“Banks are not helpful, the interest is too high and the time is short,” says Elizabeth Finda Sambolah, president of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA).
At the second dialogue roundtable held at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, a group of women entrepreneurs revealed the challenges they face doing business in and out of the country.
According to them, from registering businesses to getting loans and conducting cross-border trade, they have faced so many challenges to be an entrepreneur in Liberia.
For most of the women, the issue of registration is a problem for them, ranging from the business registration process taking almost a year or two just to start a business in Liberia.
Some of the women further disclosed that they were in a bidding process but then lost a contract after failing to submit a valid business registration.
The dialogue, which took place under the auspices of the Federation of Liberian Women Entrepreneurs (FEBWE), with the support of the US government through the Department of State’s initiative to promote women’s economic empowerment called POWER, aims to provide an opportunity for businesswomen in Liberia as well as the Liberian American and Canadian Diaspora to discuss and identify the challenges of doing business in Liberia and develop recommendations to improve the business climate for women business owners.
Businesswomen at different stages of their careers have blamed poor reception, extra costs and corruption for serious problems that undermine their efforts to do business in the country.
Brenda Moore, founder and executive director of the Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP), spoke at the dialogue. She is also involved in agriculture.
Ms. Moore revealed that many people in the business register are not employed by the entity. She explains: “I had to pay people who don’t have a job and if you do business with them, sometimes they lose your papers. Paying shippers is increasing; if you don’t, your documents will stay for a long time.
Ms Moore added: ‘They have misplaced documents and the extra cost is so high. To get your documents faster, you need to pay 50 USD. »
Speaking about the high interest rate on loans, Marian FA Cooper, who operates travel agency Destiny, said the process of getting loans from banks nationwide was very frustrating.
“The interest rate is high and you have to start paying the loan right after taking the loan. No training before taking the loan, people have to do the risk analysis and all of that before taking a loan,” Cooper said.
Mrs. Cooper added: “The ticket in Liberia is more expensive and so people buy tickets outside. Even government officials buy their tickets outside.
Mai Urey said the issue of training businesswomen before taking out a loan is very important.
Madame Krubo Nwainokpor is involved in the sale of jewelry and handmade bags. She explains how she wanted to expand her business by taking loans, but the loan officer was not fair to her and this caused a serious setback to her business.
“I see dialogue very well and it makes me really happy to see women coming together to speak out and talk about the challenges and what they face in doing business in Liberia and the way forward.
“One of the main issues is access to finance, as the process we face with commercial banks to obtain loans is very difficult, especially with the high interest rate associated with short-term payment, c is what hurts us as businesswomen in this country,” she added.
“The guy helping me extended the term of the loan so I could pay more,” she recalls. “I wanted to grow my business. I even paid more than the money I took out of the bank.
Mrs. Nwainokpor added: “I promised myself that I will not take out loans, I will work with the little I have. In addition, the cost of formal business is higher, to keep tax regulations lean.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Finda Sambolah, president of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) said there is not much time given to businesswomen to understand the conditions surrounding loans.
“They can’t give you time to read the documents and the loan officer will make you sign the document. The loan that is granted to people is a real problem. Banks are not helpful, interest is too high and time is short,” she added.
“I went with my sister and she was taking US$50,000 and the man who gave her the loan said he wanted US$2,000. And they even told him to go to the insurance company.
On the issue of security when trading across borders, the LMA President also disclosed that there is no security in trading across borders. She also highlighted the issue of language barrier, exchange rate and other forms of harassment as issues that hamper the smooth operation of cross-border trade.
“No security in cross-border trade; language, the issue of payments. Traveling with cash is a problem. ECOWAS must do something about borders. Security guards and armed people usually harass people,” she said.
“The ECOWAS trade was signed by heads of state but there is no control, no regulation. You cannot leave Liberia and enter your business into markets in other countries.
Meanwhile, women are supported by the United States government, through its sponsored program, Providing Opportunity for Women’s Economic Advancement (POWER). The event was also moderated by Ms. Maureen Sieh and a host of others.