Minister Addy Outlines Achievement And Progress In Accordance With MOCI Rebranding Agenda

Assistants Ministers and others at the Press Briefing
Assistants Ministers and others at the Press Briefing
Photo Credit: Staff Analyst to the Minister

Senior Management Team (SMT) of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry conducted its Quarterly Press Briefing on Friday 28, April 2017 in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry 4th Floor Conference Room from 2:00 – 4:00PM.

 

Monrovia, Liberia - Hon. Axel M. Addy and members of the Senior Management team of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Friday, April 28 2017 conducted a press briefing to inform the general public on achievements and progress in accordance with the Ministry’s rebranding agenda. The briefing was headed by the Minister and Deputy Ministers who oversee the the four departments of the Ministries; Small Business Administration, Administration, Trade Services and Industry. Deputy Ministers Hon. Andrew Paygar (SBA), Hon. Frantz Sawyer (Administration), Hon. Stephen Marvie (Trade Services), and Hon. Roland Carey (Industry) supported by their respective assistant ministers and technicians who highlighted programs under their supervision and addressed issues within their departments.

 

The Press briefing is part of the quarterly press briefing organized by Director Mitchell Jones to engage the public and provide a platform for journalists to have a dialogue on key issues of public concerns. This is a key commitment by the Senior Management Team in the implementation of the Ministry’s Strategic Plan, Rebranding Commerce. The general discussions will highlight the following within the respective departments.

 

  1. DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATION

 

  1. 1   The Rebranding Agenda

The Department of Administration is undergoing the Strategic Plan review with the help of UNDP. This assessment is also in preparation for transition for the new administration. The Department is the lead on the transition preparation exercise, which includes:

 

  • Review of the Strategic Plan to map out achievement and outstanding deliverables roadmap
  • Preparation of Department Transition Binders (All Reports, Policies, Contacts, Laws, Regulations, Forms, Administrative Procedures, etc.)
  • Preparation of Ministry Master Asset List o Preparation of Employee Listing and new Official ID Cards
  • Preparation of 2017/18 Budget of the Ministry

 

  1. 2   Japanese Monetization Program

 

The Government of Liberia in partnership with the government of Japan has been undertaking a monetization program of two commodities, rice and petroleum since 2008. Products donated by the government of Japan are sold through contractual arrangement by a competitive bidding process. Private contractors who win bids to sell such products do so and make deposit into what is referred to as the Counterpart Value Fund at the Central Bank. The Ministry of Commerce serves as the Administrator of this process. Recently a new management guide was adopted for the improved administration of the program at the Joint Steering Committee, which comprised of government institutions and the Government of Japan representatives.

 

The key elements of the new structures split the responsibility of management and oversight between several agencies. The Ministry of Finance is now the sole disbursing agent based on the approval of the Ministerial Steering Committee and the assessed and review of request by the Secretariat under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, like all other Ministry, will now report to the Chair of the Ministerial Steering Committee on a quarterly basis on its two projects, the Monetization and LIFE Fund Project. All staff of the new Secretariat will now be centralized at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry sole responsibility is to report on a quarterly basis the performance of the LIFE Fund support for MSME Policy and the Monetization Program. This role is under the Department of Administration given its contractual oversight mandate.

 

  1. 3   Legal Activity

 

The Ministry through the Department of Administration Legal Department has been working closely with the Department of Trade Services and Industry on a number of regulations to address key market standards. The Department is also overseeing a number of litigations through the courts. These are highlighted below:

 

Legal

 

  • Laws and Regulations

 

  • Packaged water regulation-Draft completed and ready for signing
  • LPG Regulation-Stakeholder engagement to be held for finalization
  • Gas Station Regulation-Draft completed and ready for signing
  • Flour regulation-awaiting feedback from stakeholders

 

  • Cases

 

  • Nice Cream-Case almost finalized, the respondent (Nice Cream) is to submit additional info to justified why they can engage in the business of ice cream manufacturing
  • Pussy Energy Drink-The hearing is nearing completion and awaiting the ruling of the hearing officer

 

  • Intellectual Property

 

  • The Legal Office has been overseeing the merging of the two offices, the Industrial Property and Copyright offices in accordance with the new Intellectual Property Act for the promotion and protection of intellectual property rights. This will impact the creative arts and SME producers in the country.

