President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Tuesday, April 29, launched the Liberia National Export Strategy and Trade Policy document that will bring growth to Liberian micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in the country.
This year’s MSME conference and trade fair is being implemented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, with support from the government of Japan, the International Finance Corporation, USAID among others.
The conference, which is expected to end today, highlights agri-business and brings together over 500 participants in the business sector of Liberia.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Sirleaf said it was an opportunity for many Liberians to get employment in the business sector for the reduction of poverty.
“This is an indication that Liberians would raise income for the improvement of the economy,” she asserted.
She explained that the creation of micro enterprises by citizens was also essential for employment opportunities for many Liberians, adding the launch of the export strategy would definitely enhance the process.
“This year’s theme that lays emphasis on agri-business is a call to action for us to realize the need to manufacture agriculture product for local consumption and export,” she stated.
According to the President, the National Export Strategy would support key sectors, including trade in rice, cassava, oil palm, cocoa, rubber, and fishery.
President Sirleaf further explained that, these sectors would create more markets for exports.
The Liberian President did not, however, fail to comment on the many challenges facing the business climate. She promised that her government is committed to ensuring that these challenges which include access to finance and others will be addressed to improve entrepreneurships.
Also speaking at the MSME conference, the Executive Director of International Trade Center (ITC), Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, said the ITC has recognized the importance of Small and Medium Enterprise and entrepreneurship as drivers of economic growth and poverty reduction in the country.
According to Ms. Gonzalez, the ITC’s interventions in Liberia are geared towards unlocking the productivity, marketability, competitiveness and job-creating potential in the country.
Madam Gonzalez, however, stated that “they will help Liberian businesses to internationalize their operations beyond Lofa, Bong, Nimba, Maryland and extend to other West African countries, including Sierra Leone, Guinea and La Côte d’Ivoire.”
The ITC Executive Director further stated that, for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to succeed in any country they need the proper business environment and support and service that allow them to attract financing, human capital, networks and markets structure in society.
“The world has moved towards trading in tasks along value chains across borders, these chains are important avenues for SMEs to add greater values to their products, to diversify and to innovate. They offer opportunities for new producers, including women and youth, as well as for least developed countries such as Liberia.”
She explained that, there are many sectors in which Liberian businesses have a real chance to develop, grow and in time export some of its basics commodities and products for international utilization.
“With this roadmap, we can expect to see Liberian businesses in these 5 sectors to grow; add greater value to put in Liberia; move up the value chain; and internationalize in step with consumer trends and demands.”
She further explained that, membership in regional and multilateral blocs, such as ECOWAS and the World Trade Organization (WTO) can help create increased markets for Liberian goods and services; allow Liberian to be involved and at the table as regional and global policies are developed; as well as allow Liberian to promote its needs and priorities for trade-related capacity building.
For his part, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Axel M. Addy, expressed thank and appreciation to President Sirleaf and other partners including: International Trade Center (ITC) and the government of Japan for their usual support to MSMEs promotion and development in Liberia.
According to the Minister, the government and other international partners have demonstrated their willingness to support the growth of MSMEs in Liberia and to build a strong partnership where MSMEs can be the instruments of poverty reduction and wealth creation.
He said the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has been engaged into providing opportunities for training for MSMEs at home and abroad to enhance their professional development and value addition for markets abroad.