Following what appears to be a highly successful vision for micro, small and medium enterprise development, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has begun a two-day National Conference and Trade Fair in Monrovia, bringing together various stakeholders, including small and medium size businesses, the Government of Japan, USAID, the International Trade Center (ITC), and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), among others.
The conference, which is being hosted for the second year, gives small businesses here the opportunity to showcase their secrets-to-success, network with local, regional and international investors.
The exercise which kicked off Tuesday, 29 April at the Monrovia City Hall is being held with the theme: "From Vision to Implementation: Buying Liberian, Building Liberia." It places emphasis on agriculture, showcasing Liberian cotton and country cloth from Lofa, cassava, and rice production.
Addressing the opening, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf first recognized the over 500 MSMEs, banks and financial institutions as well as multilateral corporations present at the opening ceremony and described the conference as an important event because it allows Liberia to celebrate the private sector role in generating jobs, raising income and helping to transform the economy.
The President also hailed small businesses that were making improvement in the sector and holding major contracts with Government, International Non-governmental Organizations and multilateral companies. She indicated that the success of micro, small and medium enterprises is fundamental to the future of the Liberian economy because they are the main drivers of innovation, jobs and growth, which she said, is true for other African countries.
Quoting the Minister of Commerce, the President said that the number of registered Liberian businesses is put at 10,000 with 6,000 of them newly registered and that the informal sector MSMEs comprised the lion share of job creation and growth across almost every sector.
"Agriculture is a prime example of this strength and that Liberia's greatest blessing is the water in our rivers and the soil beneath our feet", she said, calling on all Liberians to join the government in supporting local SMEs development.
For his part, the Minister of Commerce Axel M. Addy, said the conference marks yet again another important day of changing the Liberian story from destruction to transformation and that he's humbled by the adventure, adding, "I feel lucky." Minister Addy emphasized. He said the conference is about celebrating the unsung drivers of the Liberian economy, who day in and day out dare to take a leap of faith and invest in Liberia's transformation story.
"Every day, in every house, on every street new entrepreneur are developing new ideas and driving new innovations to meet market demands," Minister Addy explained.
Other speakers at the opening ceremony were United States Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac, the International Finance Corporation Resident Representative Mr. Frank Ajilore and Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the International Trade Center, (ITC)
Meanwhile, the conference enters day two and final stage today with thematic plenary sessions on policy opportunities for MSMEs in the areas of: Access to Finance and Access to Markets characterized by multiple breakout sessions to allow more detailed discussions.