FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

2 May 2014

Liberia: 'Give Us Trade, Not Aid' - Liberian Lawmaker On Growth of Economy

Monrovia — "I know not everybody cannot afford to provide collateral to go to the bank, because when I first started as a business woman, I could not afford to go to the bank, because it was one year with 14-18 percent interest, So I never went to the bank again," says Montserrado District #1 Representative Josephine Francis."

Addressing the Small Medium Enterprises panel held at the Monrovia City Hall for entrepreneurs, Representative Francis, also known as the "Master Farmer", because of her farming activities long before entering politics, said in the last five years, with the stimulus package through the Central Bank, given to the Liberia Bank Development and Investment to encourage SME to take a loan for eight years, she was able to take a loan.

Said Francis: "If I tell you today, that all was rosy for me when I started a business, I won't be telling you the truth, because it was not easy at all."

Francis says with the eight percent interest from the Bank, I grabbed that opportunity to expand my business, so SMEs can also take advantage of that opportunity as well. I want to encourage other SMEs to keep pressing forward, no matter the difficulties."

She thanked the International Trade Center for coming to Liberia five years ago and developed the cassava strategy to local farmers, including her, and that the project is presently being implemented.

"That project was given to the Agriculture Minister who then took it to the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) to be implemented, and that project is fully functioning with an office. I hope ITC will go to the office and see the work we are doing."

The Lawmaker disclosed that SME plays a major role in the country's economy, in that it provides jobs for many and that in the last eight years of the Sirleaf's administration, finance has been accessible to SMEs. Representative Francis said, she is not saying those words because she is a part of the government, but it is the fact.

"Liberians have to start tapping into the private sector, but you have to make sure to have a vision and then prepare a business plan for what you want to do. If we do not grow that a vibrant private sector, poverty will continue in this country, because the largest part of our unemployed population, are the rural inhabitants," She said.

Stressing the importance of agriculture, Representative Francis said agriculture is the engine of a country's economy. "Because if you have control of food and water, you are protected, but if not, you are not protected and become vulnerable".

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