Liberia-Investing for Business Expansion (IBEX) has trained more than 20 bankers and 45 local entrepreneurs including farmers on the process of agribusiness lending in Monrovia.
The weeklong-exercise was intended to increase banking staffers’ knowledge and broaden their understanding of agribusiness lending, proper client appraisals, deal structuring and loan processing, as well as requirements for borrowers.
It was organized by IBEX and facilitated by United States-based Volunteer Executive (VE), Allyn Lamb.
All nine commercial banks in Liberia were represented by their risk managers and relationship and credit officers.
Topics covered included Business Plans, Agricultural Risk Management, Understanding the Market Opportunities, Value Chain Financing, Basic Farm Record Keeping, Risk Rating, Evaluating Loan Requests, and Problem Solving.
IBEX Chief of Party (COP) Watchen Bruce, who spoke at the opening, said Liberia’s agriculture sector is a potential source of employment for it people but is yet to experience any significant growth in the country.
She further said that commercial banks are not willing to finance the sector and their low level of involvement is partly responsible for the prevailing situation in the country.
Banks seem reluctant to lend to smallholder farmers and agribusinesses, because they consider agriculture a high-risk sector, she said.
However, Madam Bruce said there are ongoing efforts to improve the situation for Liberians.
She recalled that the newly signed agreement between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Afriland First Bank, aimed at increasing agricultural lending through an enhanced relationship and capacity, will help provide working capital for operations, inputs, or equipment to smallholder farmers.
Archie Hanky, staff of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment’s Credit Appraisal and Development Lending Department, observed that agribusiness lending is new to Liberia and banks do not want to risk lending to clients involved in agriculture.
Mr. Usurf Barh, Credit Manager of Afriland First Bank, said smallholder farmers play a significant role in the Liberian economy.
He therefore called on fellow bankers to give farmers the opportunity and increased access to credit to ensure growth and expansion of their businesses.
Mai Cole, Risk Analyst at United Bank for Africa, described the training as insightful. “The new knowledge and skills acquired from this training would now enable me to properly appraise agricultural SMEs,” she said.