MONROVIA: The Ministry of Commerce and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have launched Cohort III of the Growth Accelerator programme.
The Growth Accelerator helps impactful and innovative MSMEs businesses and agricultural cooperatives access co-financing grants, mentorship, and technical assistance to scale up and grow their enterprises through a pitching competition.
Cohort III of the programme was launched recently in Monrovia by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mawine Diggs, and UNDP Liberia’s outgoing Resident Representative, Stephen Rodrigues.
Commerce Minister Mawine Diggs, said that the programme has been a great initiative that has helped to empower more young people, who are excelling in growing and scaling up their enterprises since subscribing to the initiative.
“This program is the heartbeat of not only this Ministry but the government’s effort to support MSMEs. Any initiative that seeks to empower Liberians, especially the young people, and help alleviate poverty among our people gets us excited. And we are grateful to the UNDP and other partners for this initiative,” Minister Diggs emphasized.
As the third round of the competition kicks off, UNDP plans to invest over a million dollars in 15 businesses, and agricultural cooperatives. This year’s launch also includes the clean/renewable energy cohort, which will run concurrently with the regular MSMES and Agricultural Cooperatives cohorts.
UNDP Liberia outgoing Resident Representative, Stephen Rodrigues, noted that MSMEs are the driving force of every economy around the world, and it was against this backdrop that the programme was initiated to create more jobs and development solutions, that empower women and youth, and to create a more diversified economy that will benefit everyone.
“We want to help local entrepreneurs build sustainable institutions through financial and technical support,” he said.
“Our goal is to see young, vibrant, and enterprising Liberians become the pillars of the country’s economy. That is the goal of the Growth Accelerator programme,” Rodrigues stressed.
He reiterated that support for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) is one area that can enhance sustainable economic development for reducing poverty and economic advancement of women, youth, and People with Disabilities (PWDs).
Mr. Rodrigues welcomed the contributions of other partners, including the government and welcomes the new partnership with the United Bank of Africa and the International Bank Liberia Limited.
He encouraged the Ministry to take ownership of the programme and to play its role in leading strong partnerships and collaboration that would certainly lead to a transformative impact on improving youth and women employed in the country as well as expanding the growth potentials of Liberian MSMEs.
“We want you to take this program and make it your priority. This programme will work well if it’s supported. Let’s grow this into one of the biggest initiatives to support Liberian businesses in this country. We can do it,” urged Rodrigues.
As part of the third cohort, the programme will solidify the partnership with local banking institutions -International Bank of Liberia Limited and the United Bank for Africa (UBA). During the launch, UNDP Liberia signed an MOU with the two banking institutions intended to narrow the challenges MSMEs face in accessing bank loans to grow their businesses as well as expand the scope for financial management capacity building for Liberia MSMEs.
The Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of International Bank Liberia Limited and the United Bank of Africa Liberia Henry Saamoi and Ayokunle respectively, described the signing of the MOU as an opportunity to add value to the economic growth of Liberian businesses through technical support, financial sustainability, mentorship, and training.
A few of the beneficiaries of the programme were full of praises for the partners. Stephanie Duncan, the co-founders of Stebel’s Classic Shoes thanked UNDP and its partners for the support. Duncan said before enrolling in the programme, her business was not as viable as it is currently.
“Before, we used to produce and sell in the same shop but with the help of UNDP through the Growth Accelerator, we now have a showroom and are on the verge of completing our factory. We have all our materials and are producing classic footwear,” Stephanie said to a resounding applause.
Edmond Lloyd, the CEO of Edana Photography also noted that in addition to the financial empowerment provided by the Growth Accelerator Programme , the mentorship component is hugely important.
“Through the mentorship, we are properly managing our businesses and have employed an additional 10 people including people living with disabilities. The program is an avenue that is enabling young people to unleash their potential. It’s breaching the financial gap,” Lloyd said.
Jared L. Lankah of Nimba Venture based in Saclepea now has one of the largest snail-rearing farms in the country.
“With the support from the Growth Accelerator program, we are now the biggest group of snail farmers in the country that have set the pace and many people are now coming to us,” Lankah noted.