29 April 2014

Liberia: International Center Looking to Unlock Liberia's Potential

Monrovia — The International Trade Centre is working with the Government of the Liberia, the Ministry of Commerce and local Liberian farmers to diversify Liberia's trade sector with the aim of adding value to the sector, the Executive Director of the ITC has told FrontPageAfrica.

Currently Liberia's trade sector is predominantly import base, but Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the ITC says the Center is working to help Liberia diversify its trade and also become a member of the World Trade Organizations.

"This is what we do, helping small and medium enterprises to unlock their potential, adding more value which generates growth, serving as employment,so that trading is diversified", says Executive Director Gonzalez.

Executive Director Gonzalez said the ITC will endeavor to look at particular sectors that are competitive and work with local farmers to make those sectors add value by helping to train farmers in techniques that will lead to improved yields.

Specifically, the cocoa, cassava, rubber, fisheries and oil palm sectors are of priority at the moment, but she also indicated that the furniture and tourism sectors will also be considered for improvement.

"This is what we do, helping small and medium enterprises to unlock their potential, adding more value which generates growth, serving as employment, so that trading is diversified", Executive Director Gonzalez

Liberia, she says, has a beautiful coast, which can be developed into a tourist attraction which will in turn leads to the construction of hotels and other facilities for visiting tourists, tourist guide and other employment related activities.

Fisheries, the ITC Director disclosed is a sector that can be used to produce fish, firstly for consumption on the local market and also for export. The strategies of the ITC according to its Executive Director includes access to finance, quality management and trade facilitation. The ITC, Executive Director Gonzalez said will sit with rubber workers and other farmers to build their capacities by training people who will serve as trainers for the rest of the farmers.

Gender dimension

The ITC Executive Director disclosed that the work in Liberia like other countries will take into account gender dimension where women will be given an opportunity to be a part of the process. "We are taking into account the gender dimension of the program, women economic empowerment so that every process has a good gender dimension".

Women, she said, have been known to reinvest up to 90% of their income, noting that women empowerment will help with the sustainability of the program. Director Gonzalez disclosed that it is time to translate strategy into concrete action.

The ITC also intends to use the program to help Liberia become a member of the WTO, which requires Liberia exercising openness of its market to other nations, aligning legislations related to trade to WTO regulations, amongst others. The ITC has supported the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in the development of the Liberia National Trade Policy (LNTP). The policy was developed after years of consultations with the private sector, and its objectives were validated in a workshop organized by ITC and MoCI in February this year. The LNTP was launched recently in Monrovia.

The LNTP promotes policy coherence to enhance business competitiveness and its role is to ensure that trade-related policies-including but not limited to the investment code, medium and small Enterprises (MSME) policy, national transport policy, food and agriculture policy, national industrial policy and mineral policy-work together to achieve Liberia's trade objectives, such as membership in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Framers of the document have indicated that the LNTP will serve as a living document and will be amended as policy conditions change. Amongst the vision of LNTP are- pulls together policies and strategies to create an umbrella trade policy for the Government, enabling efficient implementation and monitoring; outlines Liberia's strategy for trade policy issues, which is currently not adequately covered in Government policy and lays the foundation for a broad spectrum of legislative and policy reforms required for membership in ECOWAS and the WTO-essential steps for Liberia to integrate into value chains and the global economy.

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