The year was 2012 when I decided to register a company for my Safari Tales application. Right from the onset, I had the vision to start a business that would concentrate on digital content for children and merchandise as well as info on parenting. I, therefore, decided to register AfroKidz Ltd.
The first thing I had to do was find a good lawyer who would not charge me a fortune and who would not lead me on for months with no results. I was lucky to be referred by a friend to a firm that did mostly registration of companies, mergers, buyouts and that kind of thing. I had to part with Ksh.20,000 that was to cater for: company name search, registration, drafting of Articles of Association, application for a certificate of incorporation and legal fees.
From what I gathered afterwards: I got a really good deal.
There are a lot of Kenyans out there who get conned every day during their quest to register a business. Most are not even seeking to register a limited liability company, a process that requires lots of paperwork. For sole proprietorship businesses like Wanjeri Cakes or Mama Safi Cleaners, the process is as easy as doing a name search at the registrar of companies and registering that business name under ‘Sole Proprietorship’.
That’s when things get easy. It took me less than 20 minutes to apply for a business name search, pay for it and confirm that indeed, that application had gone through using the eCitizen portal.
Although I was hoping to actually try out the marriage name change which will be a feature soon available on the eCitizen platform, I had to settle for registering a business name. From my intense interaction with the eCitizen government portal, here are my thoughts on the platform.
What I liked
- The registration process on the portal is quite simple, unlike registering a new email address, you don’t get asked all those questions. The wizard also enables you to know how many steps you need to complete before finishing the registration process.
- The site is quite easy to navigate making it easy to follow up on processes like ‘my applications’, payments, downloads, etc
- The payment process via Mpesa was pretty straightforward as the portal has a paybill business number and account
- The email confirmations though automated are welcome as they confirmed to me that indeed my application went through
What I didn’t like
- The ‘Dashboard’ menu does not display the complete dashboard of all agencies and service status. This took me a while to realize. If you go to immigration, then the dashboard will remain for only immigration services till you click on ‘Other Agencies’
- The platform has not been programmed to query any of the existing databases for the respective agencies. If for example I am applying for an East African Passport and I already have an existing ordinary passport, I should not go through the full process if filling in all my details(my particulars, those of my parents, etc) all over again because immigration has all those details in their database which they captured when I first applied. If this was to be implemented, it will also reduce multiple applications from Kenyan citizen or many finding the system cumbersome to use and no different from filling in paperwork.
- The payment process experiences an unsettling delay after one has already gotten a confirmation from MPESA that indeed the money has been remitted to the eCitizen paybill account. It took several minutes of ‘confirming’ for my payment to reflect
- During the registration process, there isn’t adequate information especially on the size limit for images. I uploaded a large image and the site redirected to a page that showed an error message with ‘File too large’. For someone who is not tech savvy, it’s very confusing on what to do next.
- The platform only has very few of the essential services that Kenyan Citizen need like a Driving license, a business name, Passport application and land search form. For someone who requires more government service, they have to go through the traditional channels until those services are available on the platform.
- The site’s process flow needs to be more human-centric. If I am seeking to apply for an E. A passport, it would be better to get that information immediately I click on ‘Submit application’. The way it is now, one has to really navigate the site and drill down to get those details.
- The business name search does not give one a feature to enter alternative names in case the first choice of name is taken. Ideally, when one is registering their business by physically going to the registrar, they provide 3 names for the same amount of Ksh. 150 so that they avoid paying several times.
- Incorporate other essential services that can complement the Huduma centers e.g follow up on one’s ID replacement. Our Nanny has been going to the Huduma centers every week for her replacement because no one is giving her an actual date of collection
- Carry out some research through user surveys on what are the most crucial government services that people seek and have the eCitizen portal adopt to actual user needs.