A cross section of the participants at the launch of the project.
In the midst of the economic challenges in Liberia, the African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the Liberian government on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, launched a US$1.2 million secondary wood processing project.
The project, according to a press release, is an effort to boost job creation and wealth generation by a number of people, who may take serious interest in the project amid the challenging economic concerns in the country. Earlier, a formal ceremony was held at the AfDB country office in Congo Town as the project was launched.
The project is expected to be a catalyst responsible to support the country's struggling economy and increase its viability. It is also aimed at stimulating the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) based on secondary processing of wood products that will facilitate jobs and wealth creation in the country.
The statement added that the project is well-aligned with the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA)'s core mandate of supporting private-sector development in Africa, a key strategic priority of the African Development Bank.
The statement, which was delivered by AfDB Country Director, Dr. Orison M. Amu, said as a natural resource rich country, Liberia stands a better chance to industrialize if proper policy action is pursued.
"The opportunities for increasing the contribution of the forestry sector to development in the country include the availability of abundant raw material resources with about 1,000,000 hectares for sustainable harvesting, and room for establishing modern processing factories.
"However, this will not come without sustainable investments," Dr. Amu said.
According to him, since 1967, a time the Bank started registering operations with regional member countries, Liberia has so far benefited from about 51 of its funded projects worth some 364.74 million UA (US$ 503.34 million) or averaging 7.2 million UA (US$ 9.94 million).
"Indeed, none of these projects had links with the development of the forest industry, suggesting that Liberia needs more investments in the development of its forest industry. The message is that sustainable forestry is not a source of capital without investments, Dr. Amu said.
The African Development Bank's Forestry consultant, Dr. Julius Chupezi Tieguhong, said despite the huge wood raw material base in the country, Liberia suffers from a high trade deficit of US$ 5.7 million per year. This, he said is associated with the importation of processed wood products.
Tieguhong added, "the project will provide evidence-based data on the development of carpentry and furniture in the country, and will identify key success factors and lessons learned on secondary wood processing."
According to him, the expected outcomes will include organized producers and traders of secondary processed wood products, improved access to start-up capital and established links between government and the private sector.
The project, Mr. Tieguhong said, will improve wood processing through SMEs for job creation, poverty reduction, quality wood products and markets at the national level.
The US$1.2 million project is funded by the Governments of Japan, Austria and Liberia. Most of the financing (US$1.0 million), however, is done by donors to the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA) - consisting of the African Development Bank, the Governments of Japan and Austria.
FAPA is a multi-donor trust fund that provides grants for technical assistance activities to public and private sector entities domiciled in Africa. Since its launch in 2006, FAPA has received donor contributions exceeding US$85 million, and has helped finance over 80 technical assistance projects, thereby making a significant contribution to SME development in Africa.
Meanwhile, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) managing director C. Mike Doryen, has expressed appreciation to the AfDB for the initiative, and called on all small and micro enterprises, mainly those in the private sector to take advantage of the opportunity.
Doryen said his office will work alongside the AfDB in the full implementation of the project in the counties to be selected any time soon.