The African Development Bank’s Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA), has approved a grant of US $1 million to Liberia, to provide technical assistance to its fast-growing wood processing industry.
The grant will strengthen the capacity of public and private sector players in the nation’s secondary wood processing industry and provide institutional support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Liberia has close to one million hectares of forest available for sustainable harvesting, and its forestry sector currently offers immense opportunities for domestic and international investors. Despite growing demand for veneers, plywood and furniture, production of processed wood products remains limited, due to the constraints of SME’s which still use rudimentary methods and have limited access to financing and market outlets.
“This technical assistance project promotes inclusive green growth, employment and economic diversification in the Republic of Liberia”, said Olivier Eweck, Chair of the FAPA Technical Committee and Director of the Syndication, Co-financing and Technical Solutions Department at the Bank.
“The development outcomes of this project are quite significant: they include increased local value addition, access to micro financing to furniture makers and carpenters, as well as improved connection between local producers and traders of secondary processed wood products and procurement entities, such as the government of Liberia,” Eweck said.
The FAPA grant is expected to boost vocational training and mass employment through the promotion of carpentry and furniture making. It will also promote public-private-sector partnerships (PPPs) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Forestry Development Agency.
Other beneficiaries of the grant are the Liberia Chainsaw and Timber Dealers Union, which will receive training on tree species identification techniques, and the Monrovia-based Wood Processing Union (furniture and carpentry). The Wood Union will also benefit from training to build capacity within their members, in areas such as accessing start-up capital, technical and entrepreneurial skills, and better organization.
The Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA), is a multi-donor trust fund that provides grant funding for technical assistance activities to public and private sector entities domiciled in Africa. FAPA resources are utilized to promote innovative programs that specifically support the development of SMEs in Africa. FAPA is one of the components of the Enhanced Private Sector Assistance (EPSA) initiative hosted at the African Development Bank.
Meanwhile, The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank gave the green light for the launch of the second phase of the Mano River Union (UFM) programme, which would improve roads and facilitate transport between Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire.
This second phase consolidates road rehabilitation efforts so far and will boost economic recovery in the two countries. It will provide for the asphalting of 67.1 km of road between Liberia’s Fish Town and Kelipo (20 km) and between Sanniquellie and Loquatuo (47.1 km), and the construction of two markets along the same roads.
The construction of a joint control post and a bridge linking Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia is also planned, which would reduce transport costs, ease the free movement of people and goods, promote regional trade and overall improve the living standards of about 791,000 people.
Another expected positive outcome will be 800 new jobs over the next 2-3 years for 100 traders – 60 of them women – who will also receive training in bookkeeping. The programme will also increase job prospects for ten young graduate technicians and engineers employed in training sites related to the programme.
With a total estimated cost of US $87.87 million, over 80% of the total cost of this second phase is covered by the African Development Bank, thanks to a contribution of US$41.6 million from the African Development Fund (ADF), US$28.8 million in loans and grants from the Transition Support Facility (TSF) as well as an additional envelope of US$12.8 million.
The programme will be implemented from January 2019 to December 2022, and the project roads are expected to be in use in 2021.
The first phase of the road programme, estimated at US$314.4 million, obtained US$288.3 million in Bank Group financing in December 2014 for works in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia. Under this phase, 280 km of roads were rehabilitated (140 km in Côte d’Ivoire, 40km in Guinea and 96km in Liberia). In addition, two joint control posts, a cross-border bridge on the Cavally River were constructed. This phase also saw the refurbishment and equipment of health centres, primary schools, and a counselling centre for female war victims in Côte d’Ivoire.
Now in its final stages, the first phase has enabled the opening up of the areas concerned, the refurbishment of social infrastructure and improved security in the Tonkpi, Cavally and San-Pedro regions in Côte d’Ivoire, N’zerekore in Guinea and the counties of Maryland and River Gee in Liberia.