Interview with BSC Monrovia: how is the business startup center doing during the Ebola crisis?

This month it was announced that TIME’s person of the year 2014 is the Ebola fighter. The Ebola outbreak of this year hit many in especially Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. But the affected countries are not defeated by the epidemic, as many local and international organizations have joined forces to fight the outbreak and improve the situation. One of these organizations is our partner the Business Startup Center Monrovia in Liberia. We spoke to William Reide Dennis II, Acting Director, to look back at the last months, to hear about what is going on at the moment and to look ahead at new promising opportunities. William, many people might think that things are currently on hold in Liberia, but the BSC Monrovia is actually really active and supports entrepreneurs in improving the situation together. How has the Ebola outbreak affected the work of the BSC Monrovia? It was around late July that the situation had become really terrible in Liberia; there were around 200 new Ebola cases each day, people fled the country and the economy went down. We tried to stay around and help, but were forced to shut down all of our activities. Additionally, we could not visit other business centers because at a certain point the government prohibited travelling to other regions. Then, international support started coming our way: doctors, experts, supplies and money were arriving in the country. Suddenly a lot was happening and we saw opportunities arising. That’s when we got together in August and asked ourselves: what can we do as a business center to support SMEs in this crisis and to...

The 5 finalists of the ICT Challenge 2013

BiD Network and partners are pleased to announce the 5 finalists for the ICT Challenge 2013, the competition seeking businesses to accelerate entrepreneurship & innovation in Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Palestine. Congratulations to Fabrice Mutekano from Burundi, Henri Nyakarundi and Innocent Munyaneza from Rwanda, Salah Ahmed from Palestine and Amos Sando from Liberia. These finalists were chosen out of close to 50 applications on account of their potential for growth, creativity and the overall quality of their business plan. They are invited for an all-expense paid business trip to the Netherlands in October 2013, including their participation at the event Implementing Inclusive Innovations. Thanks again to all participants, our jury and our partners. Stay tuned for more information about the event. The 5 Finalists: African Renewable Energy Distributor Country: Rwanda A.R.E.D. was founded in 2013, we designed and developed our first product called Mobile charging Kiosk (MCK) charja Vuba that is a one stop shop for our telecom customers. Our primary service is charging cell phones, but we also sell phones, airtime, do mobile money transfers. Charja Vuja will be operated by local franchisees. Each franchisee will lease the unit and have freedom to take the MCK unit to a specific location to serve their customers. Target areas will be markets, bus stops, and other areas where people gather both in urban and rural areas. Each franchisee will be required to enroll in our high quality training program before becoming an MCK unit operator. Franchisees will learn how to operate the unit and manage customers. **** E-Business in Rwanda Country: Rwanda E-business is a new kind of business in Rwanda.This is an online business, using a website...

On the hunt for Liberia’s high potential investment opportunities

An Investor’s Guide to Liberia With the IMF predicting 7.5% real GDP growth this year, the world is awake to the potential of servicing Liberia’s emerging middle class. However, though foreign investors might be aware of it, tapping into this potential is another matter completely. Entering an unknown market anywhere presents difficulties, legal procedures, purchasing land and finding people you can trust are all unknown to the frontier investor. The investors – IFU, Root Capital, Injaro Invest, Oasis Capital Ghana – while all versed in African investment were new to Liberia, aiming to identify potential investment opportunities. Assisting them on this quest were BiD Network and BSC Monrovia, who hosted the expedition from April 24 to 26, providing local knowledge as well as introductions to a network that will facilitate business dealings in the country. The reason Liberia is such an enticing prospect for investors is that is a clean slate for business opportunities. In a country larger than the Netherlands, agriculture offers great prospects. The impediments to business also present a considerable opportunity for investors willing to offer a solution. One needs only look at the BiD Network supported venture, Coastal Marine Transport Ltd, to see the possibilities that can arise from addressing infrastructure concerns. MSMEs: A Vehicle for Change Liberia has identified the development of its Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector as a critical step in its evolution. At present, investment opportunities exceeding half a million euros or more are sparse in the country. The government considers sustainable MSME development a tool to advance its infrastructure and internal services, facilitating their ability to deal with larger investments. As...

An Overview of Gaza’s ICT Labor Market [Report]

This article is published with the courtesy of Wamda. Please find the original article here. Gaza might not be the first place one associates with gender equality. Yet the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector may be leading the way; 31% of ICT professionals in Gaza are women, more than double that of non-ICT organizations, a new report from USAID and Mercy Corps reveals. The report, titled “Gaza Labor Market Needs Assessment for the Digital Economy”, surveyed 141 university graduates in Gaza with degrees in ICT,  to assess skill gaps and preferred tools in the sector. Some are highlighted here: In 2012, 32% of the labor force in Gaza was unemployed. In the first quarter of 2012, 47% of women were unemployed. At 58%, Gaza’s youth unemployment is more than double the regional average. In 2012, ICT contributed 0.56% to the real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the West Bank, and a mere 0.02% to the real GDP growth of Gaza. In 2011, 41% of businesses with ICT tools in Gaza used computers, 34% used the internet, 12% did electronic transactions, and only 4% had websites. In the West Bank and Gaza in 2012, 17% of women participated in the labor force, compared to 68.7% of men. Women polled in the survey question the quality of their education for workforce preparation, as well as the market qualifications of their instructors. The report also details the use of specific ICT skills and tools, and gaps in ICT education and employment opportunities in Gaza, based on focus groups conducted with ICT school graduates, higher education institutions, and ICT companies. Download the full report here for a...

Connecting Liberia from North West to South East by sea – A monumental impact

How did it all start? Coastal Marine Transport Ltd president and CEO Theo Denis brought his expertise navigating Liberian waters together with his German partner’s knowledge in navigation and management to bridge the gap, both literally and figuratively, between the North West and the South East of Liberia. “After getting stuck on the muddy and slippery roads, and being forced to sleep in make-shift mud-walled ‘motels’ along the way upcountry, the German navigation and management experts decided that there were compelling facts and evidence of high demand for a sea-link alternative to ground transport” said Theo Dennis. Thanks to the investment of German investors and his business partner, Theo purchased their first ferry, enabling Coastal Marine Transport to convey people and goods along the Liberian coastline. Connecting Monrovia to Greenville and then to Harper, one Ferry can transport 100 passengers and 24 containers of up to 30 tons each per trip. “Getting the South East into Monrovia and Monrovia out and into the South east will have a monumental impact… creating huge multiple effect and potential” Theo Dennis President/CEO said in an interview with BiD Network. High demand from clients is prompting the company to acquire one more ferry and reach international waters. This will have a significant impact on transportation and will extend export possibilities for Liberia A bumpy road to success Getting to where Coastal Marine Transport is today wasn’t an easy task. It took two years for the company to get up and running. Not only did they need to deal with a long permit process, but with the tide changing every five and a half...