November 06, 2019 - A team of local PEP researchers held a national policy conference in Monrovia, Liberia, to discuss their findings on how improving entrepreneurs’ interpersonal skills can increase revenues in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The event attracted 25 attendees, including representatives of five government ministries and institutions, 12 NGOs and the media. In opening the event, Liberia’s Deputy Finance Minister for Economy and Debt Management (pictured, right) underlined the importance of supporting SMEs in Liberia. He said: “Small businesses, they need the necessary framework to help them survive. They create lots of jobs and they are known to be the engine of any economic growth.” The Managing Director of BRAC Liberia Microfinance Company Limited agreed, saying: “The Small and Medium Enterprise is the engine of development. Indeed, they need to be empowered.”
In presenting the team’s findings and recommendations from the PEP study on Stimulating SME performance and recovery in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis selected under the PAGE II initiative in 2017, the research team leader, Aisha Nansamba, shed light on how business management and interpersonal skills training can increase SME revenues in Liberia. She explained that the findings are particularly important following the significant decline in SME performance due to the effect of the Ebola virus disease outbreak.
As well as increased revenues, investing in training to encourage good business practices and a customer-driven approach is linked to increased customer numbers and better customer retention. The success of Liberia’s SME sector—representing about 96% of the country’s business entities—is vital for driving economic growth.
The team called for policymakers to include provisions for soft skills training when (re)formulating the SME policy. “[Training to improve personal relations] should be included in entrepreneurial skills programs aiming to enhance the performance of small businesses,” said Mrs. Nansamba. Edward Belleh, a policy advisory at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry stated that he was impressed with the impact of the intervention and highlighted the continuous need for training among SMEs.
The response from the policymakers and government officials present was positive with several showing increased interest in setting up a regulatory framework to make trainings more efficient.
Five journalists attended the event and Front Page Africa, a daily newspaper and online news platform, published news of the conference.
The research team organized the event with financial and advisory support from PEP as well as additional support from BRAC Liberia.