World Bank says Africa making business easier

SINGAPORE (AP) — Most Sub-Saharan countries made doing business easier over the past year, but the African region is still the costliest and most complex in the world for entrepreneurs, the World Bank said in a report Thursday.

In its annual ranking of 183 countries, the bank found 36 of 46 Sub-Saharan African nations improved their business environment in the year through June 2011, the highest number since the study began nine years ago.

The world’s top five countries for doing business were unchanged from last year — Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the U.S. and Denmark.

The bank judges nations on 11 criteria — starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and employing workers.

The bank said 125 countries improved business regulations in the past year, up 13 percent from the previous year.

Morocco was this year’s biggest gainer in the rankings, jumping to 94 from 115 after the North African nation simplified construction permits, allowed minority shareholders to obtain some corporate documents during trials and enhanced electronic tax filing.

South Korea leapt to 8th place from 15th by introducing an online process for starting a business, merging several taxes and filing commercial litigation electronically. Sweden fell out of the top ten to 14th.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s improvement was led by Sierra Leone, which advanced to 141 from 150. Mauritius at 23, and South Africa at 35, are Africa’s highest ranked countries.

Africa also has eight of the 10 lowest ranked nations, including Chad in last place.

Venezuela is South America’s lowest ranked country at 177, the only non-African nation in the bottom nine.

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