President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday, September 4, 2015, told a number of Liberian business men and women in Monrovia that a major problem hampering the development of Liberian entrepreneurs is that the economy is largely dominated by foreigners.
Her assertion to the Liberian entrepreneurs when she played host to them at the Foreign Ministry on Capitol Hill was in recognition of some of their short-comings and the way forward for the government’s intervention to enable them to excel.
“Government understands some of the issues and will give you the needed support to be able to succeed; some entrepreneurs lack management skills, markets, technology, enhancement, and integrity. We recognize those shortcomings on both sides,” she noted, urging the Liberian business men and women to work with the government to address such issues for a bigger space in the market.
The acknowledgement by President Sirleaf that the Liberian economy is largely dominated by foreigners as a major problem hampering the development of Liberian entrepreneurs is the backdrop for which we join the Liberian business community in welcoming.
Even though the meeting may have been long overdue, it was better late than never; and probably, as a result of a careful and timely investigation and analysis of the role of Liberian entrepreneurs in the country’s economic and now being cognizant of foreign dominance of the economy without the necessary impact of the Liberian business community, the President may have thought it most appropriate at the moment to constructively interact with the business men and women of Liberia in addressing the situation.
While the President may not have decided to “call a spade, a spade” as it relates to the roles of institutions and agencies in restricting foreign dominance of our economy, but chose to apportion blame on both side – the government and business people, the urgent need for an in-house interaction with the ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to really straighten up things, cannot be over-emphasized.
One issue that the Liberian Chief Executive must also consider for investigation and solution is access to loans by these Liberian business people. It is no secret that foreigners have easy access to loans from the banking sector than Liberian entrepreneurs – as if the loans are made available, most often it’s just 50% or below, while foreigners take the entire 100%.
If the foregoing is for any other reasons, it must be addressed now to give Liberian entrepreneurs the benefit of the doubt, considering their numerous complaints against banking institutions. Moreover, the “blind eyes and deaf ears” paid to the involvement of foreigners in businesses only set aside for Liberians by law by the regulatory ministries and agencies must also be investigated and the appropriate actions instituted.
We do acknowledge the lack of management skills, markets, technology, enhancement, and integrity on the part of the Liberian community as the President rightly put it. However, we are of the strongest conviction that addressing the aforementioned and at the same time ensuring solutions for limited access to loans from the banking sector, as well as the involvement of foreigners in businesses only set aside for Liberians, among others, would better address the holistic problem of foreign dominance of the current Liberian economy.
But we think last Friday, September 4, 2015 meeting between the President of Liberia and Liberian entrepreneurs is a good and rewarding start that, if continued and issues pursued, would open doors for the Liberian business community – not that we are against foreign businesses, but the opportunities to be accorded the Liberian business community in the interest of the growth and development of the country’s economy.