The Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) yesterday launched its northern regional office in Kasama as part of its decentralisation programme which is aimed at taking services closer to the people.
Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Emmanuel Chenda officially launched the programme while his Permanent Secretary (PS) Stephen Mwansa, Northern Province PS Hlobotha Nkunika, PACRA Board Chairman, William Nyirenda SC, PACRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Anthony Bwembya and other PACRA officials witnessed the event.
Mr. Chenda said government has taken steps to ensure that key services that support growth of the commercial, trade and industrial sectors are available to Zambians.
He said as a starting point, government was therefore moving quickly to set up one stop shops in all provincial capitals to have the Zambia Revenue Authority, National Pensions Scheme Authority (NAPSA), Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) and the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) in one building.
The new PACRA Kasama regional office currently houses offices for the CEEC.
Mr. Chenda stated that government was aware of the many challenges that entrepreneurs in the country face in terms of accessing business registration services from various government agencies.
He said the establishment of provincial offices for statutory bodies under his ministry and the creation of online services were also done so that people do not travel to Lusaka for their services.
“As government, we take seriously the development of all provinces. We understand that just as products from Lusaka find their way into Kasama, products from Kasama must find their way to Lusaka, Ndola, Livingstone, Kaputa, Chipata and Solwezi competitively,” he said.
And Mr. Chenda commended PACRA for entering into partnerships with local authorities in line with the government’s policy of decentralisation saying this was essential in easing and reducing the cost of doing business in Zambia.
“The country has witnessed sustained high growth in recent years. The Northern Province in particular holds enormous potential for growth given its vast natural resources. It is for this reason that government wants to tap into this huge potential and the starting point is to have formalised businesses,” he said.
The Minister of Commerce has since urged the local business community to formalise their businesses with PACRA so that they can benefit from business opportunities and capital from government and financial institutions.
“Government and other major buyers of products and services would like to deal with well-established entities. The same applies to commercial banks. The banks will only lend you money if you are a registered business,” the minister said.
And PACRA Board Chairman, William Nyirenda SC, has said the agency has embarked on an ambitious exercise to decentralise services in a bid to reduce the cost of doing business in the country.
Mr. Nyirenda disclosed that the agency has in the last eight months opened four (4) regional offices in Chinsali, Mongu, Solwezi, and now Kasama and will be opening another office in Mansa and Kabwe this year.
He said this will give the registration company the critical presence required in all the provinces of Zambia.
The PACRA Board Chairman further said preparations to open a one stop shop in Kitwe have since advanced with the centre expected to be open by 1st July this year.
He reiterated that partnership with the local authorities and stakeholders was critical to the economic emancipation of the country.
Mr. Nyirenda also called on the business community in Kasama to support PACRA activities by registering their businesses and filing annual returns.
And Northern Province Permanent Secretary Hlobotha Nkunika said the move by PACRA to open a regional office in Kasama will give rise to entrepreneurship and job creation in the province.
Mr. Nkunika said this was in line with the Patriotic Front (PF) government’s policy of decentralisation and taking services closer to the people.
He said the registration agency will extend its programmes to districts to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs.
And in a vote of thanks, Northern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president John Zulu said the business community in Kasama was happy with the regional office because people have been facing challenges in formalising their businesses.
Mr. Zulu said travelling to Lusaka did not make business sense because companies used to spend more money on transport and accommodation than on the actual registration of companies and submission of annual return fees.
He has since implored his counterparts to utilise PACRA adding that no legal business started without the agency.
PACRA currently has offices in Ndola, Chipata, Livingstone, Mongu, Solwezi, Lusaka and Kasama.