Unlike in the past when these businesses were all too often overlooked by policy makers, this narrative has taken a paradigm shift under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Under the MSMEs empowerment scheme, the clichés “wear your pride” or “eat your pride” were carved and they resonated loudly at the November 17-18, 2015 SBA National Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprise (MSME) conference, Trade fair and E+ program held at the Monrovia city Hall.
The third annual MSME Trade fair afforded Liberians the opportunity to showcase their locally produced products; ranging from cassava processing mill, palm oil products, locally woven cloths, among others. This year’s conference highlights important policy concerns relevant to MSMEs at both micro and macro scale.
In the words of Axel Addy, the minister of commerce whose ministry masterminded the convening, “this year’s conference is yet again another example of Liberians and particularly our youth, exercising their potential to positively contribute to the national transformation story being productive entrepreneurs and innovators, contributing to the real economy.”
The conference was graced by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the World Bank group, members of the diplomatic corps and an array of top government officials. President Sirleaf described the conference as an opportunity to realize the vision for an inclusive MSME-driven growth. She said, “Strong growth among MSMEs can be a driving force for inclusive development, ensuring that jobs, income and opportunities are distributed throughout the country.”
The Director of the World Bank Group, Dr. Henry Godfrey Rupiny Kerali, believes the major task ahead is to improve opportunities for this sector to achieve sustainable development in line with the crosscutting pillars of Liberia’s Agenda for Transformation. “Employment does not always mean earning a regular wage! In Sub-Saharan Africa, from the share of total employment about 35% are SME subsistence farmers, another 55% are self-employed and only 20% earn formal wages,” he noted.
The World Bank Group through its Trade and competitive Global Practice is co-sponsoring the E-Plus program. This is a youth entrepreneur program to be launched by the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry. The group is providing US$100,000 seed capital for 10 businesses. This will be accompanied by a capacity building exercise which will lead to a selection of qualified businesses.
The theme for this year’s conference is”Youth Innovation for Economic Empowerment”. It spotlights youth entrepreneurship for economic empowerment in Liberia. The E+ component of the conference sought to identify and harness the next generation of promising youth innovators with great ideas and solutions to real challenges in business and society. According to Minister Addy, “E+ first Class candidates will undergo IFC flagship business edge training matched with business innovations training. Upon completion, the E+ First Class entrepreneurs will get financial support of $10,000 each to start their businesses.”
Before leading the participants through a tour of the trade fair, President Sirleaf encouraged Liberians to continue wearing the Liberian woven cloth and eat rice produced by local farmers. She tasked the Commerce Minister with liaising with the various super markets in the country to ensure that Liberian products are sold along with imported goods.
Liberia is set to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) during the Nairobi conference in December.
Culled from The Capitol Insider Magazine