Truth be told, Liberia is probably not on anyone’s list of countries to visit in the near future. Recovering from years of civil war, the embattled country is facing another huge challenge as it battles the Ebola Virus Disease, reportedly heaviest hit in the way of casualties with efforts to curb the spread still far from implemented.
One must wonder; can businesses thrive in such an atmosphere? Who but the bravest would venture to express their entrepreneurial streak? Well, when the going gets tough, the tough do get going!
What industry would flourish in a country in the process of rebuilding itself? Construction, I think, and what resources are utilised in construction? Amongst others, wood of course is most vital. Enter the Liberia Woodwork Construction and Trading Company, enter Fatu Addy.
The Liberia Woodwork Construction & Trading Corp is a fully owned Liberian business that has been in existence since 1988 and has been managed by entrepreneur Fatu Addy for 10 years. According to its website, being passionate about quality woodwork has enabled them survive and thrive through the midst of Liberia’s internal turmoil.
To quote, “We suffered like many others from devastation and destruction to our premises but this did not deter us. We have primarily always funded ourselves drawing from resources that we generate. Our goal is to continue to provide uncompromising commitment to the quality of our products largely keeping in mind affordability.”
One of the handful of women entrepreneurs in Liberia, Fatu Addy’s corporation specializes in the manufacturing of customized home, office, school furniture, wooden doors, plywood doors, door frames, wooden strips etc. that are qualitative and affordable.
Their wood is sourced from the local redwood, and in keeping with the theme of sourcing materials and manpower locally, the woodwork is made by Liberian carpenters.
A member of the Liberian Women Entrepreneur Network [LIWEN] -an initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the World Bank Institute (WBI), (by the BNPP),- Fatu Addy’s challenges include understaffing due to a dearth of skilled carpenters.
“Because of the longevity of the war, vocational centres were all destroyed, so most of the people who have the training and skills to succeed are much older and thus retiring…through this network [LIWEN], I hope to be able to build the capacity of the younger generation of Liberians with limited resources.” Fatu Addy stated at the LIWEN launch in the capital city of Monrovia.True to her words, the Liberia Woodwork Corporation has offered and continues to offer free training and internships to students and young people in the community.
True to her words, the Liberia Woodwork Corporation has offered and continues to offer free training and internships to students and young people in the community.
Fatu Addy is also on the board of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa whose mission is to promote holistic transformation in Africa by facilitating equal access to opportunities in all spheres of influence. Its vision is a peaceful and reconciled Africa that recognizes and utilizes the skills and talents of all, regardless of gender and ethnicity.
One of its programs on education is the African Girls Leadership Institute [AGLI] which provides scholarships, internships and mentor-ship to prepare students for opportunities in the formal employment sector.
So while it may be healthy to give Liberia a wide berth in these trying but hopefully fleeting times, it would be wise to heed a popular African proverb; ‘Don’t throw away the baby with the bath water.’
The next time you cite the economies and policies of your country as the reason you have not worked that dream to reality, imagine what Fatu Addy, Saran Kaba Jones and other Liberians would think!