7 October 2013
By Neil Coker in Liberia
Across West Africa there is a lot of interest from international investors who see a burgeoning market rising from the ashes of war. Coupled with the hyper-motivated entrepreneurial culture here on the ground, it makes for dizzying atmosphere.
There are whispers of opportunities everywhere. Jubilant introductory lunches and dinners happen daily. I’m forever haring off at short notice to inspect the site of some new proposal.
Every week I receive approaches from people who are convinced that their latest scheme is the one the market has been waiting for, the one that will make everyone rich and happy whilst giving back to the community – housing developments, malls, infrastructure, hotels and more.
The reality is, most of these proposals are doomed to failure from the outset.
For example, owning a plot of land with granite on it does not make one a proud quarry-owner. One also needs a rock crusher and vehicles. Some basic know-how will come in handy, as will customers.
This level of naiveté is prevalent and makes for interesting reading when proposals are submitted.
The optimism is encouraging but a dose of reality is needed. To date most proposals have been pulled together by people who think they can "wing it".
It is changing, though. People here are starting to understand that investors need some professionalism and transparency in the proposals they are being asked to fund. This is creating a role for experienced professionals to help deliver quality proposals that have a fighting chance.
Places like Liberia are opportunity-rich and cash-poor. For life-giving inward investment to start flowing properly, local entrepreneurs need to focus on acquiring technical acumen and basic commercial management.
I am enjoying the challenge of being a part of it all.
Neil Coker is a project manager with experience delivering projects in the UK, Middle East and Africa. He is now heading a niche construction delivery company in Liberia