Where it all began and ICF’s legacy

November 30, 2016

When ICF was started in 2007, business faced real challenges when trying to operate in Africa. Despite the increased awareness among international business communities of the investment potential that African countries had to offer, much cynicism remained about whether things will ever really change in Africa. It was therefore fundamental to further enable business, as a means of creating wealth, employment and opportunities, ultimately resulting in better livelihoods and the increased well-being of communities across the continent.

The Commission for Africa, in its 2005 report ‘Our Common Interest’ highlighted the critical importance of the investment climate as a key driver of economic growth. The Commission called for a renewed commitment to promoting growth and prosperity on the continent and called attention to a proposal for the establishment of an investment climate facility to address barriers to investment in Africa.

This initiative was also endorsed by the G8 at a summit hosted by the British Prime Minister in 2005. Following this Gleneagles Summit, a series of countries and corporations pledged to provide financial support to an Investment Climate Facility for Africa for a seven-year term. These included countries like the UK, Germany and South Africa, and corporations like Coca-Cola, Standard Bank and Unilever. The Government of Tanzania agreed to incorporate the facility in Dar es Salaam.

And so in April 2007 ICF began its operations with its first project, a partnership with the Government of Rwanda to improve business registration, commercial justice, and land registration.

Nine years later ICF has completed the mandate set out at the Gleneagles Summit. Looking at some of the results we have achieved over the years, we are extremely proud to announce that we have been able to achieve the objectives that were set out at that Summit.

Here are some the results highlights from our eight priority areas:

Contract enforcement

Facilitating improvements to the continent’s commercial justice systems is highly beneficial to the investment climate and was therefore a key focus for ICF.

ICF completed 19 commercial justice projects in 10 countries and two regional blocks including Mauritius, Togo, Zambia and Tanzania. In Mauritius, we helped establish a Fast Track in the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court which has reduced the time from trial to judgement to just 36 days for commercial cases.

We also established mechanisms for alternative dispute resolution like mediation, arbitration and adjudication. This included helping to set up the Kigali International Arbitration Court and the Lagos Arbitration Court, as well as promoting Ivory Coast’s Court of Arbitration.

Business Registration and Licensing

Businesses need a simple, transparent, efficient and cost effective way of formalising their enterprises. ICF interventions assisted African governments to create simplified electronic business registration and licensing systems to improve access to these services.

ICF helped to set up business registration and licensing systems in 8 countries, including Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Liberia and Mozambique. In Cape Verde, country-wide extended business registration services enables business to be registered in just one day. In Burkina Faso, it used to take 40 days to register a business, but following ICF interventions it now only takes five days. The set-up of one-stop-shops for business registration in Liberia saw a steady increase of business registrations and enabled Liberia to move from the 141st place to 35th place in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranking for starting a business, within a period of four years.

Ease of starting a business will stimulate the increase of new businesses, positively affect job creation, income wealth distribution and economic growth.

Trade facilitation

Cargo delays at African ports create major restrictions to trade and is a major stumbling block for economic development. ICF worked with seven countries to implement single window systems for trade that led to a reduction in cargo dwell time by eliminating manual and inefficient processes. These countries include Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Sao Tome & Principe and Tanzania. The new electronic systems and procedures are faster, cost effective and more transparent. The time and cost to move goods through cargo clearance has been lowered considerably.

For example, in Senegal, cargo dwell time for imports was reduced significantly from 17 days to just three. In Sao Tome & Principe, the number of days to import and export went down from 28 days to 16 days, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business methodology.


ICF interventions in this area focussed on simplifying and streamlining tax procedures and creating online systems for processing and paying taxes in eight countries, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, Senegal and Cape Verde. Modernised revenue operations will lead to efficient tax collection systems to benefit both the private sector and Governments.

In Rwanda, our support has reduced the time to process income, pay as you earn, and value added taxes from 23.5 days to instantaneous due to a new online system. In Zambia, we helped to reduce the time to file, process and pay income tax from 10 days to one.

