SMEs in Nimba County Win Contracts, Train Youth
Ganta is the busy economic center of Nimba County and the second largest city in Liberia. Situated along the border with Guinea, businesses in Ganta benefit from the cross-border trade in the area, as well as from a strategic location on the well-paved road to Monrovia.
Standard Metal Work Garage operates a noisy workshop on one of Ganta’s main thoroughfares. The business provides a number of metal works services, including welding, renovating metal structures like gates and reconditioning agriculture machinery. Moses Domah, assistant manager, oversees eight full-time employees and is currently training eleven others. The trainees don’t pay for training; Mr. Domah sees it as a way to help his community.
“If they don’t have skills, they will be doing other things—stealing, drugs,” he says. Some of his students end up working for him, while others open their own shops, including two female trainees who partnered to start a welding business.
Mr. Domah and his team recently did work for ACDI/VOCA, an international development organization. The business won the contracts based on previous work it had completed for the organization, a relationship that was facilitated by Building Markets’ Business Linkages Events.
The company has also done metal work for Project Concern International (PCI) and maintains a number of customers from Guinea, for whom Standard Metal Work Garage manufactures and reconditions feeder mills for processing oil palm. There aren’t as many customers from the Liberian side of the border because Liberian farmers don’t yet produce the volume that necessitates mills. However, Mr. Domah believes that his Liberian customer base will grow as Liberian farmers expand their planting.
Mr. Domah attended the most recent Business Linkages Event in May, where he spoke with buyers about their procurement needs and briefed them on the capacity of his business to meet those needs.
Northeast of Ganta is Sanniquellie, the political capital of Nimba County. The business center is smaller than in Ganta but the road between the two cities is being paved and as transportation becomes easier, likely so will business.
DOFAMCO Wood Industry & Construction Enterprise, located a five-minute drive from the center of town, is a long-time user of Building Markets’ services. The business has been attending training sessions and business linkages events since 2013 and regularly receives tenders from the Tender Distribution Service.
Agustus Topah, workshop foreman and trainer, details some of the challenges the business faces. At the top of the list is pre-financing, which is particularly problematic when payments for completed work aren’t paid on time. This limits the contracts DOFAMCO can take on in the future. Business in Sanniquellie has also been slow recently.
Nevertheless, DOFAMCO is moving forward. Mr. Topah outlined the plans to open up a location in Monrovia, which will allow the business to access opportunities in the capital and submit bids more easily. The business recently completed a contract for the World Bank, building furniture for two schools in Nimba County and one in Rivercess County. DOFAMCO has also provided furniture and other services for the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other international organizations.
Like Mr. Domah in Ganta, Mr. Topah trains people from the community. He himself was trained at DOFAMCO and has been working at there for eight years.
Both in Ganta and Sanniquellie, it’s evident from the bustle in the streets that there are opportunities for growth in Nimba County. As staff capacity and access to markets improves, SMEs in Nimba and across the country look to address their next set of challenges, most of which revolve around access to finance.