Mr. John B.S. Davies III, President of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), has told graduates of the University of Liberia (UL) College of Business and Public Administration to reclaim the Liberian economy by creating opportunities for themselves through entrepreneurship rather than simply relying on jobs, which he said are now in limited supply in the private sector.
“Today we witness a different dynamic in time. Supply of men and women on the job market seems to quadruple the demand quite strangely,” said Mr. Davies when he delivered the commencement address at the college’s graduation yesterday.
More than 1,000 students received bachelor degrees in economics, public administration, accounting and management.
Mr. Davies spoke on the topic “Relevance of business education in the roll out of our post war reconstruction program as encapsulated in the agenda for transformation.”
He said less than 10 percent of business graduates are business owners and self-employed with the capability to employ others.
“This situation has to change if many more youth must be encouraged to embrace education as the path to what in the words of the late Professor Joe Weatu Elliot, former chairman of the [UL] management department, who said ‘critical thinking and analytical reasoning are the necessary ingredients for emancipation from mental slavery and intellectual decadence,”’ Mr. Davies said.
He said that the college was founded to provide the necessary training that would be required to build the country’s succeeding generations of business leaders and entrepreneurs, to provide the springboard from which the economy will be well within the control of Liberians and to serve a catalytic role in the tedious task of wealth creation and labor employment for the capable young people of the nation who have shown to deserve a chance.
Reflecting on his time at the university dating back seventeen years ago when he and more than 400 others graduated from the college, the guest speaker said it was not lost on them that the university was perceived as the institution with the three Ds—difficult to enter, difficult to pass through and difficult to exit successfully.
“The attrition rate was more than 50%, but in fairness to our days, the assimilation rate in the job market was also higher than 50%,” he recollected. “The University was seen as that great beacon of hope. The hope that being a truck loader in the Free Port of Monrovia or a gasoline seller by jars along the streets of metropolitan city of Monrovia, or even a peanuts or cookies seller, as some of us in college managed to do as a means of getting by, were only temporary chores intended to keep you out of financial troubles while keeping your prime focus on your school work,” he added.
Davies said those were the days when one’s ability to land the dream job of his/her expectations lay in his/her hands, adding, “The incentive to be better at every opportunity was far too appealing to spend time in needless idleness and indolence.”
Mr. Davies proffered two recommendations, saying, “It is about time that we review our programs and products from the job market demands perspective rather than the academician perspective; we must find resources to strengthen the business intelligence and research arm of the College of Business.”
Speaking earlier, the Dean of the College, Associate Professor Geegbae A. Geegbae said the university received a grant of US $400,000 from the World Bank for capacity building.
“The main objective of the project was to upgrade the accountancy program of the department to meet international standards with the following deliverables satisfactorily met,” he said.
He said the grant served the purpose of developing the college faculty through faculty visits to the University of Michigan to improve teaching by strengthening faculty capacity, revamped the undergraduate and graduate accounting degree curricula, setting up of a modern computer laboratory, the purchase of text books and the provision of foreign scholarships.
For his part, the valedictorian of the graduating class, Genesis B. Kollie, reminded his fellow graduates to make use of their individual comparative advantage, stating, “Fellow graduates, let us know that everyone of us has comparative advantage that we can make efficient and effective use of.”
“If you studied accounting, your comparative advantage is in accounting; if you studied economics, your comparative advantage is in economics; if you studied management, your comparative advantage is in management; and if you studied public administration, your comparative advantage is in public administration,” he urged.
“By identifying our comparative advantages, we, the microcosm of our larger society, will identify our potential, and we would always have better outputs, qualitatively and quantitatively.”