Bureaucracy, Red Tape

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

MONROVIA-A group of women entrepreneurs in Liberia say business registration and loan are serious barriers to expanding their businesses to help improve the business climate in Liberia.

At the second roundtable dialogue meeting at the United States Embassy in Monrovia, the women revealed that from business registration to the acquiring of loans, coupled with cross-border trade, they found so many difficulties in being an entrepreneur in Liberia.

The dialogue, which was facilitated by media trainer, Ms. Maureen Siah and a host of others was under the auspices of the Federation of Liberian Women Entrepreneurs (FEBWE), with support from the US Government through the State Department initiative to Promote Women’s Economic Empowerment (POWER),` is intended to provide an opportunity for businesswomen in Liberia as well as the Liberian U.S. and Canadian diaspora to discuss and identify the challenges of doing business in Liberia and to develop recommendations for improving the business climate for women business owners.

For most women, the issue of registration is a problem for them ranging from the Business Registry process taking almost a year or two just to get a business start-up in Liberia, something the women claimed is also contributing to huge corruption within the system and led to some of them missing out on opportunities.

Businesswomen at different stages in their careers blamed poor reception, extra cost, and bribing as serious issues that are endangering their efforts of doing business in the country.

Speaking on the high-interest rate on loans, Marian F.A. Cooper who is a businesswoman involved in the sale of plane tickets (Destiny Travel Agency) said loan process from banks in the country are very frustrating.

She said the interest rate is high and one has to start paying for the loan right after they get it adding, “No training before taking the loan, people need to do the risk analysis and all of that before taking loans.”

Madam Cooper added, “The ticket in Liberia is more expensive and so people are buying tickets outside even the government officials are buying their ticket outside.”

Brenda Moore is the founder and Executive Director of the Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP) and is also involved in agriculture.

Madam Moore disclosed that many people at the business registry are not employed by the entity.

She explained, “I had to pay people who are not employed and if you deal with them sometimes they lose your documents. Paying expeditors is on the increase, if you don’t, your documents are going to stay long.”

Madam Moore added that their documents often misplaced and they are to pay extra cost if they want to get their work done in time.

“To get your documents faster you have to pay US$50” she said.

Madam Krubo Nwainokpor is involved in the sales 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 that caused a serious setback for her business.

“I see the dialogue very well and it really makes me happy to see women coming together to express, talk about challenges and what they are faced with in doing businesses in Liberia and the way forward” Madam Krubo said.

“One of the major problems is access to finance because the process we face with commercial banks in getting loans is very difficult; especially with the high-interest rate associated with the short term payment is what is suffering us as women in business in this country.”

According to her, the guy who was helping her extended the time of the loan so that “I can pay more. I wanted to expand my business. I even pay more than the money I took from the bank.”

Another lady, Nwainokpor has promised herself to no longer take a loan from any bank stating, “I will work with the little I have.”

Also, the cost of doing formal business is higher, to keep the light, tax regulations.

Sambolah said, “I went with my sister and she was taking US$50, 00, and the man giving her the loan says he wants US$2, 000. And they even told her to go to the insurance company. As we are taking the loan the businesses keep failing.

On the issue of safety doing cross-border trade, the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) President said there is no safety in cross-border trade.

She also stressed the issue of the language barrier, the exchange rate, and other forms of harassment as issues that are hindering the smooth operation of cross-border trade.

“No safety in cross border trade, language, the issue of payments. Traveling with money is a problem. ECOWAS needs to do something about the borders. Security people and armed people usually harass people”, she said.

According to her, the Economic Community of African States (ECOWAS) trade was signed by heads of States but there is no monitoring, no regulations adding, “You cannot leave Liberia and have your business enter other countries markets.”

At the same time, Elizabeth Finda Sambolah, President of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) indicated that there is not much time given to businesswomen to understand the conditions surrounding the taking of loan from the bank.

“They can’t give you time to read the documents and the loan officer will make you sign the document. The loan that is given to people is a real problem. The banks are not helpful, the interest is too much and the time is short”, she added.

This, she said have put most women out of the market as they are unable to meet up with the loan.


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