An Exciting Time in Liberia. And We’re Not Talking About Politics.
Right now is an exciting time in Liberia. Completely apart from the presidential elections – the country’s first election to be primarily administered by the National Elections Commission since the end of the civil war in 2003 – there are a lot of exciting development projects underway. Despite continuing to rank at the very bottom of countries in terms of GDP per capita, Liberia is near the top of the rankings in one very important index: it’s one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
Liberia is also projected to have one of the world’s top ten annual economic growth rates in 2012. The timing of the Peace Dividend Marketplace launch in Monrovia is not only exciting, but also quite fitting.
Donor funding and aid activities continue to account for a major part of Liberia’s monetary inflows. The Government of Liberia has signed billions of dollars-worth of investment deals and concession agreements with some of the largest companies in the world for resources like iron-ore (such as BHP Billiton, ArcelorMittal, and China Union,), palm oil (like Sime Darby) and off-shore oil exploration (such as African Petroleum and Chevron).
This is in addition to the long-term presence of Firestone Rubber, the wood-chip power generation investment of Buchanan Renewable Energy, and other investments in agriculture, gold and diamond mining, and timber. Also of significance, the National Port Authority has signed a 25-year partnership with APM Terminals to improve Monrovia’s Freeport and France’s Total is rapidly expanding across the country with a local-franchise model for its retail service stations. The majority of these multinationals are just now setting up operations in the country, giving PDT a greater ability to help connect them to local suppliers.
There is a lot of interest among the public and the business community in Liberia about how locals and local businesses will benefit from these huge investments—especially at a time when Liberia’s official unemployment rate hovers between 80-85% and its per capita GDP has yet to reach one dollar per person per day. This is what the Marketplace project sets out to tackle: to maximize the impact of aid, donor, and investor activity by having more of the money designated for Liberia to be spent in Liberia.
Connecting local businesses with these buyers is a major part of PDT’s Marketplace initiative. As a foundation for this, we are in the process of building the most comprehensive supplier directory of businesses ever created in Liberia.
While it’s been a hectic few months of setting up operations – from finding office space, to recruiting and training staff, to simply introducing ourselves to buyers and suppliers – most of whom had never heard of us before – we are off to a great start. We have an incredible team that has been interacting with local businesses to educate them on PDT’s online directory and services.
Since September, we’ve verified over 250 businesses in central Monrovia. Over the next year, we’re planning to register all businesses in Liberia, which will be listed online at Liberia’s Peace Dividend Marketplace. We have set a goal that by January we will have at least 1,000 businesses registered in our directory from all across Liberia and the businesses we’ve spoken to are as excited as we are to be a part of our initiative’s full launch next year.