2 May 2014

Liberia: 'SME' - Main Drivers of Country's Economy' - President Sirleaf

Monrovia — "Today the first beneficiaries of the life funds will go to the women who weave thread into country clothes in Lofa. And we are also trying to establish the 'made in Liberia' trade store at Bella Cassa Hotel on the boulevard, so local businesses can show their products," Says President Sirleaf.

Addressing and opening the second Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) conference and Trade Fair, Corporation, President Sirleaf disclosed that she visited LofaCounty and met the rural weaving women who weave threads into country clothes for a living. She said the women told her there was a high demand for the product, but they don't have the capacity to produce more.

"With less than four million people, the majority under the age of 25, we can and must create a prosperous society, that grants equal opportunity to all, if we are able to achieve peace security and build a better future for the next generation," the Liberian leader declared. She said she considers the event to be a very important event in creating job opportunities for many Liberians.

"MSE had always been the main drivers of the country's economy. And Here at home, according to the Commerce Minister, we have over 10,000 small businesses established. The Minister of Commerce is asking for a one year tax moratorium on all SMEs, though we have not reached it to the Finance Minister, but we will look into it."

President Sirleaf, who during the opening said she believes that MEMEs can be the vehicle to ensure that jobs, income and development are spread throughout the country, indicated that they must be supported and strengthened through coordinated efforts.

She also took the time to launch several policies, including the Liberia national trade policy, the Liberia National Export strategy and the Liberia innovative forum.

"With the quality of your product, the branding and labeling of your products, is not enough to pull the product in the market, you can get much more when you brand your product the right way, which has to do with innovations" Says Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, International Trade Center Executive Director.

"So if we really want to see this periodical transformed into real market access, we will have to pay more attention to the micro penmanship," she noted. Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, International Trade Center Executive Director, said Liberia has a lot of potential and opportunity to expand trade if the right steps are taken.

Commerce Minister Alex M. Addy said the policy document was developed with the full participation of all the stakeholders and after years of constructive engagement with the sector players to realize the document.

"The second step is after we leave here is to look at the road map and identify those quick wings within the strategy, and what are those things we can do now with our current budget flexibility and what can we invest in now? After we do that, we move toward implementation, which means bringing in the right technical assistance and matching that support with the sector players and coming up with a clear timeline and goals to execute those targeted implementations".

Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth, who also served as a panelist said access to market starting with the small farmer in Lofa or Bong, who started since 2006, is difficult because they cannot get their produce out of the villages, because there is no road access, no transportation. And no two way communications to let people know what they have and where the markets are.

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