As the Ebola virus continues to spread through West Africa and the diaspora, the chief of party of USAID Liberia's investing for Business Expansion Program (IBEX), Mrs. Watchen Harris Bruce, says her organization will continue to keep the economy moving by facilitating essential loans for local businesses in the country.
Mrs. Bruce, who disclosed this initiative to the Daily Observer Tuesday, said that in total, IBEX helped four local businesses to access loans totaling
US$860,000 during the month of July and September 2014.
She continued: “Now more than ever,
Liberian businesses need access to finance to allow them to operate, to pay suppliers, and to help their businesses through these difficult times.”
The IBEX chief of party said that one of the most important ways they assist local business is by advising clients on improving their loan applications.
Recently, “We helped clients in the construction, agricultural, general merchandize and trade sectors to keep their businesses operational despite the challenges brought on by Ebola. A number of international organizations are also seeking IBEX’s assistance in identifying local businesses that can supply sanitary materials and local construction companies that can build Ebola treatment centers.”
According to her, Efforts to control the Ebola virus, including severely restricting the movement of people, goods and money, have had unintended consequences for countries like Liberia.
“Keeping the economy functioning and the credit flowing at these challenging times is more important than ever,” she noted.
Mrs. Bruce continued, “Local businesses are being forced to change their economic activities and adopt new marketing strategies because of the catastrophic impact of the Ebola crisis. IBEX also provides clients and partner banks with loan advisory and loan facilitation services through one-on-one meetings, mentoring, coaching, counseling and advising by email or on mobile phone.”
Further loan packages for three additional local businesses, valued at US$205,000, are in active process, and three projects valued at over US$1 million have been submitted to partner banks, Mrs. Bruce declared.
Moreover, she said IBEX has been engaged with stakeholders on paying health workers and teachers in the rural areas through Lone Star MTN mobile money service.
In another development, IBEX and local business support service providers met on September 18, 2014 to brainstorm on forming a consortium on how to improve local Liberian business initiatives.
The training meeting took place at the program’s Murex Plaza office in Sinkor. Participating were nine representatives from a cross-section of service providers, ranging from government institutions involved with business services to private sector firms.
Presiding, IBEX Deputy Chief of Party Augustus J. Flomo said, “This event was to continue the discussion IBEX started in 2013 to establish a National Business Development and Advisory Center that will provide technical assistance and support services to local businesses through a
Meanwhile, the Liberia Investing for Business Expansion Program (IBEX) is funded by USAID and implemented by IESC under the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA).
Since 2012, IBEX has been working to improve Liberia's lending environment for seven productive sectors (agriculture, clean energy, construction, transportation/logistics, general merchandize trade, infrastructure and hospitality) through improved risk management and outreach, designed to reduce the risks and costs associated with lending in these sectors.