Since 2011, Building Markets has implemented the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Sustainable Marketplace Initiative-Liberia (SMI-L). Initially seeded by Humanity United, SMI-L was funded by USAID in March 2012. SMI-L promotes job creation and inclusive economic growth in Liberia by enabling buyers and suppliers to work together effectively without sacrificing quality or value for money. This is accomplished through the provision of a targeted suite of services including business verification, business matchmaking, training, communications, and market research, all of which break down obstacles to local procurement.
As of March 2015, among other achievements, SMI-L supported 3,150 businesses, helped facilitate $41.1 million in contracts, and enabled 1,149 full-time equivalent jobs.
Because of this success, Building Markets requested and obtained a two-year extension from USAID to continue to link small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to large-scale buyers across Liberia. This will include expanding activities to concessionaires to ensure they have increased opportunities to procure locally – a direct recommendation from our Extractive Overview Report, “Leaving a Trace: The Potential Economic Impacts of Mining in Liberia”.
Developing the capacities of Liberian SMEs to win contracts is not sufficient to guarantee businesses can continue to provide the goods and services needed by concessionaires and other buyers in Liberia. Without the necessary labor force, SMEs will continue to struggle to meet the standards of international buyers working in the country. Therefore, with generous support from Humanity United, Building Markets is launching the Humanity United Supplier Diversity Project (SDP). The SDP will focus on increasing the skills of the Liberian workforce so that SMEs and individuals can capitalize on the economic opportunities offered by international companies and, in turn, encourage these companies to develop local supply chains, capacity, and livelihoods.
Last but not least, SMI-L has played an important role in supporting the Ebola recovery effort. As the Ebola outbreak forced local businesses to adjust to changing conditions on the ground, SMI-L also adapted to fill gaps in the international response. Leveraging our extensive network of local SMEs, SMI-L designed and implemented the Ebola Economic Impact Monitoring and Analysis activity to assess the impact Ebola had on Liberian businesses. The report provided key decision-makers with valuable data that was used to inform strategies aimed at minimizing economic fallout from the crises by ensuring the local economy obtains the targeted assistance it needs to recover. As part of our new grant from USAID, SMI-L will work with the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) to increase their expertise in data collection and analysis of the business sector so they are equipped to carry out similar exercises in the future.
With the extension of SMI-L and the launch of the SDP, Building Markets will build on its past successes to support sustainable, market-driven growth and job creation in Liberia. We are extremely grateful to both USAID and Humanity United for their continued support.
The USAID SMI-L extension will run from March 2015 until March 2017.
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