The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of Wulki Farms and the U-Foundation, Mrs. Mai Urey, has rejected calls that Liberian entrepreneurs are unable to fund, manage and sustain about 26 Liberian-owned businesses and would be unable to pay shares of 25% to foreign investment, if the Liberian Business and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 is approved by the legislature.
Mrs. Urey has also dismissed suggestions that Liberian entrepreneurs cannot takeover some perceived foreign businesses including rice, flour and sugar. She argued that Liberian entrepreneurs are able and could be more capable with respect to the establishment of the ‘Liberia Business Development and Investment Fund’ at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), which subsidizes or guarantees loans of not less than US$25m in order to provide incentives to Liberian-owned businesses, if the law is passed.
Mrs. Urey dispelled the negative perception against Liberian entrepreneurs on yesterday’s Costa Morning Show. During the occasion, Henry Costa, who is also a radio entrepreneur and host of the program, expressed opposition to the view that Liberian entrepreneurs can manage only certain trades and that they should not take over some businesses from foreign investors.
Her clarification was followed by several calls, some of which said Liberians are unable to fund, manage and sustain Liberian-owned foreign businesses, while others said Liberians should be given the chance.
Mrs. Urey said Liberian businesses are currently doing research on the management and sustenance of certain businesses and are getting prepared for the passage of the Liberian Business and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018.
Mrs. Urey is the wife of the standard-bearer of the All Liberia Party (ALP), Mr. Benoni Urey. According to her, the Wulki Farms, which she founded, is an agriculture and tourist resort and the largest livestock establishment in the country that has supported many feeder farms across Liberia. Also, she claims the U-Foundation, a local NGO (Non-governmental organization), is working with communities across Liberia, especially in the areas of education, health, agriculture and development.
Meanwhile, the Liberian Business and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 intends to create a more restrictive environment and a stronger enforcement mechanism, so that Liberianization as envisaged by the government and people of Liberia becomes a full-fledged reality.
It was submitted and sponsored by Grand Kru County District 2 Representative, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, who is also chairman on the House’s Judiciary Committee.
The law, if approved by the legislature, signed by the president and printed into handbill, will make possible 26 businesses reserved for the exclusive ownership of persons who are natural-born citizens of Liberia.
26 Liberian-owned businesses
The 26 Liberian businesses which have been identified since the 1973 Investment Act includes:
Supply of sand; block making; itinerant merchant (peddling); real estate agencies and real estate management services; travel agencies or travel agency contract for airlines; distribution and retail sale of flour, cement and rice; retail of stationery and office supplies; ice making and sale of ice; tire repair shop; independent auto repair shop; shoe repair shop; retail of timber and planks and operations of gas stations.
The others are: Video clubs; operations of taxis, importation and sale of second hand or used clothing; distribution in Liberia of locally manufactured products; importation and sale of used cars (except for certified used cars imported by authorized dealership of the same make); customs brokerage services; stevedoring; ship handler services; commercial printing services; trucking services (all forms); commercial printing services; newspaper publishing and printing and also payment processing systems and services including sales on behalf of government.
Joint Venture and Foreign Investment
If the law is also approved, foreign investors may invest or engage in certain businesses provided, however, that the investment capital of said investor is more than US$1m and at least 25% of the common stock or shares of the company is owned by natural-born Liberians or businesses wholly owned by natural-born Liberians.
The joint venture include: production and supply of stone and granite; ice cream manufacturing; advertising agencies, graphics and commercial artists; production of poultry and poultry products; production of pork and beef products; and entertainment centers not connected with hotel establishment.
The remaining joint ventures are sale of animal and poultry feed; bakeries; sale of pharmaceuticals; repairs and maintenance of transformer and generators (unless those under manufacturer warranty); fishing and fish processing, especially activities within the territorial waters, and light manufacturing, processing or packaging services of any kind.
The law further mandates foreign companies to provide proof of funding by the display of local bank confirmation; and foreign investors who enjoy free services or other tax incentives will require sourcing all supplies and services that are available on the local market.
“The Government of Liberia is hereby authorized to establish a Liberia Business Development and Investment Fund at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) of not less than US$25m for purpose of guaranteeing or subsidizing loans or providing incentives,” the Act said.
It continued: “Any foreign national, be he resident or not of Liberia who violates any provision of this act and any Liberian, for purposes of evading the aims and objectives of this Act, who fronts for a foreign national be he resident or not of Liberia, shall be subjected to punishment of not less than three years in prison and be fined not less than US$100,000 or its Liberian dollar equivalent. In addition to the penalties herein described, all materials, equipment and proceeds associated with the violation shall be confiscated and auctioned for the benefit of the public treasury.”