UNDP Liberia Growth Accelerator Programme has awarded substantial grants of US$40,000 each to ten promising Liberian businesses after emerging winners from a pitching exercise in the annual business plan competition.

This year’s winners are part of the third cohort, which includes businesses involved in clean and renewable energy, drawn from a pool of diverse representation across various sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing.

The programme heavily supported by UNDP provides promising entrepreneurs with mentorship, financial support, and other resources that are needed to scale up business operations.

Under this initiative, MSMEs owners submit proposals/business development plans outlining their growth plans, financial needs, and potential for development and then compete for the funds.

“We are glad to see Liberian entrepreneurs stepping up to seize opportunities in various ways, which show a positive sign of a future where Liberians can drive their local economy,” says UNDP Liberia Resident Representative a.i. Louis Kuukpen.

Kuukpen noted that the Government of Liberia, in partnership with UNDP, is working to address the issue of unemployment through several economic policies aimed at expanding MSMEs, the private sector, and entrepreneurship.

He said UNDP recognizes support to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) enhances sustainable economic development, and reduces poverty, welcoming the participation of development partners in this important space.

“I am glad that we have this platform and welcome many partners onboard so that together we can help Liberians grow and scale up their businesses through access to risk capital, innovation, and a business acceleration programme that achieves the overall goals of bringing economic growth, new jobs and prosperity to Liberia,” Kuukpen emphasized.

Meanwhile, the UNDP Coordinator for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development has cautioned this year’s winners/grantees to ensure that the funds are used as stipulated in their business plans.

Abraham Tumbey informed the winners that before any tranche of the fund is released, a grantee will have to submit a detailed “value-for-money assessment form, which is intended to avoid issues of diversion, which they have experienced in the past.

“This year, before UNDP gives out their money to the selected winners, there will be a detailed value-for-money assessment from them. So, for those of you who won, we want you to take this as a challenge that the Growth Accelerator is not free money, but it is there to encourage you to do what serves you best. If you came here and presented a very good proposal or business plan, which won you the grant, you cannot change it.

This would not work because it is going to be difficult. Every year, we intensify the processes based on the lessons learned from the previous year. If you win this grant to buy balloons, you will buy balloons; you will not buy pumpkins. So, we are going to be very strict on that,” Tumbey warned.

This year, the Growth Accelerator Programme received a total of 177 applications for Cohort III which included the regular MSMEs and a new component on clean and renewable energy.

The CEO of iCampus, the implementing partner of the programme disclosed that over the last three years, small businesses have received a total of US$1.3 million disbursed with the sole intent of helping MSMEs scale up and improve. 

Luther Jeke mentioned that the amount also includes support to ten agriculture cooperatives.

“Eighteen businesses were selected in 2021 and 13 in 2022. Each of them received US$40,000, which is about US$720,000 and when added to the US$600,000 expenditure for 2023, it amounts to US$1.3 million,” Jeke added.

He advised the beneficiaries to use the grants as intended. “My advice to these small businesses that are fortunate to have won this grant is to use the money for its intended purpose. Scale and grow your business. If you need more human resources, employ more people; if you need to buy more machinery and equipment, buy them,” he cautioned.

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