Infrastructure facilitation

With our projects we aimed to create an enabling environment and regulatory framework for private sector participation in public infrastructure and also to strengthen the capacity of African governments to bridge infrastructure deficiency and meet the basic service needs of citizens. We have worked with several countries including Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Tanzania and Seychelles.

In Sierra Leone, we implemented a project that was specifically aimed at easing the burden of transport between the capital city and the international airport, and ICF resultantly established an airport transfer unit that is responsible for licensing, monitoring and regulating transport in the private sector. Clear lines of responsibility and accountability were also established through an airport transfer regulatory framework.

In Rwanda, our initiatives were focussed on the energy and power sector. We built the capacity of the Ministry of Infrastructure and related energy institutions to create bids, negotiate and contract with the private sector.

Property rights

Procedures that govern land tenure in many African countries tend to be complex, uncertain and opaque which makes it difficult to know who owns or has occupancy rights to land. ICF interventions in the property rights sector assisted governments to establish electronic land registries with the aim of decreasing time and financial cost (for both the client and the authorities). Our interventions focused on countries like Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.

In Burkina Faso it now only takes 21 days to register a property, compared to the 182 days required before. There are now only five procedures involved for transferring property, instead of the previous eight. In Rwanda, our support helped to reduce the number of days it takes to register property from 371 days to 2 days; the computerization of the land registry also helped to pave the way for an electronic mortgage registration system.

Financial markets

ICF focused on strengthening African financial markets by widening geographical coverage, increasing the scope of services offered and strengthening capacities in Ethiopia, Tunisia and Seychelles. This was done in an effort to foster investor participation and encourage knowledge sharing across the continent to unlock Africa’s potential.

In Ethiopia, our project was aimed at improving the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) through the introduction of an electronic trading system. As a result, the ECX’s trading capacity was greatly increased from 200 transactions per day to 10,000 per hour, creating room for many more commodities to be traded.

In Tunisia, our support helped the Tunisia Stock Exchange to increase stock literacy in the country and the region. In Seychelles, our intervention provided a foundation for the Government to widen the scope and variety of financial services available in the country.

Capacity building

Capacity is a major challenge in Africa and many companies, including small enterprises, struggle to find employees with the appropriate skill set and knowledge for their business. A long-term solution to curb capacity challenges in Africa requires structural changes to education systems across the continent, but inroads can be made through simple and inexpensive initiatives.

ICF worked with South Africa, Tanzania and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to help increase the capacities of local governments and small enterprises. In South Africa, our support helped to improve the capacities of five municipal councils in providing better services to their communities, resulting in the reduction of the number of service provision complaints, petitions and service delivery protests.

In Tanzania, our SME capacity building project saw 1,024 individuals trained on business management skills – including business owners and employees. In the COMESA region, a pilot project trained 480 local producers from six countries on food safety standards so they can supply to multinational supermarkets and hotels.

Results for the continent

From 2005 to 2015 Sub-Sahara Africa experienced sustained growth, with its Gross Domestic Product increasing by an annually average of 5-6%. ICF is proud to be part of this incredible transformation through its collaboration with African governments and the African private sector.

We are confident that our legacy, the blueprint for public-private partnership that we leave behind in Africa, will allow others to build their own success long after ICF’s departure.


01 December 2016

For the past nine years, ICF had one goal – to work with African governments and the private sector to improve the investment climate in Africa. Now, nine years later, we have successfully completed this mandate and will therefore close at the end of December 2016. Read More »
30 November 2016

When ICF was started in 2007, business faced real challenges when trying to operate in Africa. Despite the increased awareness among international business communities of the investment potential that African countries had to offer, much cynicism remained about whether things will ever really change in Africa. It was therefore fundamental to further enable business, as a means of creating wealth, employment and opportunities, ultimately resulting in better livelihoods and the increased well-being of communities across the continent. Read More »
30 November 2016

Our journey to deliver over 70 projects over the past nine years of operations has yielded a rich vein of learning experiences for ICF and our partners and we feel strongly that we have a responsibility not just to report on what we’ve delivered but also to reflect on how we have delivered it. Read More »
23 November 2016

