The BOSS Project enhances decentralization and supports Micro and SME policy implementation in Liberia by providing opportunities to start-up, micro and small entrepreneurs and establishment of business support infrastructure at the County level. It works to strengthen the skills of beneficiary groups: youth, women and small agricultural producers to participate and engage in decision-making to enhance leadership, volunteerism, and community participation.
The Project also works through the establishment of a network of Business Opportunities through Support Services – BOSS Centres – anchored in the County Service Centres, existing business incubation and development services (as part of the Business Development Service network/team as implementers of the project strategy at the County level.
This is in line with the Government’s decentralization policy which is now being accelerated, starting with a deconcentration of critical services to the Counties, with the County Service Centres in place. The overall project strategy is also consistent with the Government’s long-term National Vision, which aims to address the socio-political and economic challenges facing the nation and thereby transform Liberia into a middle-income country.
What have We Accomplished So Far?
mplementation of the project started in 2017 with the renovation and furnishing of facilities in 4 piloted counties-Nimba, Bong, Margibi and Grand Bassa, as well as the Center at the Ministry of Commerce which was launched by former President Sirleaf.
The project staff conducted initial business needs assessments and stakeholders mapping in the four counties among 57 businesses comprising about 4,000 employees/members (in cooperatives), own and run by 79% women.
Project Staff which included 4 International Volunteers and 4 nationals developed 6 business development modules to be used as resource materials for capacity development in response to the needs identified.
Over 125 entreprenuers and local service providers and 24 ToT trainees were trained in record and bookkeeping, Business Plan, customer care, and managerial skills.
The project also coached and mentored over 200 business owners in the four counties.
As a result of the training, many of the businesses are reporting evidence of dividends and increased revenues.
The World Best Business Center in Margibi and the Menwo Soap Production House in Nimba have saved hundreds of thousands of Liberian Dollars which they have reinvested to expand their business.
In 2018, 60 young people had the opportunity to further develop their skills by learning entrepreneurship and how to develop business plans. To further inspire them, a business plan competition was developed in collaboration with the Booker Washington Institute to inspire technical students to work towards developing model plans that would lead to innovative start-up companies. At the end of the school term, five companies comprising 24 students with the best plans were awarded seed-funding to start and grow their businesses proposals.
In the absence of micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to implement its access to finance through revolving loans, UNDP BOSS Project adopted new strategies that provided small businesses with access to micro finance through capital grants by supplying several processing machines and equipment to entrepreneurs and cooperatives (with over
150 members). This process has worked well, especially for cooperatives (75 percent of which are owned and run by women) and entrepreneurs, thereby creating direct and indirect jobs for the locals.
In collaboration with the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), the BOSS Project also provided sector specific capacity development for 50 local entrepreneurs in public procurement bid development so that they ableto enable them to apply for and win government and private sector bids. At the same time, 40 local food processers were trained in cassava processing to promote sustainable supply chain and value addition in an effort to encourage rural industrialization.
Most of these innovations were made successful due partly to a South-South tour to Kenya conducted with UNDP, government partners, and private sector actors.
With the adoption of new strategies that provided small businesses with access to micro finance through capital grants, 1,097 (439 men; 658 women) beneficiaries now have access to much needed materials and equipment for their businesses. This has enabled one entrepreneur to access a loan from an existing micro- finance bank, which was previously impossible before UNDP’s intervention. 80 members (60% women and 40% men) of a rural cooperative involved in various agri-businesses, especially swamp rice and palm oil production, have seen the prospects for their businesses to improve due to the supply of a rice mill by the project. Women specifically benefit from this as over half of the beneficiaries who will access the mill are women. This further strengthens their economic power to provide for their homes.