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Liberia’s First MSME Conference and Trade Fair Promotes Strong Local Businesses

Liberia’s first MSME Conference and Trade Fair, hosted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, was a success. The three-day event brought together over 400 local businesses, concessionaires, government agencies, NGOs and other relevant parties. Panel discussions focused on access to finance and contracts. During panel discussions, government ministries, buyers and successful suppliers gave advice on how MSMEs can take advantage of opportunities and networked afterward. The Trade Fair showcased over 50 local suppliers in seven sectors. These suppliers were chosen by the conference’s partners* (please note that due to the nature of the USAID Sustainable Marketplace Initiative SMI-L, we were not involved in choosing the participating suppliers). Prior to the trade fair, each supplier attended a variety of trainings hosted by Building Markets, Business Start-Up Center, and The Marketplace. The training taught suppliers how to strengthen the marketability of their products through packaging and display and prepared suppliers to network better with buyers, among other topics.

President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf supported the event with her presence. During her speech, she proclaimed a one-year tax clearance for the suppliers exhibiting at the conference. She also announced the Liberia Innovation Fund for Entrepreneurship (LIFE) with $1 million in matching funds from the Government of Liberia and the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) to support competitive businesses in Liberia that have trouble accessing finance. Tax clearance was a surprise to participating suppliers. Incentives like these can encourage business owners to engage in future opportunities, like the conference, that will help strengthen their businesses.

Check out our photos of the event on Facebook.

The event also received press coverage. The Inquirer published a piece announcing the fund called LIFE: Small Businesses Get US $1m. The Catalyst newspaper also focused on the announcements made by President Sirleaf in their article, Liberia Hosts First MSME Confab (click the link a second time on the next page to get to the article). The Independent newspaper focused more on the role of the IFC as the lead partner of the conference: IFC Supports Small Business Growth in Liberia. The New Republic summarized the three-day event with their article: Commerce Ends First National Confab.

*Partners included (in alphabetical order): Building Markets, Business Start-Up Center, IFC, Liberia Better Business Forum, The Marketplace, Spark, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), USAID Liberia.

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