 

  1. DEPARTMENT OF SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

 

  1. 1   The LIFE Fund

 

The Liberia Innovation Fund for Entrepreneurship (LIFE) is a private sector investment fund which focuses on developing and promoting innovations in the Liberian private sector by investing in capital infrastructure projects that promote the growth of SMEs and promote value addition within key industrial sectors as an implementation tool for the MSME Policy. The Government announced initial funding but due to budgetary challenges, funding was not made available through the National Budget. However, the Government of Japan to support the MSME Policy provided seed funding to commence LIFE Fund Innovation Projects.

 

The LIFE Fund is also intended to provide seed Funding to support the growth and development of industries in local communities to provide economic employment opportunities to communities’ dwellers and improve their livelihood in a way that unlock the potential of value chains or foster entrepreneurship. The following are current projects under the LIFE Fund: 

 

  • The Lofa Women Weaving Center (LWWC) was initiated in March 2014 out of the need to organize and train women in the Northern region of Liberia to produce high quality textiles from locally grown cotton and provide them gainful occupation that is critical for job creation and poverty reduction in that part of the country. Given the Ministry’s Launch of the Wear Your Pride Campaign announced in the President’s Annual Message in 2015, the demand for the Lofa Cloth has increased substantially. The Construction of the Center will enhance production to meet that demand while providing sustainable livelihoods for the many women who are active in that cotton industry. This project is a collaboration between the Department of Industry, RIPE Program (Rural Industrial Program for Economic Empowerment) and the Department of Small Business Administration market access implementation under the MSME Policy. The center is a weaving facility for weavers and designers of textiles and it is intended to promote, cottage industries and value addition of cotton in rural communities. The estimated cost is US$230,747.29, total expended cost to date, is US$161,523.11 and balance due to contractor is 69,224.18. The Project is expected to be delivered on schedule, no later than end July 2017.

 

  • The Liberian Market Place-Trade Store was initiated in 2014 to show case Liberian made products. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has currently expanded the existing “Liberian Marketplace” Trade Store to the newly renovated facility located on the top floor of the Nancy B. Doe, Jorkpen Town Market on 8th Street, Sinkor. The newly renovated facilitate will enhance market linkage and promote made in Liberia products from sectors like textile, manufacturing and food processing, arts and crafts, rubberwood, etc.

 

In the front of this facility, there is also a Farmer’s market for fresh fruit and vegetables. The 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month is a farmer’s market day where SMEs in the agri-business sector sell their produce. The estimated cost for the renovation Market place and remodeling of the front yard of the market was US$114,975, US$110,826.69 was expended The back yard of the market is phase two of the project and it is estimated to cost US$50,000, to be funded by the Government of Liberia

 

  • The Economic Empowerment of Entrepreneurs (E+ Program) The Ministry of Commerce and Industry during its SBA 2015 MSME Conference launched the first phase of the E+ Program with support from the Government of Japan through its LIFE Fund and the International Finance Corporation. The project is intended to put life into 10 key sectors of the economy and to foster government inclusive growth agenda. Some of the sectors under the project are packaging, sausage production, fruit juice production, labeling, etc.

 

The project is designed to promote and empower youth entrepreneurs through training and access to finance. The program also seeks to identify and promote the next generation of promising youth innovators with great ideas and solutions to real challenges in business and society. In 2016 the ministry signed an MoU with the Business Start-up Center (BSC), a local business development service provider for the selection and training of young entrepreneurs who make up the E+ First Class.

 

BSC competitively selected ten young entrepreneurs through a business plan competition and trained them in small business development. US$100,000 has been expended as seed funding from the LIFE Fund for to the ten entrepreneurs. To date, BSC has disbursed US$80,000 to eight of the ten entrepreneurs who have met all the requirements. The eight beneficiaries are as follows: Michaels’s Engraving, Witness Multimedia Service, Edutainment Playground Center, G.G. God Fearing Business Center, Gee-K Packaging Business, Family Group of Companies, Zoqueh Naturals, Samatta God’s Favor Business center.

