Liberia’s new generation of entrepreneurial women helps revitalize the economy

Liberia is a country on the West African coast. It’s bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east.

Downtown Monrovia in 2009.
Photo by Erik Hershman via Wikipedia.

Covering an area of 111,369 square kilometres (43,000 sq mi), the nation has a population of about 4,503,000. English is the official language, but over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous tribes who make up more than 95% of the population. The country’s capital and largest city is Monrovia.

The Republic of Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS). They believed that former slaves would face better chances for freedom in Africa than if they stayed in the United States. The country declared its independence from the U.S. on July 26, 1847.

JET-Del cleaning crew. Photo courtesy: JET-Del.

One year ago, Odelia Acolyte founded JET-Del Housekeeping Services, a startup that aims to be the Jiffy Maids of Liberia.

With cleanliness and fighting germs on everyone’s minds following the devastation of the Ebola crisis, JET-Del is positioning itself as part of the solution.

Acolyte is part of a new generation of entrepreneurs helping Liberia recover, following the carnage of the outbreak and the country’s years-long civil war that ended in 1997. Focused on growing employment opportunities and filling market needs, these young entrepreneurs are emerging to help push the country toward economic sustainability and prosperity even while international aid organizations pack up and go home.

Liberian boy grinding sugar cane.
Photo by John Atherton via Wikipedia

For the betterment of this economy, which is already a fragile one, we need everyone to be empowered,” says Genevieve Tonia Paasewee, who owns a hair care salon, Paasewee House of Beauty, which has been in her family for three generations. Paasewee plans to modernize and grow the business and to export her family’s popular all-natural hair styling products to neighboring nations and beyond.

There is a lot of entrepreneurship in Liberia, and one of the reasons for that is because there are so few formal opportunities for young people to build livelihoods,” says Nate Crossley, program manager for the Prospects program at the aid organization Mercy Corps.

Mercy Corps offered Acolyte a $13,000 grant as part of the program for marketing and to help implement business systems, professionalize recruitment, and train her employees. “In some ways they are forced to be creative.

Feature photo courtesy of JET-Del Housekeeping Services.

See full Fast Company article by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

See JET-Del Housekeeping Services website.

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