The first National conference on (MSME) Micro Small Medium Enterprises ended on Friday in Monrovia with over 200 participants from across the country in attendance.
The three-day conference which was hosted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry with support from local and international partners brought together Liberians involved in the operation of small and medium businesses, policy makers and representatives of the civil society.
Speaking at the onset of the conference on Wednesday, Commerce Minister, Mr. Axel M. Addy, said the conference under the theme “From Vision to Implementation, Buying Liberia, Building Liberia” brought together banks, MICRO-finance institutions and other stakeholders to highlight the reforms and policies implemented which are creating an enabling environment for the MSMEs sector to thrive and grow.
He revealed that in 2011, his ministry finalized Liberia’s first MSME policy which highlighted four pillars stakeholders saw as crucial hurdles to overcome for any businesses to progress in Liberia. “These include the improvement of the legal and regulatory reforms, building linkages and increasing exposure to new markets, increasing access to finance markets and building business skills and knowledge.
Mr. Axel maintained that the conference was a crucial step in implementing the vision outlined in the MSME policy and therefore, each of the days was tailored to tackle one of the four pillars of the MSME policy.
In her address at the opening of the conference, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced the establishment of a US$1m loan scheme known as the Liberian Innovation Entrepreneurship Funds (LIFE) in support of the conference on MSME (Micro Small Medium Enterprises).
She said, “I am delighted to announce through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry the Liberian Innovation Fund for Entrepreneurship with a pledge of US$500,000 from government, and this is matched equally by another US$500,000 from the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI)’.
Madam Sirleaf explained that the LIFE funds which will be managed by LBDI is intended to help small and medium businesses have long term competitive investment to improve their access to finance. She further said loan scheme will provide favorable terms and interest loan to entrepreneurs who demonstrate the capacity to innovate primarily in the 16 sectors designated by the investment code for Liberian businesses.
“The goal of the LIFE funds is to contribute to the elimination of the financial constraints faced by Liberian entrepreneurs, thereby allowing them to make long term investment decisions to grow their firms,” the Liberian leader expounded.
The conference was supported by the Government of Liberia and international partners including the International Finance Corporation, USAID, World Bank, Sida, BSC-Monrovia, Building Markets and the Liberia Better Business Forum, Lone Star Cell MTN, Coca-cola Liberia.
The Division of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises is an undertaking of the Commerce Ministry aimed at providing support for small business development in the country. The division aims to be the center for advocating and providing support to small businesses and enterprises in a bid to promote the creation of a vibrant business culture and a strong private sector for Liberia’s economic development.