The Activating a Supportive Platform for Young Rural Entrepreneurs (ASPYRE) project has celebrated 36 young men and women’s completion of the “I Am an Entrepreneur” training in Morris’ Farm, Todee, outside Monrovia, on April 11, according to a press release yesterday.
ASPYRE is a 36-month initiative funded and implemented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Liberia, targeting 225 youth across Montserrado County.
A lack of formal jobs and the large informal economy mean self-employment is the only option for many young Liberians. Three-fourths of Liberian youth are engaged in some form of self-employment. However, the core problem is that while many young people are self-employed, they have limited livelihood opportunities that generate sufficient income to earn a living wage, the release said.
It noted that the weak business environment makes Liberia challenging for any entrepreneur; however, the lack of entrepreneurial education, poor access to startup capital and weak social and business networks are key barriers impeding successful youth entrepreneurship. To address these issues, CRS is implementing the ASPYRE project.
The commencement ceremony was attended by Montserrado County District 1 Rep. Lawrence Morris and CRS’ Liberia Country Representative William F. Rastetter. Friends and family of the young aspiring entrepreneurs attended the event, as did local youth leaders and entrepreneurs from established Liberian businesses.
Rep. Morris stated, “Entrepreneurship is a journey; it is not about the heights reached, but the obstacles overcome. People need to be prepared to work hard and to be persistent. Projects like ASPYRE are very important to young people in Liberia.” He hopes that the project will be able to expand all over Liberia. Angie Howard of Falama, a local entrepreneur supporting the youth, highlighted the importance of discipline and education as key to success.
Utilizing the positive youth development framework, the project has developed the ‘Learn, Earn, Save and Grow’ approach in working with young entrepreneurs in Liberia. Through this model, the project will work with young people to develop all-around expertise, to improve their entrepreneurial skills and provide them access to financial services, engage with private sector businesses to link youth to viable market-based opportunities, support youth to save, and create opportunities for them to grow their professional networks and social connections for positive business outcomes. The local businesses supporting the project are Falama Inc., Green Gold, J-Palm Liberia, SAMJAC Industries, and Universal Outreach Foundation (Liberia Pure Honey).
Catholic Relief Services is an international humanitarian relief and development organization founded in 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Since then, CRS has reached more than 120 million people in more than 100 countries on five continents.
CRS has been operating in Liberia since 1990, focusing specifically in the sectors of Emergency Response, Health, Justice, and Peace, and Agriculture, the release concluded.