By Rufus S. Berry II, MBA
After over 170 years of independence, I’m in total agreement with President Weah that the time has come to effectively transform our nation. We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. We need to transform our nation in making critical and informed decisions, negotiating contracts and concession agreements that benefit the country and people, control spending, eliminate waste, improve infrastructure (Roads! Roads! Roads), create jobs, develop the agriculture and agribusiness sectors, effectively combat corruption, and change the people’s mindset about work ethic and the importance of hard work.
We as Liberians must make Africa’s oldest independent nation and one time the beacon of hope for Africa – Africa’s Shining Star Again by identifying priorities, define and implement them, and not to be reactionary to the politics of the West and their aid or handout. The West, especially the United States under President Donald Trump has aggressively pursued his “America First” agenda, the agenda to “Make America Great Again.” Now is the time for us as Africans and Liberians to work together as one people in order to make Africa and Liberia great.
As Africans, we urgently need to scale up policies that spur democracy, creating the enabling environment to build prosperity in Liberia, West Africa and Africa through concrete priorities such as job creation, regional integration, and economic engagement
In pursuit of his objective to make Liberia Africa’s Shining Star Again, by massive infrastructure development, especially roads that will connect all of the counties, the President decided to obtain loans from non-western – non-conventional sources as others would say. I could be off the mark on this matter, but I strongly believe that if the President had not made the effort with Eton and EBOMAF, or negotiated with Lucifer’s Nephew, as others would say, perhaps the World Bank and others weren’t going to agree in principle to make the US$500M available for national development projects, including roads construction in the southeastern part of the country. So perhaps, the President’s strategy, intentional or unintentional, was successful and should be commended.
According to the United Nations, young people account for about 65 percent of Liberia’s population of 4.5 million. Youth unemployment is estimated as high as 75 percent, and perhaps 65% of the registered young voters voted for President George M. Weah. Simple math says that, with Liberia having one of the youngest populations in the world, the country has a shortfall of tens of thousands of jobs that need to be created to fulfill the President’s Pro-Poor Agenda, Pro-Jobs creation, Pro-Liberian Investment agenda. As a result, the government urgently needs to create policies and implementation plans that will allow for a more competitive private sector that favors business growth, job creation, and the stimulation of Liberian economies—such as sound fiscal and monetary policies; good governance, transparency, and strengthened judiciary systems; an improved investment climate, and reduced corruption. In particular, long-term investment in the private sector, the infrastructure and manufacturing industries, and agriculture will address food insecurity and create the necessary employment opportunities for Liberian youth. With the massive failure in the recent edition of the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), we urgently need to start contemplating boosting incentives to improve the quality of education which will also be key to producing a skilled workforce.
With the overwhelming majority of Liberia’s concession agreements not in the country’s favor or compliant with its laws, the future of Liberia depends more on what Liberia will negotiate and not on what Liberia deserves from current and future investors and agreements. Our leaders must actively seek and negotiate commercial and trade engagements that will be in the interest of the country and directly benefit the Liberian people. We must and should protect Liberia’s interest in all current and future agreements.
Making Liberia Africa’s Shining Star again requires us to drastically reduce or even eliminate aid dependency and facilitate massive investment in feeding ourselves. Agriculture! Agriculture! Agriculture! We as a nation cannot and will not achieve self-determination, if our most basic human right – food – is controlled and determined by others and where we import 90% of our food. Liberia can be Africa’s Shining Star again if we have food sovereignty and independence. This can be achieved with massive investment in agriculture and proactively giving agricultural subsidies to our farmers, which the United States and Europe pour on their own farmers. A recent example is President Trump’s administration announcement that they would provide $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers who will be impacted by the escalating trade war between the United States and several countries including China and Mexico.
We need to invest in ourselves, feed ourselves, as well as support and educate ourselves in order to secure our position as a prosperous and strong nation. A new Liberia where there is equal opportunity for all; where our modern educational system, health care delivery system, science and technology play an important role in bringing glory for the nations in Africa and the global arena.