UNCTAD’s digital government solutions are breaking new ground from Baghdad to Benin. A new online single window for business registration in Iraq is supporting an entrepreneurial environment during the pandemic.
Opening a business in Baghdad has never been easier. All that is needed is one dream, one form and to make one payment, and the administrative side of establishing operations is complete.
Business people can reserve a name, register, and get a tax and social security number in a matter of a few simple steps thanks to a platform launched this month, which simplifies and speeds up the business registration process. It will also support Iraqis creating a business for the first time following a change of occupation during the pandemic.
This streamlined approached to doing business in the Iraqi capital is the result of collaborative efforts by the Iraqi government, the United States State Department, UNCTAD and the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The new single-window tool system, business.mot.gov.iq, will go live before the end of 2020 after live testing with real case scenarios and training of various government staff involved in processing business registration applications.
“Automation in government sectors is considered the foundation of economic development. We have started to achieve this across government and specifically in the company registrar’s office,” said Mohammed Honoun, Iraqi deputy minister of trade, launching the demo earlier in September.
“This shows that government is bent on developing the business environment in Iraq.”
Tackling the barriers to doing business
Iraqi businesses also need all the help they can get. The former conflict zone is a difficult place to do business, made worse by the current pandemic.
The Iraqi economy ranks 172 out of 190 economies in the world in terms of ease of doing business according to the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Index.
Improving the business environment and simplifying government procedures is the first place to start in improving their ranking and the lives of would-be entrepreneurs in the Middle Eastern country.
“The World Bank welcomes Iraqi government’s direction towards economic reform and appreciates the successive efforts in achieving advanced steps in automating services,” said the World Bank’s Ramzi Namaan at the soft launch in September.
Online registration also greatly encourages women, who represent half of Iraqi society, to quickly start a business and participate in the country’s economy.
“Taking a process that took dozens of separate steps and multiple in person visits and streamlining them into an entirely contactless registration, regulation and reporting portal is vital in both incentivizing more citizens to start companies and earning the confidence of investors,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
“This global pandemic has underscored the importance of both contactless transaction technology as well as of enabling entrepreneurship in building back lost jobs and economic growth. This new platform serves both of these important government objectives.”
UNCTAD helped develop a similar product for the Benin government, which launched earlier this year and saw its use more than triple as the pandemic took hold.
While the innovation is only available to Baghdad based business-owners, the goal is to take it wider across Iraq over time.
The online single window for company creation is a joint effort by the Iraqi Council of Ministers, Ministry of Trade, the Federation of Iraqi Chambers and Baghdad Chamber of Commerce.
James Zhan, Director of UNCTAD’s Division on Investment and Enterprise said
“In the context of the implementation of the business.mot.gov.iq portal, we witnessed an exemplary collaboration among the Baghdad Chamber of commerce and the Iraqi Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the Company Registry, under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade and the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers.”