After one year in operation, how would you assess the country’s one stop shop trade portal?
ISMAIL ABDO: The Single Window (guichet unique, GU) development was the best way for Djibouti to prove and showcase its commercial readiness to investors. Djibouti wants to present itself as a service-oriented commercial location, and the GU is one element that has helped the country develop a comparative advantage over its regional and continental competitors. Organising all public processes and services in one place has streamlined time, deadlines and costs for investors. Nowadays, thanks to the digitisation of the process, any operator wishing to establish a commercial activity in Djibouti only has to access the GU website and fill out a single form that will allow it to interact with different institutions.
The GU is continuously being improved, and it allows all public entities that are part of it to optimise their practices. Moreover, during the second quarter of 2018 a unique platform was created in alliance with the National Agency for Information Systems. As a result, each action carried out internally by the ODPIC is now done digitally, with all administrative procedures also carried out on the platform.
What other measures have been introduced to promote Djibouti’s economic attractiveness?
ISMAIL ABDO: To attract investors a country must grant sufficient legal and administrative guarantees so that investment can be profitable over time. Djibouti is a country that has come a long way, and with the development of commercial activities within the republic, a lack of digital processes was soon felt. The creation of ODPIC allowed for the digitisation of administrative processes, as well as the continued guarantee of the legal framework for investments. The task of the ODPIC is to protect commercial freedom and transparency, but above all to combat unfair competition through varying guarantees. For instance, in 2017 alone, 546 new firms were registered and 569 trademarks were created or renewed, with 46 of the latter being Djiboutian.
The ODPIC acts as an arbitrator and seeks to establish a legal and administrative base that will work the same for both domestic and foreign companies wishing to operate in the country. Unlike other countries, the ODPIC is in charge of both the trade registry and the industrial property registry. This means that it also takes care of registering trademarks and patents. Foreign investors tend to know all these procedures; however, at a local level we try to raise awareness of commercial conditions – free of charge – so that Djiboutian companies know their rights and duties in these areas.
With the arrival of new investors, what are the new challenges Djibouti faces?
ISMAIL ABDO: Thanks to Djibouti’s strategic position, it has an exclusive advantage that allows it to be at the very heart of African trade. The concessions made by the government to allow the arrival of foreign direct investment are intended to enable the country’s development. Djibouti is constantly developing its transport infrastructure, and signing trade agreements with nations in the region to ensure sustainable development. ODPIC and other public institutions have put in place mechanisms that make the business climate more prosperous and attractive. However, it is important to remember that these measures have been established in order to tackle challenges such as unemployment and low levels of human capital.
Taking into consideration that approximately 40% of the government’s budget is dedicated to health and education, in order to protect and develop the country’s human resources, the private sector must participate in the economy by promoting the training and professionalisation of local human capital.
An adjunct to attracting investment is therefore the country’s sustainable development, ensuring an equitable distribution of wealth and tangible social benefits.
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