Liberia’s Formal, Informal Business Owners Lament Crippling Effects of COVID-19

The Covid-19 outbreak has disrupted the operation of many sectors across the world, thus having devastating effects on the economy.

In Liberia, business people were given time to sell while importations were being hindered, affecting the normal sale of products, and purchasing power among others.

Amid the decrease in cases as well as the preventive measures being relaxed, the pandemic has made things difficult mostly in the business community.

Richmond Kamara, a money exchanger in Paynesville

Speaking with k-news, Richmond Kamara, a money exchanger named the instability of buying rates on the market as one major challenge facing them.

“It has been challenging all along, but we can’t sit home, we have to do something… the buying rate now is 55-56, you go buy for 56, it can’t finish, when you look, The buying rate went up to US$159,” he said.

The situation he said has frightened them and they no longer purchase more goods, adding that “We know that the rate is not stable now, so we can buy the Liberty ‘[Liberian Dollars] in small quantity so that when the rate goes up, we will not lose in our business.”

Naomie Ballah- a small business owner in Monrovia

Unlike Richmond Kamara, comparing the smooth transaction of businesses during the height of COVID-19 and the current situation, Naomie Ballah- a small business owner intoned that business at the time of the pandemic was much better than now.

She said, despite the restriction by the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health, purchasing power was encouraging.

“During the covid-19, at least we maintained ourselves because at the time money was available. We were not suffering like the current situation. She added that despite the partial lockdown, business was much better. “The current challenge by covid is not only affecting small businesses, bigger ones like whole sellers are also being affected.”

James Mor- the owner of a wholesale store at the ELWA Junction

James Mor- the owner of a wholesale store at the ELWA junction in Paynesville said the turnout of buyers has not been encouraging but has to manage just to maintain his business and family.

Mor said since the pandemic, the business has been declining. However, this year has been the worst. “It is not too fine, business is too tough. Turnover is being difficult these days, people hardly buy,” he said.

James Strother- President, Liberia Business Association

The crippling effects of COVID-19 on businesses have not gone unnoticed by the sector heads. While immediate help is to arrive, president of the Liberia Business Association (LiBA) James Strother said they are putting in mechanisms to support Liberian-owned businesses.

Mr. Strother acknowledged the challenges grappling these small business owners but said they are working on plans to revamp the sector through the provision of loans and other incentives. 

“After Covid-19, things have been difficult; things have not improved, but at LIBA, we are putting modalities to see how we can restore growth to our people. People are not making sales anymore; some businesses are closing already,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a health crisis and a human tragedy, but it also has far-reaching economic ramifications. In Africa, it is disrupting millions of people’s livelihoods, with an unbalanced impact on poor households and small and informal businesses.

However, to address these needs and help inform the response, leaders, Governments, the private sector, and development institutions need to double down on their already proven resolve—and significantly expand existing efforts to safeguard economies and livelihoods.

In many countries, there is an opportunity to take bolder, more creative steps to secure supply chains of essential products, contain the health crisis, maintain the stability of financial systems, help businesses survive the crisis, and support households’ economic welfare. Most importantly, there is a need to consider an extensive stimulus package to reverse the economic damage of the crisis in Liberia.

By: Siaway T. Miapue

This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) through the Mobilizing Media against COVID-19, in partnership with the Female Journalist Association and CT. Com Liberia Limited.

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