By Morrison O.G SayonWith the huge presence of Chinese merchants mainly at the Waterside General Market in Monrovia, many Liberian business people, mostly women have complained that the Chinese Embassy near the Liberian capital, Monrovia is denying them visas to travel to that Asian country to purchase their goods.
Those complaining are mainly businesswomen who were purchasing their goods from China prior to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease in the country. As a result of the devastating effect of the virus many of the businesswomen halted their cross-border trade activities thus allowing Chinese merchants to begin bringing in goods to sell in rented stores at the Waterside Market.
The marketers said as a result of the petty trading being carried out by Chinese merchants in the city they are no longer allowed to get their goods from China. The Liberian businesswomen have also alleged that they are being denied visas to go to China and purchase their goods.
Since the end of the Liberian civil crisis, many business persons mostly women in Liberia have established a smooth business relationship with Mainland China where they purchase large quantity of goods and bring to their country for commercial purpose.
The INQUIRER investigation revealed that in recent times there have been more Chinese stores down Waterside where Liberians were carrying on their commercial activities prior to the Ebola virus.
Most of the goods sold by the Chinese according to them are goods that Liberians were bringing in from China. The Chinese are operating on Water Street beginning from Randall Street to the Gabriel Tucker Bridge, otherwise known as the New Bridge.
Some of the Chinese stores visited by a team of journalists from The INQUIRER during the investigation included Yan-shi Business Center, CDG Trading, Fun Xing Trading, and Jinen South Enterprises. Others were Da LianJia Trading, Xin Xinhua Enterprise and Wei Chua Business Center. Most of these stores are engaged in trading in goods that Liberians were bringing from China.
When contacted to authenticate the actual story relative to the petty trading activities of the Chinese, the President of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) LusuSlohn, described the presence of Chinese merchants at various stores in Waterside as a serious impediment to the Liberian economy.
Madam Slohn raised serious concern over the presence of the Chinese at the market and added that the Chinese are using the Ebola scourge to put Liberians out of business. She said marketers always complained to her that they were no longer going to China to purchase goods as the Chinese themselves have taken over the business, trading in all the commodities they were bringing into the country.
“This is not good for our economy; it’s a major setback to our business because some of the women who were going to China took loan from various banks to carry on their businesses but can no longer do business as the Chinese are now in control of goods that were being sold by Liberians,” the LMA boss pointed out.
Madam Slohn said the situation has reached the Ministry of Gender, Development & Children Protection and the LMA and the Minister of Gender have planned to meet the Chinese Ambassador to inquire why Liberian business people are being denied of visas to purchase their goods in China.
She then called on the Government of Liberia to intervene in the prevailing situation to enable the market women get back into business and pay loans taken from the banks. Lusu also blamed the outbreak of the Ebola virus for Liberians mostly businesswomen being denied visas to China.
When contacted also, the President of the Liberia Business Association (LBA), Dee-Maxwell S. Kemeyah said he had received complaints from Liberians mostly business people being denied of visas by the Chinese Embassy near Monrovia.
Mr. Kemeyah said he has contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issue and has been assured by the Ministry that it will engage the Chinese Embassy relative to the situation.
At the same time, Mr. Kemeyah has called on others with similar situation to contact him or the Liberia Business Association for timely intervention.
Also when contacted, the Chinese Embassy accredited near Monrovia refuted allegations concerning news about the Embassy denying Liberian Business people visas to travel to China for business purposes.
Clarifying, the Special Assistant to the current Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, KAO, told this paper that information concerning Liberian business people being denied visas is false and misleading, but further stated that there was new regulation put in place to safeguard the process due to the outbreak of the Ebola crisis.
KAO who further referred our reporter to the Counselor at the visa section said that the new regulation puts all those applying for visas to obtain medical certificates to be considered eligible for visas.
China is now one of the highest visa-donors to African countries, including Liberia. Speaking to some business people in Monrovia, the news about visa-denial remains a serious concern.