Cordaid Country Representative Sharron Kelliher says her organisation has an investment fund and could lend to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) between $10,000 and $300,000. The equivalent of these amounts in Leones is given to SMEs. This is part of the charity’s approach to empowering people and addressing poverty. “WE also have an investment fund where we lend to SMEs between $10,000 and $300,000,” said Sharron Kelliher.
One of the businesses that has benefitted from the organisation’s investment fund is VSL Travel. VSL has it’s head office in Freetown.
“We are local experts who help other individuals and businesses plan their trips to and around Sierra Leone, be it for work, leisure or relocation. Some would see us as a travel agency but in reality the scope of our services go well beyond that,” Abimbola Carrol of VSL said. VSL was one of the SMEs selected last year for Cordaid funding.
“Sierra Leone needs more programmes such as this. This is exactly the kind of support SMEs need. I do believe SMEs need to be taught, coached and mentored,” he said. The finance provided, led VSL to increase it’s vehicle fleet and increase their ongoing marketing activities. They hope to repay in the following year.
Cordaid took the SMEs selected through a 12 month programme and provided support in critical areas like finance, legal and human resource.
FB Customised Wedding and Event is selected for 2016. Kumba Agnes Dugba graduated with a BA in English from Fourah Bay College. Six years ago she started her own business. “We are excited because it is going to make our dreams perfect,” she said.
Strengthening SMEs is the core of Cordaid’s Resilient Business Development Services (RBDS) programme. The RBDS programme is in line with the recovery priorities of President Koroma to address the post-ebola challenges. DFID and charity organisations have funded a micro-finance scheme for thousands of petty traders affected by ebola through the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The RBDS programme is over a year old. It was officially launched on the 1st September this year by Minister Allieu Pat – Sowe. The programme started during ebola. Sharron and members of Cordaid believe the private sector has the potential to grow the economy.
Sierra Leone has gone through war. The ebola outbreak negatively impacted on the economy. Cordaid wants to create access to finance for the private sector, providing training for businesses.
“Sierra Leone has everything for success, we just have to grab that, enhance it and make it work”, Sharron stressed. “And we want to help you to make that work.”