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LBDI Branch Establishes Loan Scheme for Women
Friday, February 01, 2008

Vice President LBDI Paynesville Branch and Business People
                           Mr. Johnson K. Baysahwala, Mr. Henry S. Gbotee and Madam Zogbo Zumo  

Paynesville has in recent years emerged as the fastest growing commercial city outside of Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, and the biggest commercial city in the country. As a result of this growth, coupled with the concentration in the area of a sizable number of the country's urban population, the need for an extension of full-banking service in the city is paramount. And this was exactly what the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) did by opening a branch in the area to provide services and to assist the local businesses to fetch funding for growth.

In fulfillment of that, the Paynesville Branch of the LBDI, after offering several of those services, has begun a fresh loan scheme to empower Liberian women in business. Known as the 'Women Empowerment Program', this credit scheme is organized by the bank branch in Red-light, Paynesville, to provide loans to Liberian market women so as to enable them expand and improve their businesses in the community. The LBDI Paynesville Branch is a full banking branch that provides different banking services to thousands of Liberians and foreign nationals in the city.

Assess to credit for Liberian entrepreneurs and business people, especially women, has been a major challenge for the growth of the domestic economy.

Mr. Johnson K. Baysahwala is the vice-president of the Paynesville Community Branch of the LBDI. He revealed to this column yesterday, in an exclusive interview in Paynesville, that his branch had intended to empower more women so as to enable them to actively participate in driving the economy of their country. Mr. Baysahwala disclosed that the LBDI late last year, embarked on this program to empower women, adding that his Paynesville branch started the scheme first by approving loans for only three women. At the moment, Baysahwala noted, the program is improving with the bank approving a maximum of US$5,000 and US$10,000 per applicant. He indicated that the bank gave the loans depending on the size of the businesses and the capacity of the borrower to pay back the loans.

“We are giving some people the amount stated above while we are giving some people L$250,000 under this program,” Baysahwala said.

The women empowerment program, he said, comprises business women who go to neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast to buy peanuts, beans, pepper and other dried foodstuffs and import them to Liberia for sale. He said the women empowerment program was an extension of the bank's Young Entrepreneur Program (YEP).

The YEP is a loan scheme organized by LBDI to provide credits for Liberian owned businesses. However, Mr. Baysahwala stated that though women were benefiting from LBDI's YEP program, the bank was not going to be too stringent on women benefiting from its women empowerment program. “The women are partnering to do their business, importing containers load of produce and other goods therefore, we are not going to be too stringent on them,” said Mr. Baysahwala. He, however, emphasized that that did not in anyway mean that the bank was compromising its collateral policy before giving loans to customers. “We do not comprise collateral as a precondition for us giving out loans. So, these women also give collaterals to us,” said he.

He stressed the need for a more private sector control of the economy, a policy, he added, that is being supported by the bank, the international community and the government of Liberia as well as local institutions in the country. Touching on the secret behind the success of his Paynesville branch, the young Liberian banker intoned, “The secret is that we place high premium on the services we offer to our customers. My branch last year won lots of awards including the outstanding branch and best western union service.”

At the branch bank, he said, many services including checking and savings accounts, manager's check, funds transfer, Western Union service and loans, etcetera are offered.

At the close of the interview with Mr. Baysahwala, this columnist caught up with Madam Zogbo Zumo, a beneficiary of the bank's women empowerment loan program who said that the bank had given her loan to purchase her produce from Guinea. Madam Zumo said that she was first afraid when her friends told her about the program but noted that after taking the loan, her business was growing and becoming stronger daily.

She disclosed that they were 30 business women working under the umbrella of the United Women Business Center of Red-light. Madam Zumo indicated that she and her colleagues from the center were collaborating with one another to wisely utilize the loans being provided to them by the LBDI to import their goods from the neighboring countries. She pointed out that the small partnership on the money loaned to them by the LBDI had assisted them greatly in the growth of their businesses. “I can boast of some profits now and I hope to expand my business after paying my loan,” she stressed. “All of my three girls are going to school at the moment,” said the displaced Lofa County market woman who said she would not go back home now.

An important character, Madam Zumo said, her friends possessed was that they were courageous and determined to do business. “My friends from the center are strong and that they are determine on a daily basis to grow their businesses,” she stated.

She also used the opportunity to appeal to LBDI to lengthen the loan payment period from six months to one year. The market woman, however, called on other women to take advantage of the bank's lending program but warned them to be 'trustworthy' and pay back if they ever benefited from it. “I want them to join us to make good use of this opportunity being given us by the LBDI but at the same time, they must be fair and to pay back the loans,” she noted.

Also speaking was Mr. Henry S. Gbotee, proprietor of H.S.G. Business Center in Re-light. The H.S. Business Center is a dealer in plastic materials in Paynesville. He told this column about how the LBDI loan provided him had boosted his business in the area. “My business has improved and that I can openly say that I now possess lots of assets and that my family is happy,” he noted.

“I am a born businessman,” said the Liberian sole proprietor, noting, “I cannot allow my business to fall.”

He thanked the bank for the loan but equally appealed for a one-year extension of the time for payment.

When asked about the interest rates, Mr. Gbotee said, “I have no problem with it.”