Liberia’s President, George Manneh Weah, has indicated that Liberian owned businesses will not be marginalized but given equal opportunities with foreign businesses or investors during his administration.
President Weah made the statement yesterday during his inaugural address at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
The inauguration, which was witnessed by several current and former heads of state, international and local partners, current and former soccer stars, is the first of its kind in the history of Liberia, many have said.
“As we open our doors to all foreign direct investments, we will not permit Liberian-owned businesses to be marginalized. We cannot remain spectators in our own economy,” President Weah said.
According to Weah, his government will prioritize the interests of Liberian-owned businesses and offer programs to help them become more competitive.
“We will offer services that international investors seek as partners,” Weah said, which many businesspeople have welcomed.
President Weah noted that to change the structure of the Liberian economy will require huge investments in agriculture, infrastructure, in human capital, and in technology.
“We hope our international development partners will assist us in this transformation. I would like to thank the international community for the invaluable contributions they have made to our peace and economic development,” Weah said.
According to him, this victory could not have been possible without the support of the youth of Liberia, the women, especially those who make their living by selling in the markets.
Weah added, “We will do all that is within our power to provide an environment that will be conducive for the conduct of honest and transparent business. We will remove unnecessary regulatory constraints that tend to impede the establishment and operation of business in a profitable and predictable manner.”
Leelai Kpukuyou, Secretary General of Liberia Business Association (LIBA), is encouraged by the President’s promise, but said, “On the economy, we will hold him to his feet to deliver, because it is now time that Liberian businesses stand on their own in this country.”
“We look forward to work with him to deliver his best for Liberians, particularly the private sector. With his pro-poor governance, he should realize that the private sector is the engine of growth,” she said.
She indicated that the act establishing LIBA gives the CBL the right to work with them and provide access to finance by business people for empowerment.
Madam Kpukuyou added that President Weah has indicated that he may not deliver the best speech, but will do his best as President of Liberia.
Sam Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Corina Hotel, situated in Sinkor said he was delighted with the statement made by President Weah and remains optimistic about improvement of Liberia’s businesses. One of the two major Liberian hotel owners operating in Monrovia, Mitchell is well underway with a ambitious project to transform his hotel into a 10-storey modern facility.
“Weah is aware of the problems businesses are facing and he is serious to address,” said Mitchell, who was president of LIBA when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took office in 2006.
Mr. Mitchell observed that there is a need for business people to also be prepared to meet some of the challenges or advantages ahead of Weah’s plans for businesses.
“We need to prepare ourselves as business people to benefit from some of the opportunities that will be provided by President Weah,” he said.
According to him, access to finance, long term finances for construction, mortgage and contract remain some of the key challenges facing Liberian-owned businesses.
Caesar Morris, Communication Director of the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL), lauded President Weah, stating, “We look forward to working with him to improve Liberia’s businesses.”
PATEL is an advocacy group that became famous for their stance against government policies considered unfriendly to Liberian businesses. According to Morris, Liberia is the only nation currently in the MRU and ECOWAS whose government has a non-nationalist procurement law.
He indicated that Sirleaf administration made every effort lobbying for aid funding for electricity but had high tariff impose on renewable energy products such as solar-powered systems, thereby discouraging private sector investments that could power communities across the country.
“We will formally be submitting our deliverable to his offices shortly and our six count petition to the national legislature in the coming days,” Morris said.
Morris said the government needs to create an enabling environment that powers local business by revisiting the current GoL tariff, address the issues of dual currency, put in place proper procedure to finance Liberian businesses to ensure a sustainable Liberian economy.
“We look forward to working with this administration to amend the small business act that awards only 25% of GoL procurement to Liberian business, among others. We have a strategy clearly outlined in our deliverables to be presented to President Weah,” he said.
Morris said Liberia needs trade sustainable development, especially for businesses, which will help country.
“We want a realistic government that is development-oriented, not playing politics with our lives and nation. Be practical; if you want to electrify Liberia don’t only look for aid funding but also give incentives encouraging possible investments in that sector,” Morris said.