SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba – The Ministry of Youth and Sports has concluded its second Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment Project Business Plan Competition, with three young entrepreneurs from Nimba emerging as winners over the weekend.
Held on the campus of the Nimba County Community College, the YEEP business plan competition was implemented by SPARK and funded by the African Development Bank. The overall project provides entrepreneurship, job readiness, and technical skills training opportunities for Liberian youths with a high school or college education.
With ten young entrepreneurs competing, Meilakeh Yah Suah of Sanniquellie-based Rural Women and Girls Promoters for Sustainable Development emerged as the top winner. Saclepea’s Jared K. Lankah, who operates Nimba Venture, took second place, and Kelvin Zumba of Yekepa’s Life Medicine Store was the third-place winner.
The top three winners will receive L$300,000 (US$1,500), L$200,000 (US$1,000), and L$100,000 (US$500) respectively in cash prizes to improve their businesses.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the competition, the manager of Nimba County Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center said he considered the second iteration of the competition to be much tougher than the first.
Joseph K. Mensah, Jr. said most participants were quite knowledgeable in entrepreneurship principles because they had already obtained their first degree.
Unlike with the first competition, where the presentation of the cash prizes to winners was delayed, Mensah promised that this year’s winners would receive their funds quickly to enable them to improve services at their respective business centers.
“Payment of the prizes for this competition will be far different from the first one,” he said. “We delayed giving the money to winners of the first competition because of the COVID-19 outbreak that banned the mass gathering of people. We couldn’t give them the money in secret; it needed to be done at a formal program. Though there might be constraints now, but we promise to give them their cash prizes soon.”
Using Singapore, China, and the United States as examples, Mensah said entrepreneurship was a driver of development in most countries. He promised that the third iteration of the competition would be launched shortly at the Nimba campus and encouraged young entrepreneurs across Nimba to enter what he called a free, fair, and transparent competition.
“It is difficult to find a job now in Liberia, and so the important thing young people can do now is to make themselves useful by seeing entrepreneurship as another career to help them achieve their life goals,” he said. “I am encouraging the youths in Nimba to take advantage of the Entrepreneurship Center on the campus to learn new skills that will make them productive.”
Meilakeh Yah Suah, the first place winner, said her victory erases the notion that women are lazy, as she was able to equally compete with males. She plans to use the cash prize to recruit an additional five sales agents, increase production, and improve on the packaging of their product. Her business, which is dominated by women, is a gari processing factory. Suah hopes her victory will serve as a wake-up call for other women in Nimba and Liberia.
Jared Lankah, whose Nimba Venture won second place, is involved in snail farming. He described the competition as the most transparent he has participated in and expressed gratitude to the organizers for the opportunity to participate and win.
Third place winner Kelvin Zumba of Life Medicine Store said he felt that those who placed ahead of him did not only present their plans but brought in new innovations that earned them such honors. He hoped more young Liberians would get involved with entrepreneurship to reduce their dependency on the government for employment.
Featured photo by Jerry Myers