Horton Lecture Series Aims to Empower Liberians in Business

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The Governance Commission (GC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and the University of Liberia (UL) is expected to hold a three-day lecture series for the late Romeo Alexander Horton.
The upcoming lecture series is entitled, “Romeo A. Horton Lecture Series.” It will be hosted on the theme, “A Bold Approach to National Participation: Setting the Political and Economic Agenda.”
The lecture series, which will be held from June 25 to the 27 at the Monrovia City Hall, is expected to bring together stakeholders, among them, representatives from the Governance Commission, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as well as other high profile Liberians to be joined by their international partners. The stakeholders are expected to deliberate, and recommend policy options that would be included on the national economic agenda.

According to the organizers, it will subsequently lead to the enactment of legislation for ultimately addressing the issue of economic empowerment, and the development of Liberians in business.
The Series will also bring together some of Liberia’s best economists, legal practitioners, bankers and actors within the formal and informal sectors of the economy. They will be expected to share information and perspectives on issues affecting the economic empowerment of Liberians, and Liberian-owned businesses.
The three-day symposium will at the same time, mitigate the thorny issues that adversely affected the development of a strong Liberian entrepreneurial sector during past administrations, i.e. lack of transparency and coordination, insufficiency of funding, and an inadequate research infrastructure.
In a statement quoting Professor Amos Sawyer, Chairman of the Governance Commission,  organizers said, “The issues affecting Liberian-owned businesses, mostly based in the informal sector, have discouraged them from entering the private sector, which they perceived as the exclusive preserve for non-Liberians, and therefore, not an attractive occupation for them.”
The conclusions from the lecture series would be used to formulate a coherent set of policy recommendations that will be submitted to the government for appropriate legislation to be enacted for their implementation.

Meanwhile, A. Romeo Horton (1923-2005), in whose honor the Lecture Series is to be held, was the founding Dean of the College of Business and Public Administration at the University of Liberia; founder and former president of the National Bank of Liberia—now Central Bank of Liberia (CBL.)
Mr. Horton served as an Assistant Economic Advisor to Liberia’s 18th President, William V.S. Tubman, and rose through the ranks and became the first secretary of Commerce, Industry and Labor.
In addition to being the founder of the National Bank of Liberia, Mr. Horton was of the principal architects and brain behind the establishment of the African Development Bank (ADB), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS’) Fund where he served as its first managing director.

Early Life
Romeo Alexander Horton (1923–2005) was an American-Liberian and also a civil servant, who was born to Reverend Daniel Horton and Ora Milner Horton in Monrovia-Liberia.
 Horton began his education at the Ricks Institute in Virginia under the tutelage of his father who was the principal. Horton’s father transferred to the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) specifically to the Agriculture Department where he enrolled and graduated his eighth grade class in 1937.

Liberian Businesses
There were several attempts by past and present administrations to assist Liberians enter and sustain themselves within the business sector.
In 1960, President Tubman initiated a US$1 Million Loan Guarantee Program through the then Bank of Monrovia (formerly Citi Bank) for Liberians to participate in the economy.
President Tolbert, in the 1970s, identified 17 businesses to be targeted and set aside for Liberians.

The National Investment Commission Act of 1976 included a provision that 25 percent of concession agreements signed with concessionaires would be held by Liberians.
The operational function of then National Bank of Liberia also provided credit guarantee program for Liberians.
In the 1980s, former President Samuel K. Doe, following in the footsteps of President Tubman, set aside US$ 1 million to assist Liberian businesses.

In the 1990s, Prof. Amos Sawyer, then Chairman of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), increased the number of Liberian businesses to be nurtured and protected from 17 to 26.
The current Administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf enacted a number of legislation to promote Liberian businesses. They include the Public Procurement and Concessions Act (PPCC) with provision of a Margin of Preference (MOP) for Liberians; the 2010 Investment Incentives Act set asides thresholds to promote Liberian entrepreneurs as well as Small and Medium Enterprise Act; the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS); Vision 2030; Lift Liberia and The Agenda for Transformation.

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