Business licensing goes on-line

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Bereng Mpaki

THE Ministry of Trade and Industry yesterday unveiled an electronic licensing portal that will facilitate license application and renewals online.

Before the advent of the e-licensing, entrepreneurs were only able to fully register a company online but were still required to apply for a license manually. The e-licensing service will be available for traders’ and manufacturing licences.

Trade minister Halebonoe Setšabi said the manual system had several shortcomings which will be addressed by the new online system.

“This development potentially addresses the challenges that were inherent in our old system of issuing licences,” Mr Setsabi said.

He said the system was insecure while the reporting mechanism was susceptible to fraud and manipulation.

He added that the filing system was also in tatters and without proper audit trail; there were also duplicate licenses as well as inconsistent business activities resulting in loss of revenue among others.

“The system will also improve significantly the turn-around times in terms of starting a business in Lesotho which is estimated at one to three days from the current seven days and as further enhancements in the legal framework (Business Licensing and Registration Act) come into operation, a licence will be issued in a matter of few minutes.”

The ministry also launched the electronic regulations portal on the same day. This is an informational portal to provide information to international investors without having to visit the country.

Among its contents, the portal houses a compilation of different procedures and requirements for an investor to start a business in Lesotho.

The two platforms were developed with the assistance of the World Bank funded Private sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP).

“A closer interrogation of these twin platforms simply says that with eRegulations Lesotho, investors – both domestic and foreign – will have information well beforehand of the requirements and steps one is expected to undertake.

“The advantage of this initiative is two-fold: for the investor, one would know all pertinent information relating to his business without necessarily visiting our offices, thereby embracing the principle of transparency – which will go a long way to curb potential corruption.

“The consequence of this will reduce underhand processes which are usually the privy, discretion and territory of the officers alone. The empowerment of our investors with this information sets the tone for consistent information in our services.

“On the other hand – by displaying all administrative procedures step-by-step – the policy makers would also have opportunity to revisit the procedures and make reforms that will be aligned with the current economic dynamics,” Mr Setšabi said.

Elelloang Lesei, from the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said the development was positive as it would simplify the country’s ease of doing business.

He said long and costly trips that the business people from the country’s remote areas had to endure just to apply for licenses would be avoided with the advent of the e-licence platform.

He said it was important for information about the platforms to be widely disseminated to the public to ensure that they serve their intended purposes.

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