– At Quarterly Press Briefing

The Minister of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), Axel M. Addy, has highlighted several achievements, including the Lofa Women Weaving Center, the Liberian Marketplace, the launch of the National Quality Awards Program, Liberian Farmer’s Market, and the WTO Post Accession Plan, among others.

Minister Addy, along with members of the ministry’s senior management team, made the disclosure on Friday during a quarterly press briefing held at the ministry to inform the public about achievements and progress in accordance with the ministry’s rebranding agenda, which has given rise to the development initiatives.

According to Minister Addy, the ministry is poised to support Liberian businesses that can help provide jobs for the youthful population of Liberia, and added that there is a need to do more to empower Liberian-owned businesses.

He said the farmer’s market, which is organized by the Small Business Administration with support from the Department of Trade Services, is as a link-initiative that brings the farmers’ harvested produce to the market, and brings buyers for the supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels to the market.

Minister Addy said the Liberian Marketplace will enhance market linkage and promote made-in-Liberia products from sectors such as textiles, manufacturing, food processing, arts and crafts, and rubber-wood, among others.

“The SBA Department of the ministry in 2015 launched the first phase of the E+ Program with support from the government of Japan through its LIFE Fund and the International Finance Corporation. This is intended to put life into 10 key sectors of the economy and to foster government’s inclusive growth agenda. Some of the sectors are packaging, sausage production, fruit juice production, labeling, among others,” Minister Addy said.

The minister and his team then gave clarity on a few pressing commerce-related issues.

Speaking on the ice cream issue, Minister Addy said, “The case is almost finalized. The respondent (Nice Ice Cream) is to submit additional information to justify why they can engage into the business of ice cream manufacturing.”

In October 2016, in an effort to strengthen the Liberalization Policy, the Ministry of Commerce & Industry shut down Nice Ice Cream, but it was later reopened by a court order. A Liberian ice cream manufacturer, and owner of Sharks Ice Cream, Eyvonne Bright Harding, had filed a complaint to the court that Nice Ice Cream was not owned by a Liberian. Harding said that it was frustrating for the government to allow foreigners to compete in businesses that are set aside for Liberians.

Regarding the Lofa Women Weaving Center (LWWC), Andrew Paygar, Deputy Minister for Small Business Administration, said the initiative is intended to train women in the northern region of Liberia to produce high quality textiles from locally grown cotton and provide them gainful occupation that is critical for job creation and poverty reduction in Lofa County.

“Given the ministry’s launch of the Wear Your Pride campaign, which was announced in the President’s Annual Message in 2015, the demand for the Lofa cloth has increased substantially,” Minister Paygar added.

He noted that the construction of the LWW Center will enhance production to meet that demand, while providing sustainable livelihoods for many women who are active in the cotton industry, adding that the facility for the weavers and designers of textiles is also intended to promote cotton industries and add value to cotton in rural communities. The estimated cost of the project is US$230,747.29, “and it is expected to be delivered by July of this year.”

Minister Paygar said that the project is a collaboration between the Department of Industry, the Rural Industrial Program for Economic Empowerment (RIPE), and the Department of SBA Market Access Implementation under the Micro, Small and Medium-size Enterprises (MSMEs) Policy.

Speaking on the LIFE Fund, he said the Liberia Innovation Fund for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) is a private sector investment fund which focuses on developing and promoting innovations in Liberia’s private sector by investing in capital infrastructure projects that promote the growth of MSMEs and value addition within key industrial sectors.

Minister Paygar said the government announced “initiative funding,” but that due to budgetary challenges the funding was not made available through the National Budget. However, the Government of Japan, in order to support the MSME Policy, provided seed funding to commence LIFE Fund’s Innovation Projects.

He added that the LIFE Fund is also intended to provide seed funding to support the growth and development of industries in local communities as well as provide employment opportunities to community dwellers and improve their livelihood in a way that would unlock the potential of value chains, or foster entrepreneurship.

Roland Carey, Deputy Minister for Industry, who highlighted the Monrovia Industrial Park, said the ministry has been given oversight mandate to facilitate the enhancement and ‘operationalization’ of the Monrovia Industrial Park for the promotion of industries.

The goal, he said, “Is to serve as the home of Liberia’s major manufacturers, given the park’s proximity to the Freeport of Monrovia. As a key deliverable, the ministry is aggressively pursuing the following activities, including fencing the approximately 200 acres of the Monrovia Industrial Park, and development of the MIP.”

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