Liberia’s Acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning Amara M. Konneh has disclosed that the government and its implementing partners are considering hiring the services of local businesses with strong capacity to deliver to supply locally produce goods to fight the Ebola virus in the country. The government recently hired four key United Nations agencies to implement part of the fight against Ebola on its behalf amid capacity and others challenges.
According to Minister Konneh, purchasing locally produced goods from the domestic Liberian private sector to supply Ebola treatment centers (ETUs) through the UN agencies during this critical period is crucial to empowering small businesses.
Mr. Konneh spoke in Monrovia recently during the signing ceremony of a contractual agreement with four key UN agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to implement part of the US$52 million grant given to Liberia by the World Bank Group.
Liberia contracted the services of the four specialized United UN agencies under the Ebola Emergency Project (EMP) to provide what Minister Konneh called ‘critical and much needed goods and services’ in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease in the country.
In the agreement with the UN agencies, the WHO will support the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and render other technical services; UNICEF will procure essential drugs and supplies and provides water supplies while WFP will provide food to quarantined and Ebola-affected population and UNOPS will support the procurement of ambulances.
In response to a question posed by our business desk, the Liberian Finance Minister noted that the government has urged the UN agencies contracted to hire the services of local companies that have the capacity to supply locally produced goods and services to ETUs and others centers.
Mr. Konneh disclosed that the government has encouraged its UN contractors to consider things that can be purchased locally.
“We have economic challenge here as well and so we have encouraged our (UN) implementing partners to consider things that can be purchased from our local small medium enterprises (SMEs) and they are very open to that,” he said.
The Minister, however, advised local businesses to beware of the huge that would sprout at Ebola treatment units under construction if they wanted to do business with the UN agencies.
“We will not allow our people to die because of Liberianization,” he added. “You [businesses] have to be able to provide supply the things that we need on time without any hindrance.”
“We don’t need any bureaucratic bottlenecks when it comes to the supply of needed goods and services. We don’t also want any delay in supplying. We want those things are not produced locally airlifted here on time without any delay.”
Mr. Konneh warned that the government and its UN implementing partners are not in the position go through businesses to place an order for goods that would take over two weeks to deliver.
“We are not prepared for that at this moment because our people are dying,” he said.
Liberian owned manufacturing companies such as the National Toiletries Inc., (NTI) located in Paynesville City, Aqualife also in Paynesville, MANCO on Bushrod Island and Aquarius in Margibi County, amongst produce made in Liberia products.
The NTI, which is owned by Liberian businessman Fomba Trawally, for example, produces toiletries and detergents of kinds and currently supplies Guinea and few West African countries.
Aqualife and Aquarius are the top two mineral water companies in the country, while MANCO produces detergents and other products. The fact is that all ETUs will need toiletries supply, water and detergents.
With the assurance from Minister Konneh that whatever that can be produced locally will be considered purchase, many businesses are now gearing up to establish strong links with the UN agencies.
He assured the public that UN agencies hired by the government have the experience and the capacity to fight the Ebola virus disease (EVD). WHO representative to Liberia Mr. Peter Graaff, for his part, expressed strong interest in working with the domestic private sector in the area of supplies to fight Ebola.
As part of its contribution towards the fight against the EVD in Liberia, the World Bank Group recently disbursed US$52 million grant directly to the government to fight the virus for the next six months.