PRETORIA-- Cities in South Africa are making significant strides in improving the ease of doing business, according to a new report by the World Bank Group.

The 2018 Doing Business in South Africa report, which was released by the World Bank at the National Treasury here this week, is the second edition of the sub-national Doing Business series in South Africa. The first edition was published in 2015.

The reports are produced by the World Bank Group at the request of National Treasury, as part of the Cities Support Programme. The cities studied were Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Msunduzi, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane.

They are assessed on five Doing Business areas -- Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Registering Property, Enforcing Contracts and Trading Across Borders. In the area of Trading Across Borders, the report measures four of South Africa's maritime ports -- Cape Town, Durban, Ngqura, and Port Elizabeth, the World Bank Group said in a statement.

The report notes that even though there were marked improvements, the pace of reforms were slow in the last three years. Cape Town, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung and Nelson Mandela Bay metros had implemented reforms.

Four of the reforms improved the conditions for businesses to obtain electricity while another made it easier to transfer property, the report found.

Although reforms have been few, where they were implemented, the results have been striking. Mangaung, for example, automated municipal processes that have halved the time needed to transfer property, from just over seven weeks to three weeks. As a result, Mangaung has moved from lowest performer in this area in 2015 to best performer now, the report notes.

Efforts by South African locations to reduce the time, cost and complexity of bureaucratic processes that can hinder private enterprise are a welcome step in the right direction, said Pilar Salgado Otonel, the Programme Manager of the Sub-national Doing Business Unit at the World Bank. She added that this could be improved by better collaboration between national and local authorities.

This, she said, would go a long way in expanding the scope of future local reforms and putting in place a regulatory environment that allows businesses and entrepreneurship to flourish. The report finds that no metro did equally well across all areas measured and all had different strengths.