4 December, 2007 – World bank accolade for Manchester entrepreneur's work in Liberia
Manchester entrepreneur Marilyn Comrie has received an achievement award from the World Bank and IMF Africa Society for her work with the Liberian Government.
Working with the World Bank and United Nations, Marilyn’s company Leadergen is helping Liberia to access funding from donor organisations and formulate a strategy to become a wealth-generating economy – with help from UK Trade & Investment.
Speaking after their first strategy-planning workshop, His Excellency Ambassador Wesley Johnson declared the partnership a defining moment in Liberia’s history.
Marilyn is CEO of Leadergen, a company formed three years ago to deliver coaching and mentoring services to business and government organisations.
A former senior BBC producer, Marilyn trained as a leadership coach in 2003. Leadergen is now one of the fastest growing businesses of its kind, with a range of high profile clients including the British Council, the Bank of Ghana several African Embassies overseas and the African Union.
However, it took a potential disaster last year to help Marilyn take a step back and re-evaluate her ambitions, leading to her groundbreaking work helping African countries to help themselves.
The company who hosted Leadergen’s website ceased trading, taking the site with it – and leading Marilyn indirectly to UKTI.
Leadergen already had some business overseas as a result of networking contacts, but Marilyn decided to take a more strategic approach and joined UKTI’s Passport to Export programme – partly motivated by the knowledge that the four day course and funding could help Leadergen build a new internationally focussed website.
Marilyn found the course inspirational. She says: "Losing my website became a springboard to taking the company in a new direction. I originally joined Passport to Export with the funding and website in mind, but the course really made me take a step back and look at my business afresh.
"I realised during one of the UKTI workshops that my contacts with key decision makers in Africa were one of our unique selling points and that I wasn’t making the most of them, and that very evening I went to an event where I met the Liberian Ambassador and was able to put ideas to him which led to our current collaboration."
Leadergen is now working closely with the Liberian Embassy in London and the Liberian Government in Monrovia to drive the country’s economic growth, mobilising agencies, the business and investment community, NGOs and the wider African diaspora living in the UK to help Liberia trade its way out of poverty.
As well as lobbying of donor agencies and the UK government for debt relief, Leadergen is helping to develop an effective communications strategy to promote Liberia, a country with great natural resources, as a destination for private investors.
Marilyn, who was among 200 of the UK’s most outstanding women recognised by the Queen at a special reception in Buckingham Palace earlier this year, adds: "After 20 years of conflict, Liberia has no financial reserves, and does not have the people available with the skills to help themselves draw down funding.
"Similarly, the EU, the World Bank and the UN have many different funding streams but need help to pro-actively go into countries in need and we hope to act as a conduit for this, accessing the funding and helping the Government in Monrovia to decide strategic priorities.
"As well as helping us change our focus, UKTI were extremely helpful in providing shortcuts to better help the country, and in opening up doors in the UN. As part of the Passport to Export course I attended a trade mission to the World Bank in Washington, USA, which was incredibly helpful.
"Yvonne Dale at the embassy set up meetings with the right people to help me release funds for Liberia, and UKTI’s network of contacts definitely enabled me to open up doors in the UN for my clients.
"Lyn Burgess, my International Trade Adviser here in the UK, is also extremely helpful and supportive and always goes the extra mile for me. I would not hesitate to use UKTI’s services again."
Lyn Burgess, International Trade Adviser for UKTI North West says: "I am delighted with Marilyn’s success and would like to congratulate her on winning this prestigious achievement award. Marilyn is one of the most dynamic people I have ever met.
"She is creative and has excellent networking skills, and is a great example of someone who has really taken on board the advice and help accessed from UKTI and gone from strength to strength as a result. We wish her all the best and hope to be able to work with Leadergen again in the future."
Marilyn is currently in discussions with the United Nations about delivering a set of training workshops for UNICEF staff next year.
Source: UKTI Press release