard on effective reform implementation and building more trust with the private sector and civil society. Dr. Al-Mutairi has been a fresh voice in a male-dominated political system.
In Togo, the reforms were led by Sandra Ablamba Johnson, Delegate Minister- Advisor to the President and Head of the Business Environment, one of the most senior advisor positions in government. Her colleagues describe her as “a strong personality, a results-driven woman who knows how to deliver them.” This year Togo improved by 40 positions in the Doing Business 2020 ranking, thanks to reforms streamlining business start-up, construction permitting, obtaining an electricity connection and property registration. For the second consecutive year, Togo was recognized as one of the top ten reforming countries globally.
Beyond improvements in international benchmarks, results are starting to be felt on the ground, Ms. Johnson explained in her speech at the Doing Business 2020 launch in Lomé. “The Center for Company registration has also seen…an 11 percent increase in registrations and a considerable representation of women, who lead 26 percent of new companies incorporated by the end of September 2019.”
The ingredients to Ms. Johnson’s success are constant focus on results, accountability, patient negotiation and recognition. Ms. Johnson personally oversees the implementation of reforms, follows strict timelines to avoid delays, and holds teams accountable. She skillfully negotiates changes with government agencies and finds mutually suitable compromise. Together with the President, she also set up a system that recognizes effective reformers. Any public official who played a key role in reform implementation, regardless of where they stand in the hierarchy, is invited to be thanked personally by the President.
In Pakistan Mrs. Fareena Mazhar is the current Executive Director General of the Board of Investment. During her time at the agency interactions with business leaders highlighted the critical need to streamline Pakistan’s bureaucracy impacting business. Local and foreign investors of all sizes were suffering from the complex regulatory requirements.
With the help of her team, Mrs Mazhar prepared a reform agenda, and her “sprint” list, a task list for 35 government departments at the Federal and Provincial levels to be completed within a 100-day period. The reform journey required buy-in from Government officials at both the Federal and the Provincial levels. Some departments strongly resisted change. A Steering Committee led by the Prime Minister provided support with tackling institutional and structural changes.
During the two years of her leadership, Pakistan’s position on the Ease of Doing Business improved by 28 spots, following the implementation of 9 reforms in 2018 and 2019, spanning the full life cycle of a company from registration to insolvency regulations.
When she is asked for the key ingredients of her success, she invariably gives credit to her core team and the support extended by her senior officers.