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To Save Rubber Sector: Liberia Begs AfDB for US$10m

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MONROVIA: Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah Jr., has told a high-powered delegation of the African Development Bank (AfDB) visiting Liberia that Liberia’s out-grower rubber sector could be on the verge of collapse unless US$10 Million is raised to save the sector.

The delegation which is visiting Liberia is headed by the Vice President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr. Solomon Quaynor.
Speaking Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at a meeting with the AfDB delegation held at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Minister Tweah disclosed that Liberia’s rubber farmers need ‘just US$10 Million’ for value addition.

According to Minister Tweah, Firestone, the largest rubber company in Liberia is no longer buying rubbers from out-growers because Firestone itself has planted trees over the years and can now produce enough not to buy rubbers from elsewhere.

This development, according to him, means that rubber out-growers (farmers) in Liberia are now under pressure to sustain the sector, and have therefore identified value addition such as processing, as the surest way to create jobs, sustain employment and boost revenue generation.

Minister Tweah emphasized that access to finance is a broader private sector challenge, and the rubber sector which employs a lot of people, is no exception.

Tweah also commended the AfDB and welcomed the proposal to establish the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank (YEIB) in Liberia to build the entrepreneur skills of young Liberians and increase access to finance.

He noted that this project would also ease pressure on the public (government) sector amid the negative economic impacts of COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as the increasing number of young people entering the job market.

Speaking earlier, AfDB Vice President, Solomon Quaynor said his institution is committed to creating credit guarantee for young entrepreneurs, and the establishment of the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank (YEIB) was one of the best ways to achieve that.

The meeting with the Finance and Development Planning Ministry authorities was part of Mr. Quaynor and his delegation’s three-day official visit to Liberia (3rd to 5th April 2023), holding high-level strategic discussions with concerned Liberian authorities and other development partners including the private sector.

The meetings, which are focused on the design of the proposed Liberia Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank (YEIB) project, will inform the YEIB’s appraisal mission that is scheduled for Liberia in the same week, to ensure that all critical issues are addressed for successful project appraisal, subsequent Board approval.

The AfDB Vice President and delegation have also met with the Vice President of Liberia, Central Bank of Liberia, Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce & Industry, and other relevant Ministries and government agencies and discussed the country’s approach to private sector development and how the Bank can work closer with them.

Before his departure, the AfDB Vice President will engage Chief Executives of major private companies and commercial banks, as well as development partners aimed at understanding existing and potential private sector development opportunities and explore areas of collaboration and partnership.

Mr. Quaynor, on Monday, April 3, 2923, met with Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor at her Capitol Building office, where he briefed her on the proposal to establish the Youth Entrepreneurship and Investment Bank (YEIB) in Liberia.

The meeting centered on the AfDB proposal to establish the Youth Entrepreneurship and Investment Bank which will primarily fund Liberia’s Youth Entrepreneurship program, with the aim of
enabling youth to have access to financial and non-financial services to address unemployment and promote self-reliance.

According to the delegation, financial services will focus on the provision of loans with zero interest rate and longer tenure for repayment; while the non-financial services will provide capacity building, mentorship and financial skills to help entrepreneurs and encourage youth entrepreneurship.

The proposed project and will cover three core components, namely: an Angel Investment Fund, a Credit Guarantee Fund and a Technical Assistance Fund.

The AfDB delegation further revealed that the Angel investment fund will support youth entrepreneurs who have ongoing businesses to expand at commercial levels to meet market demands, while the Credit Guarantee Fund will assist to address the issue of collateral for financial support, thereby facilitating access by youth entrepreneurs to funds for business, while the Technical Assistance Fund will support business development services and capacity building for entrepreneurs to develop and sustain their businesses.

The YEIB will be funded by the AfDB and Mastercard Foundation on a gender-balanced basis in support of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

When approved, launched, and operationalized, Liberia will be the third African country to benefit from a YEIB after Nigeria and Ethiopia.

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