By David A. Yates and Hannah N. Geterminah
A new business incubator center, Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Opportunities through Support Services (BOSS), which aims at improving livelihoods of many Liberians and increase the viability of their businesses, has been launched in Monrovia.
BOSS is a UNDP supported project in partnership with the Ministries of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) and Internal Affairs (MIA) that was established to enhance decentralization and support of micro and small and medium enterprises policy implementation through the establishment of Business Support Service Centers at the county level, which will strengthen capacities of youth, women, and agri-producing enterprises.
BOSS was dedicated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Wednesday and will work to strengthen many beneficiary groups including small agricultural producers and support MSME development through the provision of financial and non-financial services.
Pa Lamin Beyai, UNDP Country Director, commended the MoCI staff for their efforts in leading the sustainable growth of MSMEs, and for the partnerships with the MIA to enhance decentralized service through county service centers.
“The launching of the new center clearly demonstrates the unity of purpose, cross-sector collaborations, and complementaries.
“We look forward to further enhancing the partnership by collectively investing in expanding the BOSS centers as a sustainable inclusive growth towards Liberia’s strive to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs),” said Beyai.
Dr. Beyai noted that “BOSS” will provide an opportunity for beneficiaries to become their own bosses by empowering them with skills and knowledge to conceive businesses ideas, develop business plans, and use them to grow and manage their own businesses.
He further revealed that the center seeks support for MSMEs by providing opportunities for start-up entrepreneurs to thrive through the provision of business support infrastructure at the county level.
Dr. Beyai said: “It is anchored on the county service centers, the primary channel for decentralized service delivery of MIA, and coordinated through the Small Business Administration Bureau of the MoCI.
“Through this partnership, four centers are already operational in Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi, and Nimba counties offering a range of non-financial services to local entrepreneurs, promoting business linkages, and building capacity for business incubation.”
According to him, the centers are also used to instill business expertise and related services targeting primarily the youth, women and small agricultural producers.
Even at the initial stage, Dr. Beyai said the project shows a great potential to create an enabling environment for MSMEs to grow and develop, and in the process, help stimulate the much-needed local economic empowerment that will put money in the pockets of citizens.
“The BOSS center being launched today will not only provide the central coordination point for the network of BOSS but will also enhance outreach and customer service and champion service delivery to the MSMEs. It will also serve as a nerve center for customer service, providing a range of capacity building services to the MoCI staff, including the design of training modules for MSMEs,” Beyai said.
Minister of Commerce and Industry Alex M. Addy lauded the UNDP for the gesture and promised that the center will be used to support the government’s MSME sector in the country. He said Liberia will not be built by what people say but by working together as SMEs to improve the economy.
According to him, the vision of the center is to help SMEs to be well informed and learn the opportunities of the government procurement to help them go after contracts that will develop their businesses.
Minister Addy disclosed that since the establishment of the Liberalization policy by the government, the ministry was able to give out US$ 43,000 in contract to the private sector to build the capacity of SMEs with approval from the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC).
“We hope to see business people coming to network at the SME center as they grow to be committed to progress and build the foundation for others to stand on for the development of the private sector,” he said.
In remarks, Madam Manu Kamara, Assistant Minister of Commerce & Industries for Small Business Administration (SBA), pledged the ministry’s commitment through the SBA to the successful implementation of the center.
“The Business Opportunities through Support Services (BOSS) project is key to the implementation of the Small Business Empowerment Act and the Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development at the Ministry of Commerce…and it supports three of the four pillars that we have for the development of SMEs in Liberia,” she said.
The program was attended by partners and stakeholders in the MSME sector, including the president of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, Charles Ananaba, UNDP and Commerce staffers, among others.