 

  • Liberia Marketing Association Red Light Rice Depot. The Ministry in 2016 signed an MoU with the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) for the use of the top floor of the Jorkpen Town Market to host the Liberian Market Place. Under the MoU, the Ministry is expected to pay LMA US$50,000. This amount is used to construct a Rice Depot that will sell rice at wholesale price to marketers in the Redlight. To date, US$25,000 has been disbursed to LMA from LIFE Fund. Project is 40% complete. Balance expected to be paid upon receipt of project progress report.

 

  1. 2    UNDP/BOSS Project

 

The Ministry in 2016 signed a MoU with the UNDP to build a SBA/BOSS Center within the SBA to provide business development services to the MSME sector and procure needed furniture and equipment to effectively run the center. The project is estimated at a little over US$400K over a three-year period. The Procurement process is in an advance stage and work is expected to begin in May. To date, No money has been disbursed by UNDP to any contractors to commence the renovation work for the setting up of the Boss Center.

 

  1. 3   Liberian Marketplace Farmer’s Market

 

The Ministry of Commerce in partnership with WTO/EIF and the Government of Japan through the LIFE Fund, UNDP and USAID/LADA has expanded on the Liberian Marketplace Trade Store to the Liberian Marketplace and Farmers’ Market at Nancy Doe Jorkpentown Market in Sinkor. The Farmers’ Market is organized by the Small Business Administration with support from the Department of Trade Services. This is a linkage initiative that brings the harvested farmer’s produce to the market and brings the supermarkets, restaurant and hotel buyers to that market every 2nd and Last Saturday of every month. This Saturday will be the Farmer’s market.

 

  1. DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRY

 

  1. 1   Monrovia Industrial Park

 

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry Department of Industry has been given oversight mandate to facilitate the enhancement and operationalization of the The Monrovia Industrial Park (MIP) for the promotion of industries. The goal is to serve as the home of Liberia’s major manufacturers given the park’s proximity to the Freeport of Monrovia. As a key deliverable, the Department is aggressively pursuing the following activities:

 

  • The fencing of approximately 200 acres of the Monrovia Industrial Park

 

  • Challenges:

 

  • Galvanized pipe stolen by community dwellers while the fence of the MIP is being constructed
  • Community dwellers were digging the red dirt and building mud bricks in MIP

 

Action

 

  • MOCI has asked and received the assistance of the Ministry of Justice/LNP through PSU to guard the park

 

  • Development at the MIP

 

  • Constructions are currently undergoing for 2 new factories in the park. 
  • MOCI is closely working with MPW, LEC and other relevant government agencies and partners to grow activity in the park

 

  1. 2    Quarterly Inspections

 

A key component of the Ministry Strategic Plan, Rebranding Commerce, is the inspection reforms procedures. The Ministry now conduct inspections in a professional and systematic way and as such inspections are announced on a quarterly basis. MOCI has currently commenced the process of the quarterly inspections for the next four weeks.

 

The Ministry of Commerce will conduct inspection in the following sectors but not limited to:

 

General Inspections

 

  • Supermarkets
  • Building Materials
  • Frozen foods
  • Electronics

 

  • Standards (Weights, & Measures)

 

  • Gas stations
  • Water Manufacturers

 

This exercise aims to ensure consumer protection and business compliance to the General business law of Liberia

 

  1. 3   National Quality Awards Program

 

On April 13, 2017, the Ministry in collaboration with the West African Quality System Program launched the National and ECOWAS Quality Awards for 2017. The National and ECOWAS Quality Awards are designed as interventions in addressing the lack of quality in products and services as a major constraint to the participation of member states in the global trading system. It will foster a quality culture among manufacturer/producers within the region.

