If revelations made by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Axel Addy during the US Embassy’s 10th biannual Arts and Crafts Fair are fully implemented, Liberian entrepreneurs, especially those dealing in locally produced goods now stand to benefit.
Addressing scores of artists and crafts dealers who turned out on the embassy grounds to showcase their products, Minister Addy announced that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed into law the Small Business Empowerment Act.
According to the Minister, 25 percent of money spent on procurement will now be strictly directed to purchasing products and services of Liberian owned businesses. This means that in the national budget, procurement amounting to US$74 million will go to Liberian owned businesses.
In the wake of this development, Minister Addy urged Liberians to register their businesses, and be taxpayers, and read the procurement law to know how they can benefit from the opportunity that has been provided them.
He said implementation of the law is the most successful part, and therefore, Liberian entrepreneurs should read the procurement law to know how much will be set aside for procurement.
He disclosed that there will be a provision in the budget that will compel every minister to report how each of them has helped to empower Liberian owned businesses.
Stressing on the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Minister Addy said that it is an engine of employment for many Liberians and his Ministry is determined to see it improving.
He said if development such as road pavement and hydro power plant construction are done, there will still be a major gap if the need for sustenance of citizens is not addressed.
It is on the basis of sustenance that the Minister stressed the need for concentration on Liberian owned businesses to help reduce high unemployment rate.
Minister Addy, who began by praising Liberian entrepreneurs for their persistence in upholding the small business sector in the midst of difficulties, said a recent pronouncement by President Sirleaf requiring government employees and others to wear Liberian made products is an indication that the President is committed to improving Liberian owned businesses.
He used the occasion to commend the U.S. Embassy for its commitment in assisting Liberians and other Africans to showcase their products.
He also encouraged organizers of the fair to prioritize Liberian products, instead of buying goods and artifacts from Mali and other African countries.
Patronizing Liberian made products, the Minister believes, will give more encouragement to Liberian artists and producers of various commodities to do more to improve their talents and goods.
Sheila Paskman, Charge´ d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy told the businesspeople at the fair that the exhibition would have taken place months back, but could not because of the Ebola epidemic.
She said America’s interest in helping Liberians to showcase their products is meant to help promote the country’s businesses and to especially get Liberians to take interest in their cultural heritage.
When President Sirleaf gave her 2013 state of the nation address, she mentioned full implementation of the Liberianization policy which Minister Addy had promised to implement.
It may also be recalled that in 2012 at the Market Place on Carey Street, former National Investment Commission (NIC) official, Ciatta Bishop, called on multinational companies operating in the country to give preference to Liberian made products to empower Liberian owned businesses.
Buyers on the other hand have complained that most products made in Liberia are not guaranteed, but yet very costly, which they claim is the reason for prioritizing foreign products.