Monrovia — In Liberia, repayment of loans has proven difficult as many debtors default on loans provided by banks and other non banking institutions.
Some commercial banks experience serious financial problems as a consequence of non-performing loans, a situation that has led to stringent measures in securing loans, with banks and micro finance institutions demanding valuable collateral which in many instances the average Liberian marketer cannot afford to provide. Access to credit has therefore become a huge challenge for Liberians but there are few who believe that in order to repay loans, commitment is required.
"There were many good things we learned that enlightened our minds of small business management. We learn about customer relationship management, which was very important for us because it is one of our shortcomings involved in businesses today," says Nora Saah, a small entrepreneur.
Nora, is a student studying for a Master degree at the Cuttington Graduate School, but the young mother of two, does not only want to go to school but also ventures into business as well. She attended ten-week business entrepreneur training and got a micro loan from "Be a change" through Youth Crime Watch Liberia, to open a small telephone booth for charging phones and selling scratch cards by retail.
"We learn at times, when you go to some businesses, you see customers in bitter arguments with business owners, just because some sellers are not able to handle their customers. So, we were taught some life professional skills to apply in our businesses in order to manage our customers with ease."
Nora, who said commitment is the crucial tool to micro loan, was able to get US$250.00 from the Youth Crime Watch, be a change program, to start her business and has the period of six months to pay back the loan at the rate of US$11.00 weekly.
"I will be paying 11 dollars every week until I can finish paying the micro loan given me within six months. I requested for some amount, but due to inadequate funds, so we were not able to get the full amount, but in order to satisfy everybody who put in for a loan, I got up to US$250.00. Though the organization was not able to meet up with my expectation in providing me the full amount, notwithstanding, the little I got, is doing well for me."
Catching up with Nora on her way from the Red Light Market in Paynesville, she disclosed that she and others learned research and steps necessary before starting a business, from Youth Crime Watch Liberia about the market.
"When we the business people just enter an unknown environment and start business, we find out that the business will collapse at the end result, because we do not even know if the people will be in need of the services we are providing to them. So you need to know the business environment before you move in to start a business."
The 27 year old woman, who also is a house wife, holds a BSc degree in Public Administration from the Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County, and is now doing her masters at the same School in Monrovia, studying Public Sector management.
"This skill training has really imparted my life because the business really helps me, pay my transportation to and from school, because I have to spend up to LD$ 140.00 every day to transport myself to school. My level of achievement has helped me cope with some of my home problems as well."
Mr. Zuo Taylor, Executive Director of Youth Crime Watch Liberia, also runs a program called "Be A Change" that provides micro loan to petty traders, including Nora and is sponsored by the Norwegian government to encourage women's advancement in changing their communities.
"Women are trained in business entrepreneurial skills for ten weeks and given a micro loan, after they graduate. We give out funds to women, ranging from US$100.00- US$500.00. We try to be flexible in allowing them longer period to pay back the loan. And we give some women one year based on the amount they took and some women six months to pay back the loan. Next Month, we are going to have our graduation and thereafter, we will recruit 250 women, and we will do that after every ten weeks until 2015."
Mr. Taylor said the organization was founded 2003-2004 by young people to combat crime in schools and communities because youth accounts for 75 percent of crimes committed. Mr. Taylor said the Organization, Youth Crime Watch Liberia, goal is to instill positive values and foster good citizenship among young people and discourage them from the usage of drugs, alcohol and violence.
"We train young people how to report crime in their schools and communities to the police. We work along with schools and communities to select young people who will serve as leaders of the Youth Crime Program. And we train them at the Youth Crime Watch Office."