Tweah Solicits AfDB Support for Rubber Sector -Says Sector Needs $10m lifeline

MONROVIA – The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah, has made a passionate appeal to the African Development Bank(AfDB) through the visiting Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Mr. Solomon Quaynor for a lifeline support of USD10m to save the country’s outgrower rubber sector from collapse

Minister Tweah made the appeal yesterday, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, during a meeting he held with the AfDB delegation at his ministry where he said the Liberian rubber farmers need ‘just US$10 Million’ for value addition since Firestone, the largest rubber company in the country, was no longer buying rubber from out-growers because Firestone herself had been planting trees over the years and can now produce enough and not to buy rubber from elsewhere.

Tweah told the delegation that as a result of that, rubber out-growers (farmers) are now under pressure to sustain the sector, and have therefore identified value addition such as processing, as the surest way to create jobs, sustain employment and boost revenue.

He emphasized that access to finance is a broader private sector challenge, and the rubber sector which employs a lot of people, is of no exception.

Tweah also commended the AfDB and welcomed the proposal to establish the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank (YEIB) in Liberia to build the entrepreneur skills of young Liberians and increase access to finance.

He noted that this project would also ease pressure on the public (government) sector amid the negative economic impact of COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as the growing numbers of young people entering the job market.

Speaking earlier, Mr. Quaynor who was apparently shocked to learn that the rubber sector as critical as it is to the economy could face the threat of collapse, said his institution is committed to creating credit guarantee for young entrepreneurs, and the establishment of the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank (YEIB) was one of the best ways to achieve that.

The meeting with Finance Ministry authorities was part of Mr. Quaynor and his delegation’s three-day official visit to Liberia, 3rd to 5th April 2023, holding high-level strategic discussions with Liberian authorities and other development partners including the private sector.

The meetings, which are focused on the design of the proposed Liberia Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank (YEIB) project, will inform the YEIB’s appraisal mission that is scheduled in the same week, to ensure that all critical issues are addressed for successful project appraisal and subsequent Board approval.

The AfDB Vice President and delegation have also met with the Vice President Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, authorities at the  Central Bank of Liberia, Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce & Industry, and other relevant Ministries and government agencies and discussed the country’s approach to private sector development and how the Bank can work closer with them.

Before his departure, the AfDB Vice President will engage with Chief Executives of major private companies and commercial banks, as well as development partners, to understand existing and potential private sector development opportunities and explore areas of collaboration and partnership.

 Mr. Quaynor, on Monday, April 3, 2923, met with Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor at her Capitol Building office, where he briefed her on the proposal to establish the Youth Entrepreneurship and Investment Bank (YEIB) in Liberia.

The meeting centered on the AfDB proposal to establish the Youth Entrepreneurship and Investment Bank which will primarily fund Liberia’s Youth Entrepreneurship program, with the aim of enabling youth to have access to financial and non-financial services to address unemployment and promote self-reliance.

According to the delegation, financial services will focus on the provision of loans with zero interest rate and longer tenure for repayment; while the non-financial services will provide capacity building, mentorship and financial skills to help entrepreneurs and encourage youth entrepreneurship. The proposed project and will cover three core components namely an Angel Investment Fund, a Credit Guarantee Fund and a Technical Assistance Fund.

The AfDB delegation further revealed that the Angel investment fund will support youth entrepreneurs who have ongoing businesses to expand at commercial levels to meet market demands, while the Credit Guarantee Fund will assist to address the issue of collateral for financial support, thereby facilitating access by youth entrepreneurs to funds for business,  while the Technical Assistance Fund will support business development services and capacity building for entrepreneurs to develop and sustain their businesses.

The YEIB will be funded by the AfDB and Mastercard Foundation on a gender balanced basis in support of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

When approved, launched and operationalized, Liberia will be the third African country to benefit from a YEIB after Nigeria and Ethiopia.

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