The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Axel M. Addy, said despite the stringent measures put into place at various ports of entries to mitigate any risk of infection, business operators in the country are facing tough times in finding customers for their goods and services.
Minister Addy made the assertion at a one-day business development forum held between the United States Department of Defense and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) over the weekend in Monrovia.
The forum was intended to address some of the issue that Liberian own-businesses are facing and how foreign partners who are helping us to eradicate Ebola out of Liberia would buy and promote locally produced commodities to boost the country’s economy, affected seriously due to the Ebola epidemic.
Minister Addy noted that insurance premiums are on an increase for imported commodities and there has been a drop in commercial air traffic in the country.
He said that Ebola is a virus menace that thrives on human kindness, and it will take a global response of human kindness to defeat it.
“Our cultural norms, how we greet each other, how we take care of our sick, how we value the sanctity and dignity of death, now serve as a super highway for the spread of this disease,” the Minister lamented.
According to him, the World Bank has predicted that the impact of Ebola on the country’s economy will be catastrophic if the epidemic is not contained soon.
He reiterated that the country’s GDP is falling dramatically and could be negative by 2015 if Ebola is not contained.
“The short-term impact on the national revenues is a $116 million dollars loss. Government is the biggest spender in town, and thus this has had a dramatic impact on the private sector. Steady inflation affects food prices due to shortages, panic buying and speculation,” he added.
“This initiative—the attempt to patronize Liberian-owned businesses—shows US Government’s commitment to contributing to our country’s economic recovery by making every effort to buy locally, because when you do, you create jobs for Liberians,” he said.
Min. Addy assured Liberian businesses that Commerce will work with the development partners in whatever way possible to ensure that Liberian business operators will be successful in their dealings with the partners.
“To the team, we will continue working with you to encourage you to buy locally within your standards,” Addy added.
For his part, the Deputy Commander General of US Army Africa, Peter Corey, said Liberia is like a home because he has travelled all around the country and has friends; so it is a great pleasure and it touches his heart to help at this time where the country is in an Ebola crisis.
Brigadier General Corey stated that their primary focus is to determine how best they could support military men and women working in those counties while promoting businesses of the country in which they have their operations.
One of their primary objectives in Africa, he said, is to build cardinal capacity. At the same time, they are looking for ways to save the US tax payers’ dollars.
The US Army Africa Commander General said if goods or services are purchased locally and they do not have to send for goods from the US or and any part of the globe, then they can help save their tax payers’ money.
They had already done the same in Niger and Djibouti and they have had great success.
Brigadier General Corey added that they will have a wide presence in Liberia for some months to come, which depends on how well they go after the epidemic and how quickly they can deflect Ebola.
He added that as they are here they see it as a global mission because Ebola is a serious threat to the entire international community.
“We are here to work with you as Liberian brothers and sisters to get after this epidemic. We believe working collaboratively we will have success in defeating this disease and while we are here we believe that there are great business opportunities which will help the Liberia’s economy that has been affected due to the Ebola outbreak,” he asserted.
Brigadier General Corey concluded that the group of experts from the US Defense Logistics Agency will take Liberian business operators through every process and procedures that the United States has and to help to understand how to do business with the US Government.