Interview: Madeleine Berre
How can the government and private sector encourage the creation of companies?
MADELEINE BERRE: The creation of new businesses has been a main concern for all economic players. The government has implemented a policy aimed at fostering employment prospects and encouraging entrepreneurship through the creation of new firms. In order to accomplish these objectives, a competitive legal and tax framework should be adopted. The current provisions for small and medium-sized enterprises and very small companies under Law No. 16/2005 are insufficient. Not only must the eligibility criteria be reviewed, but firms are also subject to many constraining formalities. The private sector requires efficiency and the government must accompany economic growth with a fast and dedicated public sector.
Generally, the main challenges faced by start-ups are developing a well-structured business plan and raising funding. While the private sector has to implement measures to increase firms’ credibility, the government has to create a favourable environment and encourage banks to fund this segment. In this regard, some financing mechanisms managed by the state via banks should be reviewed and updated.
How can public-private partnerships (PPPs) attract more foreign direct investment (FDI)?
BERRE: In order to attract more FDI, we should start by implementing a more favourable legislative and regulatory framework. Save for certain sectors, Gabon does not have a targeted legislative framework for PPPs. We need to modernise and simplify commercial and competition regulation to better support intermediary organisations that will eventually stimulate local private investment. Obviously, this necessitates a formalised framework, improved follow-up for PPPs and joint assessments, as well as reforms targeted at diversifying the economy. Furthermore, when signing contracts it is important to clarify the status of decision makers under the law, which currently is unclear.
How can the government further streamline bureaucratic processes into a single window?
BERRE: It is actually necessary to concentrate certain needs in order reduce red tape and to make the public sector more competitive. It is important that the administration be able to reduce waiting periods, especially in terms of creating and following up with companies or consolidating commercial activities.
Investors need to obtain all required authorisation for their activities within a relatively short period of time. Shorter waiting times for starting a business are a key factor in the attractiveness of a country and for the development of the private sector. Reducing administrative procedures can be a reality as it has already been done in other African countries.
What measures could the government implement to help align Gabonese business law with other international agreements and standards?
BERRE: Gabon is signatory of several international and bilateral agreements. The Gabonese constitution also acknowledges the primacy of international regulations over national statutes, except where they are in direct conflict. Gabon is member of the Economic Community of Central African States, as well as being a signatory of the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (Organisation pour l' Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires, OHADA), the African Intellectual Property Organisation and the Inter African Conference for the Insurance Market.
We have a modern business framework and have made advances under OHADA in terms of harmonising our business law, especially in the areas of security and collective procedures. In terms of legal and tax, Gabon has one of the most attractive frameworks in the sub-region for foreign investors. However, attention should also be focused on the effectiveness of signed agreements. For example, tax or bilateral agreements’ ratification and publication procedures should be better assessed by parliament to avoid imbalances.
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