2 May 2014

Liberia: President Sirleaf Lauds Local SMEs

The President of the Republic of Liberia on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, applauded Liberian SMEs for their hard work and dedication to supporting government effort in boosting the local economy and commended the participating MSMEs, for their presence at the conference, for as she said, it demonstrates their commitment to their business and to the wider prosperity of the sector.

Few of the SMEs applauded by the President were Martha Henries, owner of Zoquoi Farms, who makes high-quality organic foods, Alphonso Kamara, the owner of Environmental Service Enterprise who started as a community waste collector, and now holds major contracts with NGOs, the United Nations and the government and Mr. Fabio Lavelanet of Fabrar Rice.

It is understood that Fabio used last year's MSME Conference to expand the idea of working with small growers to deliver high- value Liberian red rice (what is called country rice) to the local and international market as the President puts it "You are all examples of how a small business with big ideas can serve markets both locally and abroad, representing the best that Liberia has to offer." The President then added that their performance sets an example to all upcoming entrepreneurs, and that she was applauding them for all that they have done - their innovation, learning and business acumen.

Addressing other issues of concerns the President then told participants attending the conference that the success of MSME is fundamental to the future of the Liberian economy. "Across Africa, MSMEs have always been the main drivers of innovation, job creation, and growth. It is reported that Nigeria's SMEs account for 95 percent of formal manufacturing activity. The Ambassador is here; she will go and check that out.

In Senegal, they contribute some 20 percent of national value-addition; and in South Africa, the SMEs sector is reported to provide more than 55 percent of employment." The President explained.

Relating the above to Liberia, President Sirleaf said "Here at home, the number of formal SMEs remains small, but continues to grow each year. According to our Minister, we have over 10,000 formally registered businesses (this is not small for a small country), over 6,000 of which were newly registered. Taking into account the informal sector, MSMEs comprise the lion's share of job creation and growth across almost every sector.

The President also mentioned her recent visit to Lofa County and narrated her meeting with farmers who showed her their products and that the women told her that there is a high demand for their products, but that they lacked the capacity to expand their operations to meet this demand.

According to the President it is because of the above that the spotlight of this year's conference is on the Agribusiness Experience in Liberia, focusing on cotton to cloth; rice: from swamp to market; and cassava: from root to multiple products.

"This year's theme is a call to action for Liberians to realize the benefits from producing and manufacturing agricultural goods for local consumption as well as for export." President Sirleaf added.

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