A local businessman and entrepreneur has urged Liberians to focus or give more consideration to entrepreneurship over politics if the high level of poverty that overwhelmed the country is to be reduced or eliminated—noting that the country has a vast potential for a vibrant business sector or for businesses to boom.
Mr. Edwin T. Johnson, who deals in Charcoal business, indicated that the only way Liberians can take control of their economy and stop being spectators in their own economy, as President George Weah earlier said, is to exert more energies in entrepreneurship and forget about too much politics that is practically dividing the country and its people on a daily basis.
Johnson is currently the project manager of the Liberian Coal Project (LICOP), a 100% Liberian-own charcoal business entity, operating in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.
LICOP is engaged in purchasing a large amounts of charcoal from producers and empowers others who wants to venture into similar business through contractor agreements.
Johnson, who also happens to be the Governor of the Dey tribe in Liberia, noted that the Liberian state is politically polarized, a trend that has kept the country underdeveloped and backward since independence and there is a need for a paradigm shift with more investment in businesses and education in commercial activities.
During an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer recently at his residence in Kpekor, Brewerville, lower Montserrado County, Mr. Johnson said: “I want to appeal to the many Liberians out there to let us try to get involved in business. Even if the money is small, use it to establish something for yourself,” Johnson said. “Your effort and sincerity will make you achieve more. Let us leave these politics and focus on the development of our land and our future.”
This ideal, he believes, should be supported and driven by the country’s leadership that wants to see its people emancipated from the grips of abject poverty.
“We as a people need to forget about this too much politics and focus on business. Our leaders need to drive this vision and we all will see where our country will be headed in the next few years,” he noted.
Mr. Johnson also stressed the need for Liberians to develop the passion for business; which he said will positively help to improve the country’s economic and social standards of living.
Speaking on the establishment of LICOP, Johnson said he got his start in the charcoal business in 1993 when it was introduced to Kpekor by a group of Fulani.
“My interest in the charcoal business started in 1993 when a group of Fula people came and bought a forest from our people in the Kpekor community. I and few of my colleagues started learning the process by helping the Fulani whenever they were doing production,” he said.
Johnson explained that he analyzed and came to a realization that approximately 99.9% of the country’s population used the product on a daily basis; therefore, he deemed it necessary to have such an establishment in the country.
Energy consumption in Liberia is dominated by biomass with a share of more than 80% of the used primary energy sources, according to Energypedia’s situational report on Liberia’s energy status. Most important is woody biomass being used for domestic cooking and heating.
Energypedia is a wiki-based platform for collaborative knowledge exchange on renewable energy and energy access in the context of development cooperation.
In 2004, according to the platform, it was estimated that over 95% of the population depends on firewood and charcoal for cooking and heating needs and palm oil for lighting.
The most recent Census (2008 data, published in 2009) shows that 70% of the urban population use charcoal for cooking and 5% of the rural population; 91% of the rural population use firewood for cooking and 21% of the urban population.
In Monrovia, the percentage of households using charcoal is even higher, 85%. Around 2% of the population has access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking (World Bank, 2014).
It was out of this acute shortage of power for domestic use that Johnson established LICOP. The charcoal industry serves as a critical source of domestic fuel for households and has since turned into a vibrant and booming business, albeit to the detriment of the environment considering the severe impacts of climate change.