Our Business Correspondent George Kennedy on Monday explained to the public on the Observer Business and Economy page how many Liberian businesses, large, medium and small, are suffering because of the catastrophic blow Ebola has dealt the Liberian economy.
The main business he focused on in that piece was Fomba Trawally’s toiletries manufacturing enterprise in Paynesville. Like most Liberian businesses, Fomba Trawally’s, which opened earlier this year, is in trouble. No business. The border closures have significantly harmed this business in two ways, first, he used to export to Guinea and Sierra Leone, but not anymore; second, he imported raw materials from Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, but cannot, for now, because the borders are all closed. He has had to lay off staff due to the shortfall in revenue.
But Mr. Trawally’s business is precisely the kind of business the President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim had in mind when last Thursday he announced that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the Bank, had awarded to ECOBANK-Liberia a US$7.5 million loan. The aim, said President Kim, “is to help in the economic recovery of the country and create more jobs for Liberians following the end of the epidemic.”
But, said the WBG leader, Liberia does not need to reach the zero-Ebola level before taking measures to stimulate the economy. Accordingly, President Kim said the WBG would “continue to work with the IFC to provide liquidity to local banks to support small and medium-size enterprises and local entrepreneurs . . .”
That is precisely the kind of relief Fomba Trawalley is seeking, so we suggest that he run to ECOBANK and Kola Adeleke, the Managing Director, will receive him with open arms.
The WBG has also hinted that it will empower other local banks, most probably including the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI). It is perhaps only a matter of time. These banks, which have also been under tremendous pressure due to the Ebola epidemic, could use this cash infusion wisely to help struggling small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and this would definitely give the economy a big boost.
We hope that the IFC’s financial infusion will be on the “soft” side, meaning the local banks will be enabled to lend some of this money to the struggling SMEs at concessionary rates that will truly empower them to bounce back robustly into business.
President Kim has indicated that the WBG will place emphasis on Agriculture and farmers, in a bid to save Liberia from moving from one crisis—Ebola—into a food security crisis. Fortunately, the WBG leader also realizes that many, indeed all other sectors of the economy are affected; hence the need to reach out to all.
That is what the IFC intervention is doing and we hope that they can help Mr. Trawally and most other enterprising people like him—men and women.