Liberia is one step closer to having a national business development center for small businesses, following the completion of a feasibility report and business plan.
|From left: Samba Kawa (USAID/Liberia), Watchen Harris Bruce (IBEX), Anthony S. Chan (USAID/Liberia), and Kwame Clement (USAID/Liberia).
On Friday, September 25, more than 70 people gathered in Monrovia at the Paynesville City Hall to hear the results of a feasibility study and business plan for a National Business Development and Advisory Center. The proposed center will offer business development services, including business registration, financial reporting, business plan preparation, market and product development, access to financial services, and other skills training.
The feasibility study was commissioned by the USAID-funded Investing for Business Expansion Program, or IBEX, and conducted by the Agency for Economic Development and Empowerment. Samuel Thompson, a senior consultant at the economic development agency, presented the report. It included a desk review, focus groups, and interviews with key stakeholders, including prominent Liberian entrepreneurs, concessionaires, and academics across the country.
Small businesses have the potential to be a huge driver of economic growth in Liberia, a country that is recovering from two civil wars and a nationwide Ebola crisis. Thompson said that the Liberian mindset about doing business must change in order for Liberian businesses to have a larger piece of the economic pie. An event participant echoed this sentiment, saying that Liberians must start to think and act as entrepreneurs, including farmers who need to see themselves as business people and treat farming as a business.
In brief remarks, USAID mission director in Liberia, Anthony Chan, expressed USAID’s commitment to expanding small and medium businesses in Liberia. The IBEX Program, for example, has facilitated about $6 million in loans to Liberian businesses through partner banks and $11 million in credit.
“We provided IBEX the funding to get it started, and we hope very much that this effort will continue through the implementation of the National Business Development and Advisory Services Center,” Chan said.
To move forward with the creation of the center, the IBEX Program will focus on fundraising activities for the construction and operation of the center, which will be located in a facility donated by the Liberian government.
“We believe in public-private partnership,” said Watchen Harris Bruce, who leads the IBEX Program. “One group or entity cannot do it all by themselves. We want to ensure that private sector business development support extends long after IBEX closes. The public sector needs the private sector because it is where more jobs are created.”
Representatives from the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, National Investment Commission, Liberia Business Association, United Nations Development Program, and South African Embassy also attended the event.
The IBEX Program, which runs through 2016, works with financial institutions and borrowers in Liberia to increase lending to small and medium enterprises eight key sectors, with an emphasis on renewable energy and agribusiness. This story is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development. The contents are the sole responsibility of IESC and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.