Sierra Leone & Liberia Business Day in the Hague — a fruitful venture for all parties involved
Written by: Esther Kamara (SLNBCC)
On the 11th of September 2018, the Sierra Leone & Liberia Business Day was held successfully at the Dutch Enterprise Agency in the Hague, the Netherlands. During this event representatives from the SLNBCC, the LNBCC, the involved embassies, and the foreign investment agencies SLIEPA and NIC gave presentations on the business climate and opportunities in the two countries. The event was a success; 97 people attended the event, of whom many have expressed an interest in participating in a trade mission in the near future.
A Dutch-African collaboration
The event was organised in partnership with the Netherlands-Africa Business Council (NABC) and the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RvO) with the aim of informing and encouraging Dutch companies to explore the promising Sierra Leonean and Liberian markets. In order to do so, several experts were invited to share their knowledge with the audience. Sally Sulaiman-Gassama from the Sierra Leonean foreign investment agency SLIEPA, gave a presentation on the business climate in the country. This included detailed information on policies and regulations and reflected the government’s positive attitude towards foreign investment and private sector participation. Andrew Anderson of the Liberian foreign investment agency NIC gave a similar presentation. Both efforts were enforced through the inspiring speeches that the Sierra Leonean and Liberian Ambassadors gave during the event, emphasising the welcoming atmosphere both countries are aiming to create for foreign companies.
This positive attitude was shared by representatives from the Dutch government. Alle Dorhout, the director of SubSahara Africa Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commented on the potential of the developing markets and referred to the financial tools the Dutch government has made available to facilitate the involvement of Dutch companies.
The Dutch Ambassador Mr Ron Strikker expressed his support in the form of a video message, where he acknowledged the importance of these collaborative efforts.
The event was built around several in-depth sector sessions, based on the results of recently performed studies by LNBCC and SLNBCC in agribusiness, logistics, energy and health. In the presentations, business opportunities that had been identified during these scans were elaborated upon. Participants were invited to sit in on these sessions, where they had the opportunity to ask the researchers questions and discuss with Dutch companies who had experience working in the respective sectors.
Experiences, matchmaking and support
Companies who were already active in one or both countries also participated in the program. A roundtable discussion gave some valuable insights in the pleasantries and challenges of working in Sierra Leone or Liberia. Some questions led towards addressing sensitive topics, reminding all participants that it is important to be realistic; Sierra Leone and Liberia are two of the poorest countries in the world. And it can be challenging for the private sector to thrive. However, where challenges lie there is room for innovative and sustainable solutions, and this is exactly where Dutch companies can offer their expertise.
Luckily, companies can apply to several financial instruments that the Dutch government has made available in order to increase succes rates. Rosalind Boschloo of the RvO gave a presentation on tools such as the DGGF and NUFFIC that are applicable to Sierra Leone and Liberia. This added an extra layer of opportunity to the event, as companies could find partners and combine their efforts in order to successfully apply for these tools. Often, a local partner or involvement of the respective governments are necessary to receive funds, and the SLNBCC and LNBCC can serve as excellent matchmakers.
It is expected that a trade mission to Sierra Leone and Liberia will happen within the next few months. Meanwhile, all participants are encouraged to use the available networks to further explore. Becoming a member of the SLNBCC or the LNBCC is advisable for those who are looking for partners in both countries to either invest or partner with to apply for funds. Also, SLIEPA and NIC are there to guide anyone with an interest in exploring the market.
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The event was organised by RVO, NABC, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ghana, GNBCC, the Sierra Leone-Netherlands Business and Cultural Council (SLNBCC) and the Liberia-Netherlands Business and Cultural Council (LNBCC). For more information, please contact Binta Jalloh at email@example.com and/ or firstname.lastname@example.org.