The Executive Committee of the Liberia Business Association (LIBA) has reiterated its call for greater Liberian participation in the economy.
LIBA President Dee Maxwell Kemayah, addressing a meeting of the Executive Committee last Wednesday, said the organization advocates “for indigenous (or Liberian-owned) businesses to take over the country’s economy,” but lamented the targeting of Liberian businesses in times of crisis. This tends to undermine the efforts toward achieving LIBA’s goal, he warned.
The meeting was apparently called after the destruction of houses and businesses belonging to one of LIBA’s key members, Prince Howard of Ganta. Mr. Howard is the proprietor of the Alvino Hotel in that city which was attacked by hooligans in the recent violent demonstration there. The demonstrators accused him of being involved in the death of a motorcyclist in Ganta on September 30.
Putting the country’s economy in the hands of Liberians remains LIBA’s primary objective, declared Mr. Kemayah.
The question is, what strategies has LIBA put in place for achieving this objective?
The reason we raise this question is that we still see Liberians missing in the grocery and general trading businesses, especially near the main market centers in Monrovia. These include the markets at Sinkor Old Road, Jorkpen Town, Rally Time,
Waterside, Douala and Red Light markets, where market people get their supplies for retail selling.
The Lebanese and other stores supplying marketers, especially market women, get their goods from the same wholesalers found across the bridge on Bushrod Island. Granted, the Lebanese and Indian wholesalers may have special prices from some of these outlets that are patronized by the market women. But this is where LIBA can come in and negotiate with the wholesalers to ensure that Liberian stores receive the same prices offered the foreign traders.
The stores from which the marketers get their goods also supply middle class Monrovia families on a monthly basis. Liberian business people could do the same thing and develop a clientele not only from the marketers but also from those customers who buy their goods on a bi-weekly or monthly basis.
What is LIBA doing to introduce Liberian business people to this market, which encourages Liberians to open stores near the market centers and enjoy the steady stream of market women coming in to buy goods for retail sale in the market places?
Also, when was the last time Mr. Kemayah or any of his officials visited Camp Johnson Road? President Ellen Johnson herself noticed a few years ago that Camp Johnson Road is now dominated by Liberian-owned businesses and she stopped by to patronize several of them. But a close look at Camp Johnson Road today shows that many of these stores are closed—why? Has LIBA taken note recently? Has it investigated this? If so, what have been its findings and what is the Association doing about them?
Several months ago we advised LIBA in an editorial that it should give great encouragement to Liberian businesses in the counties. Yes, they are encouraging Prince Howard in Ganta. But what of business people in Kakata, Margibi County, Gbarnga, Bong County, Kpain and Tapita, Nimba County, Zwedru, Tchien and Putu, Grand Gedeh County, Karweaken and Fish Town, River Gee County, Barclayville, Grand Kru County and Gedetarbo, Pleebo and Harper, Maryland County?
There are the major cities and towns in the other counties in western Liberia—Clay and Tubmanburg in Bomi, Bo Waterside and Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount, Vahun, Foya District, Kolahun, Bolahun, Vezala, Voinjama, Zorzor and Salayea in Lofa County.
What of Buchanan in Grand Bassa, Cesstos City in River Cess, Greenville, Juazon and Butaw in Sinoe?
In all of these cities and towns, local entrepreneurs are in charge. But one can see that they are struggling. Has LIBA any plans to visit these areas and check out its members and other business people there to find out how they are faring and what are their challenges?
It seems to us that LIBA needs to come forward with some clear strategies to improve and enhance Liberian participation in the business sector in Monrovia, the capital and around the country. We have seen that the government cannot do it alone, nor does this seem to be one of government’s top priorities. At a recent LIBA meeting some Liberian businesspeople lamented that it is people in the very government of Liberia that are doing everything to frustrate and undermine Liberian businesspeople.
LIBA cannot sit supinely and see this happen. The Association needs to find some means of combating this problem and giving Liberians a competitive edge in business both in the public and private sectors.