Chamber of Commerce, IFC Sign Corporation Agreement

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World Bank Senior Private Sector Specialist, Vaanii O. Baker and President of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, J. Wendell Addy

– Holds first SME Conference in Monrovia

The Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC) in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as part of the World Bank Group on Tuesday, December 4, held its first SME Conference in Monrovia.

The conference is for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to be able to identify and better articulate the benefits of corporate governance for their operations and performance. By strengthening their framework, these businesses will aid development within the private sector in Liberia.

Prior to the start of the conference, the President of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, J. Wendell Addy, spoke of the importance of the SME Conference, hoping that participants will learn more of how to manage and run their businesses successfully.

The Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank Group, Mr. Vaanii O. Baker, expressed thanks to the organizers of the Conference, the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and urged participants to use the SME Conference as a stepping stone in the growth of their respective businesses.

The Secretary General of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Stephanie Duncan, who spoke on the ‘SME Environment: Challenges and Opportunities’, outlined several issues relating to the objective of the Conference; defining what is SMEs in Liberia which, she noted, help to create jobs and eradicate hunger.

Speaking further, Ms. Duncan recalled that 2012, of the 9,000 businesses that were registered at the Liberia Business Registry, only 83 were Liberian owned businesses, and stressed the importance of SMEs being key to economic growth in Liberia.

She named challenges to Liberian business as access to finance, lack of capacity, access to market, infrastructure, delay in payments by government, poor data base among others as some of the challenges face with the Liberian businesses, Ms. Duncan noted.

The Corporate Governance Consultant of IFC, Mohamed Wurie, spoke on the IFC SME Governance Framework and how this can add value to SMEs in Liberia.  He said it includes assessing a firm’s corporate governance practices and provide advice on how to improve them; providing specialized advisory services on board effectiveness, the control environment and family business governance, and building capacity of local partners, institute of directors, media, and educational institutions on corporate governance services, training and reporting, among others.

Ms. Jacqueline Williams of the IFC also spoke of the importance of family businesses: issues and lessons, tutored participants on how to professionally manage their businesses successfully.

Participants at the SME Conference expressed thanks and appreciation to the organizers; the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank Group, and hope such initiative will continue.

At the end of the conference, a panel of experts including Mr. Francis A. Dennis, former President of the LCC, Ms. Duncan, as well as Ms. Williams and Mr. Wurie of the IFC was setup to address questions coming from the participants on issues that they need to understand for their businesses to be better.

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