The South African Municipal Capacity Development Project has successfully come to an end. Funded by ICF, Anglo American South Africa and the Government of South Africa, the project aimed to improve the service delivery performance of five municipalities to make them more attractive for doing business. The project was implemented by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). Read More »
23 November 2016

The Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) has launched its upgraded One Stop Centre for investment promotion. Funded by ICF and TIC, the upgraded Centre will boost TIC’s role of encouraging, promoting and facilitating investment in Tanzania. Read More »
31 October 2016

Since its establishment, ICF has been able to build a diverse project portfolio by working with multiple African governments and various regional organizations. In just nine years, ICF’s unique approach has attracted an unprecedented number of projects that have delivered real results for African businesses. Read More »
31 October 2016

In Burkina Faso ICF assisted in establishing an electronic single window to speed up the clearance of goods at customs. As a result, pre-clearance processing has been reduced from 15 days to three days. This trade facilitation project integrated seven government agencies, five private sector agencies, 10 commercial banks and five insurance firms. The number of documents required for imports has been reduced now to only seven compared to the former 10, and only three documents are needed for exports. Read More »
07 October 2016

The ICF-funded Seychelles Financial and Regulatory Capacity Support project has come to an end. Implemented since August 2015, the project sought to increase the ability of the Seychelles Government to diversify the financial services sector in the country and provide better regulation and oversight within the sector. Read More »
03 October 2016

When the Government of Burkina Faso decided to reform and improve its business environment in the latter half of the 2000s, it embarked on a comprehensive and transformational mission. Three decades of sometimes overreaching and rigid government had left the country with an opaque, confusing and arbitrary bureaucratic system wholly unfavorable to both business and Burkinabés. Read More »
03 October 2016

Africa has always been a continent with significant investment potential. When ICF was conceived in 2005 at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, businesses faced real challenges when it came to operating in Africa, primarily as a result of weak infrastructure and a discouraging investment climate. Since 2007 ICF has been involved in various projects with an aim to improve and change the investment climate in Africa. Our 2016 Completion Report gives an overview of the challenges that were addressed and the successes that were achieved in the past nine years of ICF operations. Read More »
09 September 2016

Implemented between 2007 and 2016, these initiatives are making it possible for businesses to register, pay their taxes, solve commercial disputes, clear goods through customs, and so much more, in a quick, simple and transparent manner. This simplification and efficiency is helping to speed up economic growth, ultimately changing the lives of millions of Africans. Read More »
07 September 2016

On 31st August 2016, ICF held its Completion event in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to mark the end of its activities and celebrate the achievements it has attained since 2007. With over 73 projects implemented in 9 years, ICF’s work has made it easier for businesses to operate in 36 African countries. Read More »
06 September 2016

Damte Tariku has been trading coffee at the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange since 2012. He works for S. Sara Coffee Export Enterprise, a family-ran business, which exports more than 40 containers of coffee each month to Asia, Europe and America. Although S. Sara owns four coffee farms, it still needs to buy coffee from other suppliers to supplement its export volumes. Read More »
01 July 2016

Starting a business can be a cumbersome, lengthy and often expensive process. Many countries’ business registration processes involve bureaucratic systems which often rely on manual procedures. These lengthy processes can gradually hinder and discourage entrepreneurs from opening a business. Read More »
01 July 2016

According to the 2016 World Bank Doing Business Report, when a country’s business registration and licencing processes are not simple, business owners might choose to run their business without the appropriate licensing. The establishment of online registration platforms, including digital forms of identification such as electronic signatures, is a good way to modernise business registration and licensing processes. Such platforms provide greater access to businesses and help to reduce time and costs associated with registering and licencing a business. Read More »
31 May 2016

Most small business owners in Africa are competing for business in an increasingly competitive global environment and entering into agreements with third parties is a business norm for those wanting to succeed. However, when one party or the other fails to keep the promises that were agreed on, disputes arise and it is vital for business continuity that all disputes are resolved in an effective and timely matter. This is why Alternative Dispute Resolution plays a critical role in promoting business activities in Africa. Read More »
31 May 2016

