Dutch Minister Ploumen visits BSC Monrovia
SPARK Liberia had the distinct honour of supporting the Dutch Embassy in organising and hosting the Trade Mission with Minister Lilianne Ploumen in the capital city, Monrovia on July the 6th. Minister Ploumen was accompanied by a delegation, including 31 Dutch companies, to discuss trade relations and meet with potential Liberian counterparts. In addition to bilateral meetings with the Government of Liberia, the delegation took part in a matchmaking event, organised by SPARK and the Dutch embassy, at Mamba Point hotel; appropriately enough, a structure that has formerly served as the Dutch Embassy in Liberia. During the business matchmaking event, Liberian and Dutch companies had the opportunity to engage one another and discuss potential opportunities to collaborate in developing Liberia’s private sector.
With years of experience working in Liberia and supporting entrepreneurship in post-conflict and fragile states, SPARK was well positioned to successfully organise the matchmaking event between the Dutch and Liberian companies. SPARK Liberia was originally established as a pilot project under the Enterprise Development Programme (MFS II) which promotes sustainable economic development in 2009. Through MFS II, SPARK was able to drastically scale up support services in Liberia, and in 2011 established the BSC; a local, independent, partner established as an entrepreneurship centre, complete with solar powered computer labs and training facilities. Through BSC, SPARK Liberia has generated extensive impact in supporting economic development in Liberia; hosting multiple business plan competitions and increasingly supporting and developing Liberian entrepreneurs.
During the afternoon reception and matchmaking event, Richard van Hoolwerff, country manager of SPARK Liberia, had the opportunity to speak with Minister Ploumen and Dutch Ambassador in Accra Hans Docter, sharing the success story of the SPARK supported, youth led local NGO Kriterion Monrovia and their recent Ebola awareness campaign. Pandora Hodge, founder and project coordinator at Kriterion Monrovia, spoke with the Minister and Ambassador about the impressive impact Kriterion generated through their Ebola awareness campaign. Much to her surprise, Ms. Hodge learned from Minister Ploumen that she had already acquainted herself with Kriteion Monrovia, having heard about it during a visit to Kriterion Amsterdam in the week prior.
It was with great pride that the SPARK Liberia and BSC teams welcomed the business Trade Delegation for a meet and greet with some of their successful entrepreneurs at the BSC. While greeting the delegation, William Dennis, director of BSC Monrovia, provided the visitors with some background information and top success stories related to the work and history of the BSC and SPARK Liberia:
“The nature of MFS II is a co-financing fund so we also started working with other donors and partners to match the funding we received from Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the MFS II programme. Over the years we did programmes for the WorldBank, for Chevron, for SIDA, Humanity United, and for Richard Branson through his Virgin Unite charity. With these additional programmes we expanded our competencies and services for entrepreneurs engaged with SPARK and BSC Monrovia.”
As the visit to the BSC sparked dynamic discussions between members of the delegation and the entrepreneurs present, the Minister had the opportunity to hear some of the incredible success stories. In departing, the Minister spoke with Mr. Dennis; remarking, “Small businesses in Liberia face a lot of challenges, what is important is for you to focus. We will continue to support the BSC, so you can continue to do what you do in order to help entrepreneurs grow”, adding jokingly, “I’d like to see a Dutch flag here on the walls next to the Liberian flag.”