Liberia: Five Things that President Boakai Must Do to Be Counted as One of Liberia’s Most Consequential Presidents

Presidents Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Joseph N. Boakai and William V. S. Tubman

Presidents have come and gone, and we can have debates about their long term impact on the population. However, there can be no doubt that only a handful of Liberia’s past Presidents have been so consequential to have left legacies that we can still point to well after they are gone.  Among them, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the nation’s first President who helped birth a nation and braved the landscape of colonialism all around the African continent, and William V.S. Tubman, Liberia’s longest serving President (1944-1971), and despite his flaws, who undoubtedly helped to modernize Liberia through major infrastructure development, that we are still benefiting from today. 

Joseph Nyuma Boakai now has the opportunity to be as or even more consequential and leave a legacy that generations of Liberians will benefit from long after most of us have departed this earth.  The following are five things that Boakai can do that will leave his long lasting legacy:


Expand the output from the Mount Coffee hydro-electric dam and increase its power generation capacity, as well as build additional upstream reservoirs to hold water in the raining season for the dry season when water levels in the mighty St. Paul River drops. Also ensure the construction of the much talked about 30 megawatt solar plant at the Hydro site to increase power generation in the dry season. Continue to invest in the ongoing regional power integration and power trading schemes.   Electricity is the engine through which the nation’s entire development flows.

Transformational “Liberty Corridor” multi-user rail to port system 

This much talked about infrastructure project that was announced by the Government of Liberia, HPX, and Guma Africa Group to build a new parallel rail line from Guinea, in the current Yekepa to Buchannan rail access way towards a newly constructed deep water port is one project that could take Liberia into global markets like none other.  The jobs such a project will create, the opportunities for Liberian contractors and service providers, the integration of fiber optic expansion, roads and electricity; the inclusion of passenger, freight and other services on the rail corridor is promising for Liberia’s future development. Not since the initial construction of the current Yekepa to Buchanan Port railroad built by the Liberian-Swedish joint venture mining company LAMCO, well over 50 years ago, has such an infrastructure project been completed in Liberia.

Paved Road from Monrovia to Cape Palmas 

The last two Presidents promised to make accessing the Southeast a reality and they did not. The opening of the Southeast which is usually cut off from the rest of the country during the raining season, leading to an increase in the price of basic commodities and undue hardship to the citizens of Rivercess, Grand Kru, Sinoe, Rivergee and Maryland Counties is unacceptable.   The adverse impact on trade, agriculture, limited or no service delivery by government and NGOs at times is devastating to the Southeast region.  Some may argue why should Joseph Boakai be the President to open the road to the Southeast, when they did not vote for him, and when he is from Lofa.  Our response is because he is the President! That very question is why his doing so will make him a consequential President. It also portrays the President as a Statesman above par and not petty. 

Re-establish the Agriculture Bank 

One of the impediments to agriculture is a lack of funding for the sector and  investment. Government’s own budget is embarrassing to say the least. Liberia relies heavily on donors to make grants that support processing and packaging of locally produced agro products.  If those entrepreneurs making the effort are to ever expand, then they need real long term financing.  Agriculture, unlike trading, cannot survive on short term money with high and predatory interest rates on loans.  It cannot survive on meager budget allotments. It cannot survive on donor programs that often limit and targets funding to what the donors themselves identify as their own priorities. Farmers need access to real and available capital to invest in their farms, increase production, purchase well needed tools and other farm inputs such as seeds and organic fertilizers. Liberia is not going to be able to feed herself unless a bank that is fully dedicated to the sector and well capitalized is active again. The commercial banks with short term money cannot adequately invest in Agriculture, which requires longer term financing solutions. President Boakai should immediately introduce legislation creating this bank and codify into law permanent avenues of financing for the sector.

Restructure the Civil Service System and Ensure Merit-based Hiring Across Government 

Government should not continue to be a dumping ground for political patronage in its hiring process. Party Chairmen and Partisan hacks should not be allowed to just send a list of partisans to a Ministry or Agency of Government to have payrolls padded with persons who are both unqualified and have nothing to do, but just sit around or barely show up for work, because there are no actual job functions.  This clearly results in inefficient, dysfunctional and bloated government.  Not to mention the undue burden on the Government with a hefty wage bill.  A merit-based civil service system is something Liberia desperately needs. At minimum, our civil servants should possess minimum basic skills required for their job functions. The days of padded payrolls with ghost employees should end under Joseph Boakai so that Liberia can boast of a productive and resourceful civil service corps. It is encouraging that the Boakai administration’s first draft budget shows signs of thrift and sacrifice even at the highest levels of government, while expanding budgetary appropriations to key sectors that have often been shorted. 

These five things will make President Boakai, one of Liberia’s best and most consequential Presidents. 

We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the need for a leaner and cleaner justice and rule of law regime, on which all of the above major national developments hinge. It is indeed encouraging that the President is rolling this out — albeit through a multidimensional approach — as part of his ARREST agenda. This is key!