GOL, UNDP Launch Growth Accelerator Liberia Phase III Applications


MONROVIA – It was a room filled with optimism and sense of accomplishment when the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Ministry of Commerce launched phase III of the Growth Accelerator project.

The Growth Accelerator Liberia is a business and agricultural cooperative accelerator, targeting impactful and innovative ventures and cooperatives in Liberia. It assists post-revenue businesses and cooperatives in scaling and growing with a combination of co-financing grants, mentorship, and technical assistance.

It is a UNDP and Government of Liberia initiative under the Livelihood and Employment Creation project implemented by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

As the third round of the competition kicks off, the UNDP plans to invest over a million dollars in a 15 successful businesses, agricultural cooperatives, and clean energy companies in 2023.

The phase III of the program was launched by the Minister of Commerce through Deputy Minister Wilfred Bangura and UNDP outgoing Country Representative, Stephen Rodrigues.

This year’s launch includes the Clean/Renewable Energy cohort, which will run concurrently with the regular MSMES and Agricultural Cooperatives cohorts.

Minister Mawine Diggs, who joined the launch later, said that the program has been a great initiative as it has helped to empower more young people, who are doing extremely well with their businesses since they subscribed to the program.

“This program has been the heartbeat of not only this Ministry but the government,” she said. “Any initiative that seeks to empower Liberians, especially the young people, and help alleviate poverty among our people gets us excited. And we are grateful to the UNDP and other partners for this initiative.”

Mr. Rodrigues noted that SMEs are the driving forces of every economy around the world, and it was against this backdrop that the program was initiated to have a similar impact in the country.

“We want to help local entrepreneurs build sustainable institutions through financial and technical support,” he said. “Our goal is to see young, vibrant, and enterprising Liberians become the pillars of the country’s economy. That is the goal of the growth accelerator program.”

He thanked the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce for embracing the program, and called on the Ministry to take full ownership of it.

“We want you to take this program and make it your priority. This works, this program works if it’s supported.  Let’s grow this into one of the biggest initiatives to support Liberian businesses in this country. We can do it.”

Speaking further, he noted that the project is an “extremely” important initiative for Liberia and pledged the UNDP commitment to sponsoring it. He then thanked the beneficiaries and all partners including Accountability Lab, iCampus, UBA and IB Bank for the success of the program.

The Executive Officer of iCampus, Luther Jeke said they were excited to announce the addition of a new cohort focused on Clean/ Renewable Energy. He said since the launch of the program, US$720,000 has been ditched out to 18 businesses.

Jeke noted that Growth Accelerator Liberia is designed to help revenue-generating small medium-sized enterprises and commercially inclined agricultural cooperatives to scale their operations and contribute substantially to national economic development through increased revenues and job creation.

He noted that this is accomplished through a rigorous annual business development training and pitching competition with up to US$40,000 co-financing for each winner.

Applicants, he added, provided business development skills and mentorship culminating in a business plan pitching competition where the most bankable plans were elected for funding.

The project team includes Accountability Lab Liberia, iCampus Liberia, Business Start-Up Center Monrovia, AgroTech Liberia, GrowthAfrica and East Africa Market Development Associates.

Stephanie Duncan, the co-founders of Stebel’s Classic Shoes thanked UNDP and the partners for the support.

Duncan said before enrolling into program, her business was not as viable as it is currently.

“Before, we used to produce in the shop and sell in the same shop. But with the help of UNDP, we have a showroom and now on the verge of completing our factory. We have got all our materials and producing classic footwear,” she said to resounding applause.

Edmond Lloyd, the CEO of Edana Photography noted that in addition to the financial empowerment aspect, the mentorship is hugely important.

“Through the mentorship, we are properly managing our businesses and employed additional 10 people including people living with disabilities. The program is an avenue that is enabling young people to unleash their potential. It’s breaching the financial gap,” Lloyd said.

Jared L. Lankah of Nimba Venture based in Saclepea was also full of praise of the program.

“With this Growth Accelerator program, we are now the biggest snail farmers in the country. And with the help of the program, we are also able to purchase a pickup. And from this program, we have set the pace and many people are now coming to us,” Lankah noted.