Our Work


Stimulate Youth Business Development and Employment in Liberia

Quick Facts SYBDEL

Duration 2013-2014
Financed by Chevron
Overall budget $300,000 ($200,000 SPARK; $100,000 International Youth Foundation)
Spent in 2014 – $ 41,793 ($ 23,106 expenses and – $ 65,078 correction 2103)
Objective To build the skills and capacity of Liberian youth entrepreneurs and contribute to an improved business environment in Liberia
Partners International Youth Foundation, Chevron, Business Support Centre Monrovia
Entrepreneurs trained 148
Jobs created 213
SMEs created 13
SMEs supported 136
Loans provided 13

In Liberia, SPARK began the final phase of the Stimulate Youth Business Development and Employment in Liberia (SYBDEL) programme this year. This project has been conducted in cooperation with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the Business Support Centre Monrovia (BSCM) and Chevron. Through the SYBDEL programme, a new BSC in Buchanan has been established, contributing to the Liberian SME support infrastructure.

Despite the Ebola crisis, the SYBDEL programme could contribute to an increase in employment, to an improved business environment and to the development of skills and capacity of the respective entrepreneurs. As a result of the programme, entrepreneurs were able to raise their average monthly revenue and employ additional staff. The Ebola outbreak had a negative impact on these achievements – revenues plummeted below pre-programme levels. Most of the additional employees have been laid off due to the epidemic, but the number of employees still remained slightly higher than before the programme began. The “Passport to Success” training, which focused on life skills and employability and was provided by the IYF, had mixed results, as not all participants completed the course and only a few found employment – which can be explained in part by the Ebola crisis.

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Kriterion Monrovia

Quick Facts Kriterion Monrovia

Duration Ends in 2015
Financed by Prince Claus Fund, BSC Monrovia
Overall budget Part of MFS II programme
Objective To establish a cultural platform in order to build the capacity of local youth
Partners BSCM, Accountability Lab, Blamasee Production, Prince Claus Fund
Entrepreneurs trained 1
Jobs created 72
SMEs supported 73

Other projects were in full swing at the beginning of the year. Kriterion Monrovia has been working to establish an art-house cinema in order to build the capacity of local youth and to provide training and inspiration to a wider audience. This Liberian NGO aims to be a platform where youth can express themselves and therefore enrich and strengthen Liberia’s civil society and democracy. An early highlight was the success of the Film Festival “Image of Liberia” in February, which provided Liberian filmmakers with a great opportunity to present their work. SPARK supported the film festival in collaboration with Young Urban Achievers and the Prince Claus Fund. Other activities of Kriterion Monrovia include free community screenings and film-related trainings offered by professional artists and in partnership with the Accountability Lab.

Branson Scholarship Programme

Quick Facts BSP

Duration 2014-2015
Financed by Virgin Unite, Humanity United
Overall budget $169,030
Spent in 2014 $ 93,582
Objective In order to improve the economic development and youth employment situation in Liberia, this programme supports existing SMEs through training and the facilitation of angel investments
Partners Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, Virgin Unite
Entrepreneurs trained 27
Jobs created 103
SMEs supported 15

The Branson Scholarship Programme (BSP) aims to contribute to economic development and youth employment by supporting SMEs with huge growth potential to develop and generate jobs and to help create an enabling environment and access to finance through angel investment. The BSP has been specifically designed to identify and support those SMEs that have the potential to grow substantially and employ a high number of people. As planned, a facilitator and 15 businesses have been selected in the first phase of the project. These entrepreneurs received their first advanced training at the Branson Entrepreneurship Centre in Johannesburg. They also used the trip to the Branson Centre for networking, which was described by participants as “an eye-opener”. An “Angel Investment Stimulation” workshop has been developed, and the Business Angel Network established. The Branson scholars started working on their business plans and participated in mentoring schemes.

SPARK continued to implement the MFS II programme in Liberia, an enterprise development programme that encompasses in total five countries. Section 4.4 describes MFS II in detail.

Working Under Ebola

Unfortunately, all of SPARK’s projects have been deeply impacted by the Ebola crisis, which fully reached Liberia in May 2014. The effect of Ebola on SPARK’s projects has been substantial, with most planned activities put on hold or adapted accordingly. Local medium-sized and small enterprises in affected countries play a major role both in assisting affected people and enabling markets to resume functioning. By investing in the recovery of their own enterprises and repairing broken supply chains, businesses help to get goods to affected people, reopen lines of credit and enable livelihoods to resume. SPARK recognised the importance of the contribution of local SMEs to the international Ebola emergency response, and therefore enabled SMEs to rebuild the affected lives in their communities with zero coupon debt loans. This programme, called SMEbola: Supporting SMEs in Times of Crisis, was rapidly developed in response to the crisis and provided capital and technical support to enable SMEs to scale up or modify their current business plans in order to rapidly respond to the needs of Liberia’s people during the time of crisis. In doing so, SPARK accelerated the collaboration of SMEs with aid agencies and other actors in the response to the crisis in order to build the resilience of SMEs and enable their recovery. Four entrepreneurs received a loan through the SMEbola programme until the end of 2014. Other Ebola-related activities focused mainly on awareness-raising campaigns, especially through Kriterion Monrovia and the BSCM. Besides this, support for SMEs was adapted in terms of a shift to online communications and coaching.

Kriterion Monrovia

A prime example of adaptability is the Kriterion Monrovia project. Under the leadership of Pandora Hodge, the Kriterion Monrovia team reacted quickly and turned their culture- and cinema-oriented activities around into an awareness outreach campaign called “Together we can STOP Ebola”. With a highly context-sensitive approach, they informed communities about Ebola and empowered them to recognise the first symptoms of the virus and prevent further infections. Furthermore, they distributed hygiene and preventive materials as well as food, water and mattresses for quarantined families. Kriterion Monrovia was able to reach remote locations where little to no information had been provided to villages. The team’s capacity, which SPARK helped to develop, enabled the student members to establish contacts and relationships of trust in the communities and allowed them to reach out to remote areas of Liberia. Through an online fundraiser and various other fundraising activities, Pandora’s team managed to raise close to $270,000 for the campaign, including funds from their main donor, the German organisation arche noVa, and others. This made Kriterion Monrovia’s Ebola awareness-raising project not only one with substantial impact, but also greatly contributed to student involvement in a time when schools and universities were closed, allowing them to continue youth entrepreneurialism while bringing relief to their country.

Branson Scholarship Programme

The BSP suffered severe constraints due to Ebola. The second planned training in Johannesburg could not take place, which would have provided participants with the opportunity to meet potential investors. The training in Monrovia has been continued, though mainly via means of online communication. Most of the operations of participating businesses had to shut down or be significantly scaled back. Despite the health crisis, the BSP was able to achieve a significant impact and it showed its ability to select high-growth potential SMEs; furthermore, Branson scholars engaged in Ebola awareness-raising campaigns. All supported enterprises increased their operations towards the end of the year again as the impact of Ebola began to diminish. As SPARK was able to prolong the contract with Virgin Unite, the entrepreneurs can be further supported in 2015 and outstanding activities can be completed.

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