The International Finance Corporation (IFC), in collaboration with the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), on Thursday, September 21, held a one-day stakeholders’ meeting on the dissemination of digital credit guidelines and potential opportunities in the financial sector in Liberia.
The workshop, which took place on Wednesday, September 21, brought together representatives from commercial banks, microfinance institutions, and mobile money service providers, and is intended to raise awareness about the use and application of these guidelines.
It also provides access to finance for households and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). While it makes lending more inclusive for underserved or un-served households and firms, it also brings forth challenges that need to be addressed by policymakers and regulators to guarantee well-functioning credit markets and broader financial systems that foster sustainable economic development.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Madam Alexandra Celestin, Resident Representative of the International Finance Corporation, said the launched of the credit guidelines the Resident Representative of the International Finance Corporation Alexandra Celestin says the introduction of digital credit will increase access to finance for local enterprises in Liberia.
Celestin said, “The digital credit facility will provide alternative sources to access finance, in addition to loans provided to households and businesses by commercial banks and micro-finance institutions.”
She said this will boost the business climate in Liberia, especially in agriculture and other private sector investments.
Celestine urged the participants to engage in the discussion and take the opportunity as stakeholders to get a better understanding of these guidelines, learn from the experiences and lessons from other markets, and explore new market opportunities.
According to her, the development of the digital credit guidelines, which were approved in March of 2022, is part of the broader ongoing technical assistance and advisory program to help support the development of the private sector in Liberia, phase two, which is funded by SIDA.
Celestin said in addition to access to finance digital services, it also includes several centers, namely; the development of agriculture value change, collateral registry, trade facilitation, and business climate reform.
She disclosed that the first phase facilitated the revision of commercial courts—the establishment of a specialist commercial court to expedite the resolution of commercial cases and provide a platform for private and public dialogue to improve the investment climate in Liberia.
Celestin said over the years, the IFC has provided hundreds of millions in investment and technical advisory support in Liberia across several sectors, from agriculture and mining to the financial sector.
She, however, mentioned that the IFC has been working with the CBL and other stakeholders to develop and implement reforms that will improve access to finance for macro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
For his part, Central Bank of Liberia Executive Governor, J. Aloysius Tarlue, underscored the importance of digital credit facility for Liberian businesses.
Tarlue said:” Creating access to finance has always been a key priority of the Liberian Government, a commitment the CBL is holding so highly.”
He wants Liberian Business women to take advantage of digital credit opportunities made available through the formal financial sector, and expand their enterprises.
Also speaking, the World Bank Country Liberia Country Manager, Khwima Nthara, said:” Digital credit has improved the lives of ordinary people, and expressed the optimism that Liberians will reap the dividends of such a facility.”
Nthara further recommits the World Bank’s commitment to working with the Central Bank, in ensuring ordinary Liberians and local businesses have access to finance.
Nthara also called on financial institutions to embrace the new platform to enhance their operations.
“As development partners, I’d like to say that we’re committed to assisting and continuing to build on what has been established as a fountain to make this a reality and ensure that we’re helping to reduce poverty and promote shared and prosperity in Liberia,” Nthara said.
He expressed the hope that the credit guidelines platform would be a transformation in the financial sector of Liberia.
Earlier, Fonsia Donzo, Director of Regulation and Supervision at the Central Bank of Liberia, said the gathering is about disseminating digital credit guidelines that were developed by the CBL.
He stated that the event’s goal is to raise awareness about the use and application of these guidelines.
According to him, the CBL is always in the process of developing a framework, and what it does in developing a framework is look at what is obtaining in the country and the needs of the people, not only its citizens but residents as well as institutions, and develop a framework.
“So, these digital credit guidelines were developed because the bank realizes the difficulties small businesses or people at the lower ends of the income bracket face in terms of accessing credit,” Donzo added.
He stated that the amount required to meet their needs, whether on a daily or weekly basis, is very small, making the normal financial process difficult.
Donzo explained that the digital credit guidelines were developed against this backdrop to ensure that people at the lower end of the income spectrum or businesses can access credit digitally—through their applications and obtain credit without having to go through a hurdle. Whether it is mobile money or another type of online application, we need it.
He further said that in developing the framework, they got an assistant from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank Group, to develop the guidelines.
Donzo pointed out that the workshop, since the development of the guidelines, a lot of people have not made any use of it yet, so the event yesterday was intended to showcase what the bank has done and encourage people to start using it because there is huge potential out there for lenders to take advantage of.
He said, “Now that the framework has been developed, commercial banks, microfinance institutions, and mobile money service providers can all take advantage of the guidelines. So, we hope that after this workshop, the utilization of the guidelines will start and will continue to go up and that access to credit for small income earners will also increase and accessibility will be very easy.”
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