MONROVIA – Thirteen local businesses and agricultural cooperatives have secured US$40,000 each from UNDP with the aim of improving their local businesses and agricultural cooperatives as part of UNDP Liberia’s Growth Accelerator Cohort-Two Agricultural Cooperative program.
Out of the thirteen, six Liberian agricultural cooperatives and seven Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME’s) emerged as winners.
By Francis G. Boayue
The six Liberian agricultural cooperatives including Nimba Women Agriculture Venture, Rescue Women Micro Agriculture Cooperative, Rural Women and Girls for Sustainable Development, Community Empowerment and Innovation in Agriculture, Rural Agricultural Promoters Cooperation Society, and Makona River Farm Agricultural Services were selected from a group of ten semifinalists who were shortlisted to pitch their proposal plans in front of a high-power judging panel as part of the program’s last stage on Thursday.
And on Friday, Seven Local Businesses (MSME’s) including Evergreen Enterprises Trading Incorporated, EDANA Photography, EZEE Market, AFRIXTECH, AGRIRETTI Incorporated, New Breed TECH, and STEBEL’S Classic Shoes were all selected on Friday from 14 finalists as winners of the UNDP Growth Accelerator MSME’s Cohort-Two winners.
The Growth Accelerator Liberia Program is an initiative aimed at supporting impactful entrepreneurs and agricultural cooperatives to scale up through access to technical assistance, mentorship and a co-financing grant of up to US$40,000.
According to the CEO of iCampus Liberia, Luther Jake, the program which is in its second year is primarily accelerating Liberian MSME’s and Agricultural Cooperatives with the aim to strengthen business and enterprise development services by promoting access to finance, capacity- building and innovation that are responsive to the rights and needs for economic advancement of women, youth and PWDs.
According to him, in May of this year, the program received 228 applications (representing 188 SMEs and 40 Agricultural Cooperatives) across nine counties and 14 SMEs and 10 Agricultural Cooperatives were selected by an independent selection committee to move on to the semi-final round.
“The ten semi-finalists were shortlisted from 228 applications received through Cohort-Two, 40 applications came from its agricultural cooperatives while 128 applications from Small Medium size Enterprises (MSME’s) from nine counties,” he said.
He said over the past three months, these semi-finalist ventures and cooperatives have all participated in a series of business development boot camps, training workshops, and mentoring sessions and made substantial progress toward developing actionable and high-impact business ventures and cooperatives.
He maintained that the semi-finalist ventures and cooperatives have received pre-judging feedback, and ventures are currently working with professional business development services providers and mentors to help them refine and improve their ventures growth plans.
The program was organized by iCampus Liberia in partnership with Accountability Lab Liberia with support and funding from the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and UNDP Liberia.
A five-person high-level judging panel comprising representatives from the Swedish Embassy, FAO and other senior experts, seasoned entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists after going through all necessary tallying and eventually selected seven winners from the MSME’s and Six Agricultural Cooperatives as Growth Accelerator Cohort-Two winners.
The Resident Coordinator of UNDP Liberia, Stephen Rodriques, in remarks, said the UNDP Liberia Growth Accelerator program was established in 2021 with aim to bridge the unemployment gap in Liberia.
“In 2021 when we thought to create this program we saw two things and decided to address the issue of unemployment in Liberia and to also tap on the potential of Liberians in being useful to the society through job creation and innovation,” he said.
Also speaking, Deputy Minister of Commerce, Mr. Wilfred Bangura, on behalf of his boss Minister Mawine Diggs lauded UNDP Liberia, iCampus, and Accountability Lab for the collaboration which aims to invest in local businesses and agricultural cooperatives.