“Buy local. Build Liberia.” What a message! This was the dominant theme of the just ended Building Markets “Go Green Event” awareness and training program that was held at the Monrovia City Corporation from August 13-15, 2013. For me, it was a privilege to have been one of the many participants of such a wonderful and unique event. The three days training and awareness program was truly a great step forward for Community Based Enterprises and local businesses as well as for national and international buyers. The focus of the training was on local procurement, using national and international standards, helping local suppliers and/or businesses mobilize resources as well as connect them with available business opportunities.
Activities during the three days event were SO unique in term of organization-from the host to the participants and to the caterers that provided tea and other delicious meals. The program, however, was organized through a coordinated effort involving Building Markets, the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
During the three days event one could see a sense of urgency amongst participants for the training as well as for the materials as they were eager to learn and absorb the materials that were presented during the program as. Topics were tailored to meet the needs of the participants as presenters were superb and excellent in their presentations. What an auspicious event it was.
As in the words of President Sirleaf during the Micro, Small and medium Enterprise Conference as quoted here, “With less than 4 million people, the majority under the age of 25, we can, and we must create a prosperous society that grants equal opportunity to all if we are to achieve peace and security and build a better future for the next generation,” the just ended awareness and training program truly provided opportunity for growth and the development of local businesses and Community Based Enterprises (CBEs) and was in the right direction.
There is truly a need for international and national companies and organizations to get to know local suppliers and those local suppliers get to know the procurement needs of those international and national companies and organizations. And since there were many unanswered questions and little information as it relates to procurement, Building Markets, since her operation in Liberia and periodic training programs, has been able to fill this information need. Today, there are many local businesses and/or suppliers that have in dept understanding of procurement. Some have been able to win contracts and many are having access to basic information on procurement. Thanks to Building Markets Sustainable Marketplace Initiative (SMI-L).
In a brief chat with the country Director during the three days events, Mr. Timothy Melvin elaborated that Building Markets was founded some eight years ago and the founder and CEO was a diplomat that worked in post conflict countries which is still their focus today. Naming some of the achievements of his institution, Mr. Melvin explained that since April 2012, Building Markets Sustainable Marketplace Initiative has supported 47 businesses to win 87 contracts worth over $7.2 million and have set up a supplier Directory that contains over 2,200 local businesses, of which over 700 are women owned. He further narrated that the SMI-L has enabled local businesses to create several hundred full-time equivalent jobs; has trained 253 businesses and distributed more than 1,000 tenders and as well hosted ten matchmaking events for a variety of sectors, including agriculture, woodworking and mining. “We also organized a special networking event for a Dutch Trade Mission that visited Liberia late last year,” Mr. Melvin added. He further stressed that Building Markets’ USAID SMI-L is a program that looks at procurement generally and works across sectors and with both large and small companies to support local businesses, build and strengthen local supply chains, and ensure monies spent in Liberia stay in Liberia. In his final words, Mr. Melvin urges Liberians to begin to buy local and build Liberia.
The Building Markets SMI-L connects local businesses to international and national companies and organizations through five services: 1. The Supplier Directory: Available through liberia.buildingmarkets.org, the directory contains more than 2,200 profiles of local companies searchable by sector and location. 2. Tender Distribution: Building Markets collects tenders from buyers and disseminates them to local suppliers via SMS, email and on the Building Markets Web site. 3. Business Matchmaking: Helps international buyers identify cost-competitive and high-quality domestic products and services by request and establishes relationships between buyers and local businesses at networking events. 4. Training: Delivers training sessions to local businesses that teach contracting requirements, international standards and tender procedures. 5. Market Research & Communications: Promotes the importance of supporting local enterprise, including research and awareness raising campaigns. SMI-L partners with the Government of Liberia, government aid agencies, UN agencies, NGOs, multinational concessionaires, and private companies in a variety of ways to enhance and increase their local procurement.
SMI-L assists buyers in developing their local supply chains, which improves the business climate by increasing competition and reducing transaction costs. In the end, increasing local procurement creates income and jobs, revives and builds the local economy and generates taxable revenues, which in turn strengthens the Liberian government. SMI-L is a project of Building Markets, a nonprofit organization that has operated in over a dozen countries with the mission to create jobs and sustain peace by championing local entrepreneurs and connecting them to new business opportunities. SMI-L is made possible by the generous support of the American people through USAID, Humanity United and BHP Billiton Iron Ore.
(Chealy Brown Dennis is a marketing and business development consultant. He is also a much sought after motivational speaker and offers training in leadership and organizational development, creative sales and marketing, strategic planning, wealth creation, team building and management and offers on-location and train-the-trainer formats. He can be contacted through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on phone at: 0886-264-611 or 0776-545-394)