By Victor C. Hanson, Jr
The US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Commerce & Industry (MOCI) over the weekend held a business development forum and promised to buy locally to help boost the country’seconomy that has been affected due to the Ebola epidemic.
Speaking at the US Department of Defense in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Business Development Forum held at a local hotel in Monrovia, the Deputy Commander General of US Army Africa, Peter Corey, said Liberia is like a home because he has travelled all around the country and has friends so it is a great pleasure and it touches his heart to help at this time where the country is at an Ebola crisis.
Brigadier General Corey stated that their primary focus is to determine how best they could support military men and women work in those counties while promoting businesses of the country in which they have their operations. He said one of their primary objectives of Africa is to build cardinal capacity and at the same time they are looking at ways to save the US tax payers’ dollars.
He said if goods or services are purchased locally and they do not have to send for goods from the US or and part of the globe then they can help save their tax payers’ money. He said they have already done the same in Niger and Djibouti and they have had a great success.
Brigadier General Corey added that they will have a wide presence in Liberia for some months to come which depends on how well they get after the epidemic and how quickly they defect Ebola. He added that as they are here they see it as a global mission because Ebola is a serious threat to the entire international community.
“We are here to work with you as Liberian brothers and sisters to get after this epidemic. We believe working collaboratively we will have success in defeating this disease and while we are here we believe that there are great business opportunities which will help the Liberia’s economy that has been affected due to the Ebola outbreak, ” he asserted.
Brigadier General Corey concluded that the group of experts from the US Defense Logistics Agency will take Liberian business operators through every process and procedures that the United States has and to help to understand how to do business with the US Government.
Also making remark at the forum, Commerce Minister, Axel Addy, said that Ebola is a virus menace that thrives on human kindness, and it will take a global response of human kindness to defeat it. “Our cultural norms, how we greet each other, how we take care of our sick, how we value the sanctity and dignity of death, now serve as a super highway for the spread of this disease,” the Minister intimated.
Min. Addy stated that the World Bank has predicted the impact of Ebola on the country’s economy that will be catastrophic if the epidemic is not attended to. He said the country’s GDP is falling dramatically and could be negative by 2015 if Ebola is not contained.
He said, “Short-term impact on revenue is a $116 million dollars loss. Government is the biggest spender in town, and thus this has had a dramatic impact on the private sector. Steady inflation on food prices due to shortage, panic buying and speculation”.
Min. Addy expressed that despite the stringent measure put in place at various ports of entries to mitigate any risk of infection, insurance premiums are on an increase for commodities importation and there has been a drop in commercial air traffic into our country and business operators are facing very difficult times in finding customers for their goods and services.
“This initiative shows US Government’s commitment to contributing to our country’s economic recovery by making every effort to buy locally, because when you do, you create jobs for Liberians,” he said.
Min. Addy concluded that they will work with operators and support them (operators) in whatever way they can to ensure them (operators) of success stories of the initiative. “To the team, we will continue working to work with you to encourage you to buy locally within your standards,” Addy added.