The Liberian Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector experienced a significant decline in performance during the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak. Business closures or downsizing were very frequent over this period. Similarly, BRAC Liberia Microfinance registered a significant increase in missed repayment rates, particularly among borrowers of its Small Enterprise Program (SEP). By March 2016, 14% of SEP clients had missed at least one repayment, up from 7% in January 2014. Understanding the impact of interventions targeting MSMEs performance is thus important from a policy perspective. Improving management skills, and in particular customer care skills - that is, the ability to communicate effectively with customers, to be polite, helpful and welcoming, thus adopting a "customer first" mentality - seems a particularly promising avenue: the Ebola outbreak was characterized by a dramatic reduction and aversion towards social interactions at all level of society. However, interacting with customers is an important part of the daily operations of typical MSME owners in the retail or service sectors. The study is intended to assess the feasibility of alternative approaches to business management skills training for MSME owners in the post disaster period. The MSME Division together with its partners already trained 50 firm owners in areas related to customer service, business planning, access to finance, procurement, marketing and accounting services during 2014, among other interventions. The government of Liberia thus has a strong interest in understanding how to best enhance business performance through business training interventions.
Project leader: Aisha Nansamba
Scientific mentors: Ana Dammert
Policy outreach mentors: Bill McGill Jones
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