Contract enforcement refers to the systems and processes involved in being able to get a contract enforced through legal action. Proper contract enforcement practices enhance the predictability of commercial relationships and reduce uncertainty by assuring businesses and individuals that their contractual rights will be upheld by local courts. Read More »
03 May 2016

It is evident that successful integration into the world economy increasingly depends on the realization of a series of complex measures that fall under the heading of trade facilitation. During a World Trade Organisation Roundtable in Kenya last year, Anabel Gonzales, Senior Director of the World Bank Group Global Practice on Trade and Competitiveness, said that these measures include anything from institutional and regulatory reform to customs and port efficiency and are inherently far more intricate and costly to implement. Read More »
03 May 2016

Cargo delays at African ports are one of the major obstacles to trade in Africa and in turn hinders economic development on the continent. When cargo spends too much time at ports while waiting for clearance for export or import, it increases the costs for traders, businesses, and ultimately the consumer. Read More »
03 May 2016

On 29th April 2016, ICF and the Government of Rwanda celebrated the successful completion of four projects aimed at improving the business environment in Rwanda. Read More »
31 March 2016

The Seychelles Government has launched a national Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy with the aim of increasing private sector participation in the provision of public infrastructure and services in the country. The policy provides a framework for Government and the private sector to interact in partnership arrangements that are mutually beneficial to both sides. Read More »
31 March 2016

During the past few years the topic of land registration in Africa has been addressed numerous times. Recently, the Ethiopian Urban Development and Construction Affairs Standing Committee pressed for sound land registration systems in the country, to maximise efforts to upgrade the documentation of land registration systems. Read More »
31 March 2016

In 2008 it used to take about 235 days to register land property in Sierra Leone due to laborious manual processes of recording land titles. Information about land was submitted by members of the public and stored as hardcopy paper archives resulting in long delays and high costs which in turn caused reluctance among commercial banks to accept property as a form of collateral for credit. Read More »
29 February 2016

The economic foundations of the West African country of Senegal include industries encompassing agriculture, natural resources and commodities, while tourism and the hospitality industry are also growing in importance. Against this relatively diverse economic background, ICF, together with the Government of Senegal, has been particularly involved in projects in the areas of customs modernisation to facilitate trade across borders, tax reform and construction permits. Read More »
29 February 2016

The Registrar General’s Department (RGD) is responsible for the registration and storage of all asset related documents in Mauritius. This includes documents related to movable and immovable property transactions. Read More »
29 February 2016

Around the world, governments and multinational corporations are increasingly setting their sights on Africa as a new frontier for doing business. Potential investors want to understand where and how to invest in the most rewarding and efficient manner. Read More »
02 February 2016

A business goes through several stages of its life cycle, from inception to registration, expansion and finally closure. In each of these stages, businesses have to interact with various government institutions, like business registration bureaus and licensing bodies. The Rwanda Business Lifecycle Project set out to improve the services that the Government of Rwanda provides to businesses at each stage. Read More »
02 February 2016

In 2016 we enter our ninth year of helping to foster a positive business environment across the African continent. At ICF we believe that the private sector plays a key role in boosting economic growth, through the production of goods and services, and distributing wealth through wage earning jobs – both of which are crucial in helping countries to develop and fight poverty. Read More »
26 January 2016

William Asiko, the CEO of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), will be speaking at the tenth Biennial US-Africa Business Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which takes place from 1 to 4 February 2016. It is the first time that the summit is being held in Addis Ababa. Read More »
25 January 2016

Monday 25th January 2016, Lusaka — The COMESA Business Council’s (CBC) Local Sourcing for Partnerships (LSP) project supported by the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), USAID and the Private sector will hold the first training of its kind in Zambia for 80 food suppliers on quality standards and food safety. The training will take place from 25-28th January 2016 at Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia. Read More »
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