UNDP Provides US$40K to Strengthen Liberian Small Businesses

Chief Executive Officer of iCampus, Luther Jeke, 2nd to from left, and UNDP Resident Representative, Stephen Rodriques (right) pose for a photo after the launch of the Growth Accelerator Programme Cohort II.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with iCampus Liberia and Accountability Lab Liberia for the second year in a row, with institutional and policy support from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to help impactful entrepreneurs scale up their businesses through technical assistance, mentorship, and co-financing of up to US$40,000. 

This second edition has also added an agricultural component with the expansion to include impactful Liberian agricultural cooperatives. The addition of the agricultural cooperatives, according to the organizers, will add a new dimension to the program. 

Liberia has ranked in the bottom twenty countries on the UNDP Human Development Index, facing stark challenges, with more than 50% of the population living in poverty. A key factor contributing to poverty in Liberia is limited access to sustainable and viable income-generating opportunities. 

With UNDP’s 50+ years long focus on driving sustainable development in the lower- and middle-income countries around the globe and the track record of iCampus, Accountability Lab Liberia, Growth Africa, Business StartUp Center-Monrovia, AgroTech Liberia and East Africa Market Development Associates Ltd. — all working to alleviate hardship and strengthen organizations and individuals, this second and expanded edition excites with expectations of growth and improvement.

The Accelerator will support businesses and cooperatives that are viable, effective and impactful, particularly in the current worldwide economic uncertainty from the effects of the COVID pandemic, and the shocks of global economic crises and geopolitical upheaval.  

However, UNDP Resident Representative Stephen Rodriques, speaking at the official launch of the Growth Accelerator Cohort II program on Thursday, June 2, challenged Liberian micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), including those in the agricultural sector, to take advantage of the call for application for cohort II of the growth accelerator program and the opportunities it affords them to grow their businesses using the business skills and potential funding that the program provides. 

"It's important to note that this is at the heart of the PAPD, and UNDP realizes that supporting MSMEs is one area where sustainable economic development can help women, youth, and people with disabilities," he said. 

Mr. Rodriques praised the collaboration between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in implementing the livelihood and job creation initiative and promoting business development services and giving finance to Liberian businesses. 

He also pledged UNDP’s continued commitment to working with the MOCI in supporting the Growth Accelerator programme as a platform for fueling ambitious Liberian entrepreneurs and post-revenue start-ups with the technical capacity and financial capital they need to experience the fullness of their growth potential.

“This, he said, will make Liberian viable commercial businesses and social enterprises that can deliver social and economic development solutions.”  

Also speaking, Chief Executive Officer of iCampus, Luther Jeke, said he will ensure that selected businesses and cooperatives have a mix of mentorship, technical assistance and financial incentives to enable them to grow and make them sustainable. 

“For example, COVID-19 starkly highlighted how having access to digital assets and connectivity were key to expansion and growth in the increasingly integrated digital world economy,” he said. 

Mr. Jeke averred that the growth accelerator is a proven model that works. Accountability Lab has helmed similar programs that continue to be impactful. UNDP has launched accelerators in several countries to help enterprises to scale up. 

According to him, the partnership between the Accountability Lab and iCampus and UNDP and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry seeks to build up innovative solutions and business models to address the poverty and inequality in Liberia.

Accountability Lab Liberia Country Director, W. Lawrence Yealue, II said he was very elated for the launch of the program as well as the level of support they continue to receive from UNDP and the level of confidence placed in them.

“Well, we are super happy to say thank you to UNDP for the first cohort and as well kickoff this second cohort because it doesn’t just empower Liberians but has a lot of economic multiplying effects across the country and we’re looking forward that all MSMEs will make use of this,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Growth Accelerator Liberia was established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as poverty and inequality prevalence; firmly aimed at aiding long term recovery efforts and supporting measures reducing socio-economic impacts on the vulnerable and contributing to economic development.

iCampus Liberia, in partnership with Accountability Lab Liberia, GrowthAfrica, Business Startup Center-Monrovia, East Africa Market Development Associates, Ltd and Agro Tech Liberia, is implementing the programme.

Meanwhile, Growth Accelerator Liberia is inviting Liberian businesses, especially agricultural cooperatives and entrepreneurs in Grand Gedeh, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Nimba and Sinoe counties.