Congratulates President Sirleaf on Executive Order 89
After being silent for many years in its advocacy for Liberian owned businesses, the Liberia Business Association (LIBA) has reawakened from its slumber to channel the quest and development of its members in the country.
Leelai Kpukuyou, the secretary general of LIBA who spoke at a press conference in Monrovia on Thursday, said over the past eight months they have been involved in reconnecting with members and major stakeholders in the public and private sectors to regain their confidence and commitment, and strengthen relationships with other partners in government and international organizations.
“We, members of the leadership of LIBA are pleased to share with you some developments relating to achievements made under the leadership of David K. Sembeh, president, and the recent measures taken by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which is covered in her Executive Order 89.
“We developed an approach under the caption ‘Rebranding LIBA,’ which is a process; and at this juncture, we deem it expedient to share some fruitful results,” she stated.
She said they are encouraged by the increase in member attendance and participation in monthly meetings and the active involvement of some members in LIBA activities, adding, “We have developed a membership recruitment and retention plan which we intend to fully implement in due course.”
Kpukuyou said they have reinforced working relationships with four major stakeholders in the public sector, namely: the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), Liberia National Investment Commission (LNIC), Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC).
“LIBA wants to encourage all her members throughout Liberia who currently have outstanding taxes at the LRA that have been subjected to assessment of penalty and interest to settle with them as soon as possible to benefit from the waiver order,” Ms. Kpukuyou urged.
SG Kpukuyou further said that LIBA has has constructive engagements with these public institutions during the past eight months and have produced the following results including the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to collaborate in implementing the Small Business Law of 2014, the Investment Code of 2010 among others.
“As you may know, one of the major components of the Small Business Empowerment Law is the allocation of 25% of government procurements to Liberian-owned businesses, which is not being realized by us.
“We are collaborating with the Bureau of Small Business Administration of the MoCI to obtain the procurement plan of each government ministry, agency and commission in order for our members, who are already registered with the PPCC to start preparing to tender for government contracts,” she said.
According to her, the first annual report on the “Set Aside” 25% as mandated by the Small Business Empowerment Act of 2014, the Bureau of Small Business Administration recorded the total approved procurement plans in the 2015-2016 national budget was US$343.7 million and the 25% SBA approved plans amounted to US$83.1 million.
She said 69 Liberian owned businesses won and executed contracts to the tune of US$42.6 million, which gives an indication that the public-private partnership between government and the domestic sector is progressing.
Going further, the LIBA secretary-general said the association and LRA have developed an MOU which is expected to be signed in due course.
Ms. Kpukuyou said the MoU provides for regular dialog between LRA and LIBA on revenue related issues and a collaboration to implement tax education activities for the Liberian business community in the 15 counties.
Under the auspices of the National Investment Commission (NIC), she added that LIBA was featured prominently at an ECOWAS workshop held in Lagos, Nigeria, which aimed at developing strategies to attract foreign investors in the sub-region and build linkages with local businesses.
The outcome of these engagements, SG Kpukuyou said, put LIBA in direct contact with the ECOWAS Commissioner currently in charge of Industry and Private Sector Promotion, Kalilou Traore, “and we have been in communication on opportunities for capacity building and market access of Liberian businesses on the ECOWAS market.”
She recalled that in September, LIBA’s relationship with Liberia National Investment Commission afforded members the opportunity to participate in a UK-Liberia investment forum held in London. “The focus of the forum was on agriculture, tourism, energy, and infrastructure. Some of our members, who have business interests in these areas, participated in this forum at their own expense in London,” she said.
“We intend to take advantage of business opportunities in the West Africa sub-regional market. LIBA leadership has been engaging the Nigerian and Ivorian embassy officials to facilitate the establishment of trade links with local companies and business associations in these countries. As a result of these engagements, LIBA has been invited by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire through their embassy in Monrovia to attend the 4th Edition of the International Fair of Agriculture and Animal Resources (SARA) from November 17-28, 2017 in Abidjan.”
Ms. Kpukuyou explained that as they continue advocacy initiatives with the international community, LIBA remains engaged with the UNDP for support in the area of capacity development, through the NIC private sector development program.
During the period under review, she disclosed that UNDP, in collaboration with Liberia National Investment Commission, organized the first-ever stakeholders’ round-table session, which brought together high profile representatives from the public sector and the international community, including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Labor, Liberia National Investment Commission, Bureau of Concessions, UNDP, US Embassy and USAID.
“The roundtable session afforded LIBA the opportunity to present an overview of the association, provide a map of stakeholders intervention in LIBA programs and activities, showcase our short, medium and long-term plans to strengthen LIBA’s institutional capacity for efficiency and growth of the domestic private sector in the Liberian economy,” she said.
“As an immediate outcome of this roundtable, an opportunity was afforded LIBA to provide business startup training, through our business incubation center, to UNMIL national staff who may be affected by UNMIL closure in 2018. We are currently working out the modalities. The Leadership of LIBA is committed to building a credible institution that stands out as the strongest voice and face of Liberian owned businesses throughout the fifteen counties of Liberia. The progress made thus far motivates us to work harder to reach the height of our advocacy initiatives. However, we acknowledge that there are gaps in our ranks which will not help us progress at the pace required to reach our goal. We are, therefore, using this medium to extend an olive branch and call on all members and non-members of LIBA to come on board and let’s consolidate our efforts to achieve our common goal. We recognize the importance of our former leaders in our forward march and we call on all past presidents and executive members of LIBA to recommit to the cause of LIBA. We cannot succeed if we don’t work together; this is a time that we unite and work together in peace and unity for the progress of the private sector. We will be visiting you and calling upon you and soliciting your perspective on how to further strengthen the private sector,” she added.
She also acknowledged the step taken by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in issuing Executive Order #89 which captures important measures that benefit the domestic private sector. “As we reviewed the contents of the President’s Executive Order #89, we see some key issues addressed that impact positively on the domestic private sector of which the Liberian Business Association is the lead player.
“Against this background, the leadership and members of the Liberian Business Association are particularly grateful to Madam President for the measures taken on Tax Clearance, Tax Penalty and Interest, Import Permit Declaration (IPD) and Protection for Domestic Manufacturers,” she noted.