 

  1. 0    DEPARTMENT OF TRADE SERVICES

 

  1. 1   WTO Post Accession Plan

 

Liberia became the 163rd member of the World Trade Organization in July 2016. In December of 2015, Liberia launched its Post Accession Plan through the signing of Executive Order 74 which mandated that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry lead the coordination of structural reforms to enhance the business climate to make Liberia a more competitive destination for trade for local and foreign investors. As such the WTO Post Accession Steering Committee and Technical Working Group was formed to tackle the implementation of WTO Commitments. A number of goals were to be carried out through this exercise. Key to the Plan were the following deliverables:

 

  • Transformation of Customs Procedures into a Single Window Platform to improve import/export procedures.
  • Implementation of a verification of conformity (VOC) contract to improve the quality infrastructure to ensure that commodities entering the market meet certain standards under the laws of the Liberia
  • Drive innovations to enhance tax collection procedures at the Liberia Revenue Authority
  • Move to e-government platform to enhance the processing of resident permit, work permit and visa issuance including visa-on-arrival
  • Develop services portal to improve traders access to information
  • Pass or adopt a number of key legislation including the Customs Code, the Intellectual Property Act, the Competition Law, the Foreign Trade Law and the Adoption of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme and the ECOWAS Common External Tariff.
  • Putting in place regimes of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), etc.

 

Key Actions:

 

  • The Ministry is working with Liberian companies to facilitate the process of getting approval through the ETLS National Approval Committee to export to other ECOWAS countries. This effort comes after Minister Addy led a delegation of Liberian agriculture concessionaires to Accra, Ghana to discuss with their Ghanaian counterparts and explore new markets.
  • The Ministry as Chair of the Inter-ministerial Concession Committee (IMCC) is working with the National Investment Commission for the contracting for the National Single Window and Verification of Conformity (VOC). The Single Window will eradicate the Import and Export Permit Declaration and the VOC will address standards and quality.
  • The Ministry is working with MFDP and LRA to ensure that the Customs Code is passed as the passage of the Code will transform trade facilitation, promote transparency and adjust trade transactions/behavior in inspection and valuation.

 

  1. 2   Business Climate

 

MoCI worked with IFC to facilitate a series of Business Roundtables with the business community in 2016. MoCI assumed the chairmanship of the Business Reform Committee (BRC) and has met with the private sector to update them on the progress being made on the business climate indicators. Work is underway that will impact the World Bank Doing Indicators. These indicators are typically a diagnostic of what challenges businesses are facing. As Chair of the BRC, that Ministry is coordinating activities with other agencies to improve on the key indicators. Key indicators include: Starting a Business, Getting Credit, Paying Taxes, Solving Insolvency, Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Trading Across Borders, Business Inspection, Visa/Work Permit/Residency, Vendor Registration, and Publication of GoL Fees. An action plan has been developed to monitor progress on the indicators.

 

  • Respondents (28 persons) will be contacted next week. The BRC will meet with the respondents to provide updates on the indicators.

 

  1. 3   Strategies & Policies that Improve Trade Liberia has huge potential in rubber wood, tourism, fish and cocoa, etc. With assistance from the WTO Enhanced Integrated Framework, we have put together in Liberia strategies on rubber wood, tourism, fish and cocoa under the framework of the National Export Strategy. We worked with MICAT on tourism and MoA on the agriculture value chains. We have huge potential in aquaculture – tilapia and fisheries. The investment climate is more favorable to import than export. We are addressing that imbalance through the task force set up by the President 

 

  1. 4   Stable Prices and Constant Supply of Bulk Commodities

 

  • The Ministry, as per its mandate, ensure the steady supply and quality of, and stability in the prices of essential commodities (rice, cement, petroleum products). The Ministry has put in place a Bulk Commodity Committee approval process to ensure that approval of documents are informed by data and market intelligence to protect consumer and ensure quality supply.
  • To support the decision in the Bulk Commodity Committee meetings, the Ministry published the Annual Trade Bulletin, Commerce Today, a Monthly Critical Commodities Bulletin and a Weekly Market Report to monitor bulk products. The Ministry is in the process of finalizing the Business Handbook, which details procedures for doing business, trading, acquiring work and labor permits, as well as other relevant information for investors. Information gathered through LISGIS and published Commodity Indices to monitor price fluctuations across the country. However, lack of adequate data has impacted the regular publication of updated Commodity Indices.