SMEs in Nimba County Take a Leap at What Was “Almost Impossible”
About 73 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Nimba County took a leap at what they say was almost impossible: building capacity and linking to multinational concessions, international NGOs and Government line Ministries operating in Nimba County.
Building Markets made a two-week visit to the county, located about four hours from Monrovia, to ensure that SMEs in Nimba benefit from Building Markets’ activities, including verification, training and matchmaking. Local business owners and managers met the string of activities with great enthusiasm. These activities were made possible with the support of USAID.
Low capacity due to lack of training opportunities is a huge problem for local businesses in Liberia. To combat this, Building Markets held a three-day training session on procurement and financial management. A total of 41 participants from 32 local businesses and five buyers from government and NGOs, attended the training. Not all the business owners who turned out could be trained due to limited resources and sitting capacity. Building Markets plans to return to Nimba to train the remaining businesses.
In addition, the Building Markets team verified over 73 local businesses in six, targeted sectors, held a palava hut meeting to raise awareness about Building Markets’ services, and engaged with local authorities, business associations, NGOs and companies operating in the county.
Building Markets’ activities culminated when local businesses were brought face-to-face in a two-day Matchmaking event held at a local guesthouse. Business Matchmaking events invite buyers and sellers to meet in the same room. Lack of information about local suppliers in the Liberian marketplace is a serious challenge and poses undue problems to the procurement needs of big companies and organizations operating in Liberia. The Business Matchmaking events brought together representatives from a total of 10 buyers including INGOs such as Save the Children, multinationals such as BHP Billiton, and Government line ministries such as the Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy, Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Commerce. These companies, organizations and line ministries met with local businesses in six key sectors, including agriculture, catering, construction, hotels and accommodation, transportation, and woodwork. A total of 50 participants representing 44 local businesses participated in the Matchmaking events.
Edwina Vakun-Lincoln, Director of SMEs at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, spoke at the event “It is almost impossible for some local businesses attending the event here today to walk up to companies like BHP Billiton, COCOPA Rubber Plantation or some of the big NGOs like FED, PCI or Save the Children to talk about business opportunities,” said Vakun-Lincoln. “But Building Markets has made linkages and connections between buyers and suppliers possible.” She added that local business owners should take advantage of the services provided SMEs by Building Markets. “Government cannot do it all and is working with partners such as Building Markets to help address some of the challenges facing SMEs throughout Liberia,” she said.
Mr. Richard Wogbeh of BHP Billiton, speaking on behalf of his company, encouraged local business owners to continue to do their best to improve their services and learn about the procurement policies of big multi-national companies like BHP Billiton. Such companies have specific procurement policies that must be followed. To attract buyers, local businesses must have documented financials, good organizational structure and the ability to deliver on contracts.
Several local business owners noted that the event was the first of its kind in Nimba. It was the first to bring local businesses face-to-face with big companies and NGOs. Many left hopeful of winning contracts from companies they met at the event.
Liberians are natural entrepreneurs and are making great strides amid difficult circumstances. Building Markets will continue to do all it can to help Liberian businesses in the counties to grow.
Tags ACDI/VOCA, BHP Billiton, COCOPA Rubber Plantation, Edwina Vakun-Lincoln, FED, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy, Nimba County, NRC, PCI, Save the Children