SOUTH Africa gained one position to 35 among 185 countries in the World Bank’s 2012 Ease of Doing Business ranking after it improved in three categories.

Last year, South Africa improved in six categories compared with the prior year, but showed a drop in three categories with a new category on electricity provision being the main culprit for the overall one position decline.

South Africa made starting a business easier by implementing its new company law, which eliminated the requirement to reserve a company name and simplified the incorporation documents.

It also made transferring property less costly and more efficient by reducing the transfer duty and introducing electronic filing, while a new re-organisation process facilitated the rehabilitation of financially distressed companies.

Despite the improvement this year, South Africa lags well behind the top African country, Mauritius, which is ranked 23rd.

South Africa’s best ranking among the ten categories is 10 for protecting investors, where Mauritius is only ranked 13. Its worst ranking is 144 for trading across borders, where Mauritius is ranked 21. South Africa also ranks poorly in getting electricity at 124 compared with 44 in Mauritius.

In sub-Saharan Africa 36 of 46 governments improved their economy’s regulatory environment for domestic businesses in 2010-11, which is a record number since 2005.

The World Bank said this was good news for entrepreneurs in the region, where starting and running a business is still costlier and more complex than in any other region of the world.

African leaders have called for a continental free trade area by 2017 to boost trade within the continent, which should further boost the opportunities available to South African companies.