ICT Entrepreneurs – The New Drivers of Liberia’s Economy
Monrovia – Joseph Pambu runs a social media platform for rural community dwellers where internet is inaccessible.
Report by Al-Varney Rogers [email protected]
The platform has lots of educational and informative programs for rural dwellers to log onto.
Pumba’s innovation stems from the growing needs for rural dwellers with smart phones but do not have access to the internet.
“In rural places people have smart phones but they do not have access to the internet, all they do with the phone, in addition to making calls and receiving calls, is to watch video and take pictures.”
“So, this idea is to give them the opportunity to get information and create text and photos by using our platform,” Pumba said.
Pambu started his business right after the Ebola crisis  adding that access to content and access to the internet have been a major challenge particularly for those outside the capital.
“Not everyone has access to it; we are developing a technology call W-base, we have this computer set up as server.”
“We have a network deploy in those communities, all you need to do is to log into our wireless network when you log in there you will have access to the content we have, we have video tutorial, mathematics, history, etc,.”
“You get in there and look for folders that have things you are searching for,” Pambu said.
“This technology can also help a presenter not to bother moving back and forth during presentation but rather use his phone to control the computer in selecting the content the presenter wants,” Pambu added.
Pumba is amongst several young entrepreneurs using ICT to solve problem confronting Liberia.
He was at the Small Medium Enterprise conference showcasing his innovation.
Minister of Commerce Axel Addy stressed that ecommerce innovators are growing and expanding their businesses quickly, not through a ground-breaking technological innovation, but by using an existing technology and adapting it to the needs of the market.
“There is much at stake here. Through ICT innovation, MSMEs can combine growth with social impact, uplifting not only the economy, but also solving the social challenges our fellow Liberians may still face.”
“Because of this inclusive growth it generates, ICT innovations hold a great promise for the future of our country and of our people,” Addy added.
This year’s SME conference, which focuses on ICT, keynote address was done by two young Liberian entrepreneurs — Charles D. Cooper and Mlen-Too Wesley — who are running an online food delivery service called Cookshop.com.
The pair presented together in a conversational style, they told their story of how difficult it was getting started and how the Ebola crisis reverse the little gains made adding that they later re-organized and have reach a sale of millions dollars in delivery of services.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf praised the innovators especially those in the ICT sector adding that with the wave of change the future is now.
President Sirleaf said that she’s moved by how young entrepreneurs have been able to overcome barriers to become successful innovators.
“How they (entrepreneurs) have overcome barriers and now they are now successful, I can say the future is now. Today in this event, I can say proudly that the future is now, it is now because it is represented by young man like these,” President Sirleaf said.
Addy said, Three-quarters of Liberians have a mobile subscription, and this figure continually rises adding while it may seem to some that the digital revolution has passed, in reality so many remains to be done to fully embrace ICT’s potential.
“We have examples on this very floor of such successful innovators. Mr. Charles D. Cooper and Mr. Mlen-Too Wesley are appropriate examples.
By identifying the growing demand for home food delivery, they co-founded cookshop.biz, a web-based platform which links restaurants to clients throughout Monrovia.
These e-commerce innovators, through them, young motorcycle riders, now have a stable job by providing food transport services,” Addy said.
“In order to fully seize this opportunity and continue to push the frontiers of technology, I am proud to announce that this year’s focus on “Promoting Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Liberia” will highlight the vital role of innovation in our economy.
Today, we celebrate those at the cutting edge of our economy, those who shape our future, one idea, one solution, one innovation at a time, creating new employment opportunities, particularly of our youth, one job at a time.”
The Commerce Minister said the entrepreneur-Plus (“E+”) program is a two-year business incubation program awarding US$100,000 in seed funding to the most promising young entrepreneurs.
Addy indicated that SMEs provide well over half of total global employment.
“They make up over 95 percent of all firms and they account for approximately 50 percent of GDP.”
“This is the reason why we repeatedly celebrate micro, small and medium sized businesses each year: They drive our economy, provide our citizens with jobs, and, as you will witness over the course of the conference, they innovate relentlessly,” the Minister of Commerce and Industry further stated.
“From international marketing strategies to streamlining daily processes, inventory tracking, e-payments and cashless transactions, ICT is already present in many aspects of our MSMEs lives.”
“But seeing that the sector already represents 7 percent of Africa’s jobs, and that 12 percent of the world’s cross-border trade in goods happens through e-commerce, it becomes evident that while digital innovations have impacted everyday life in Liberia, much of the revolution’s potential remains untapped.”