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Considering Liberia’s Marketplace

The UN Security Council takes up the “matter” of Liberia again today. It’s been a while. The last time the Turtle Bay diplomats considered the West African nation still struggling to recover from a devastating civil war that took place a decade ago was in September. To be fair, they’ve been busy with other worries in the region, namely Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. To be honest, Liberia needn’t be a continuing concern if there was more focus on re-building Liberia’s economy.

Liberia, like many countries riven by civil bloodshed, is slowly climbing out of the ruins of war that took place from 199 89-2003. The United Nation’s has been successful in establishing security and contributing to reconstruction efforts through its peacekeeping mission (UNMIL) there.

The country’s dynamic and entrepreneurship focused president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done a lot as well.  The “iron lady,” as she is fondly known, has made poverty alleviation and the development of small and growing businesses a cornerstone of her economic policy – and has actively sought out global companies such as Coca Cola to support that effort. “It’s convinced a lot of people,” as this clip about Liberian entrepreneurship attests.

It’s convinced Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) as well.  We’re eager to launch the Peace Dividend Marketplace that will link international buyers with capable local suppliers driving money into the Liberian economy, creating competition in the marketplace and contributing to wider growth and development.

In December we received a challenge grant from Humanity United, a philanthropic organization committed to building peace and advancing human freedom to help lead that effort.  PDT is currently seeking donors to meet the challenge.

PDT has Marketplace projects in Afghanistan, Haiti and Timor-Leste. It’s yielded tremendous results. Together these projects have redirected or accelerated over $709 million dollars into the local economies.  Given President Sirleaf’s focus on this topic, PDT is eager to roll it out in West Africa.

Liberia is eager for it as well.  In a letter to us the Minister of Commerce of Liberia, Miata Beysolow, said,

“We wish to encourage the establishment of more private sector led initiatives that service the small and medium enterprise sector. Initiatives like Peace Dividend Marketplace will be very helpful in addressing the information and market access barriers that both procurers face in Liberia, particularly SMEs….We are eager to see the project launched here in Liberia.”

As the Security Council convenes they should think about the economic impact of their presence in Liberia.  It needn’t be a choice between security, rule of law or jobs. All are within reach, and in fact, are interconnected. The Peace Dividend Marketplace can help UNMIL enhance its economic impact while it works towards its goals of peace, security and stability. The marketplace can also facilitate the trickle down effect from the huge influx of international investment in Liberia’s extractive industries such as rubber, iron/ore and oil by helping large multinational companies source more goods and services locally.

We’ll be watching what happens in the Council today. But we’re more eager to watch what happens in downtown Monrovia.

PDT is currently seeking donors to meet the Humanity United challenge.  For more information, please email Kailee Scales at



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  1. Molly Fulton says:

    Having returned recently from Liberia, I would love to see economic development on all levels be given more attention. It’s hard to believe the war ended 9 years ago – Monrovia is still so war-torn. The people of Liberia are strong and hopeful and ready to get to work – let’s give them every chance we can to do so.

  2. Elmira Bayrasli says:

    Thanks for that Molly. Would love to hear more about your impressions. Please drop us a line

  3. Jeanine Cooper says:

    This is an excellent initiative and just what is needed in Liberia. The SME sector is struggling there with problems ranging from poor access to capitalization and funding to poor communications services; these two impact on access to markets and a common complaint from the Liberian business community is their lack of access to markets and the stiff competition from (cheaper) imports.

  4. Harald Aselmann says:

    A significant improvement for the SME sector would be the existance of a proper road network throughout the country; the current one – in a very deplorable state and condition – is seriously hampering the movement of goods and services. Further, very active promotion of agricultural- and livestock breeding is what is needed to get Liberia on its feet; it will not only feed the locals but will get the unemployed of the streets and pave the way for exports. I grew up in Liberia as an expat during the 60´s and 70´s and have been back periodically since 1997 – I know of the country´s struggle to get back onto their feet and I have seen the tremendous positive capabilities this country before the war.

    Keep up the good work Elmira.

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