By Professor Augustine Konneh, PhD
Dean of Graduate School, A.M.E. University
Last December, our nation emerged from a peaceful presidential election, not witnessed in the past 74 years, in which the incumbent Vice President and Standard Bearer of the erstwhile ruling Party, UP, His Excellency Joseph N. Boakai, conceded to His Excellency George Manneh Weah of the then opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). Moving forward, several major steps need to be taken to promote national unity, including electoral reforms, qualification of candidates, civility, tolerance, and putting the interest of Liberia first. Our hope is that the emergence of our new government will lead to the formulation of a progressive national socio-economic program, including poverty reduction, unemployment abatement, infrastructure expansion, education provision, healthcare and food security deliveries as briefly outlined below.
The overwhelming majority of Liberians are experiencing excruciating poverty. For example, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates that over 80% of the Liberian population is poverty-stricken in 2018. The effect of mass abject poverty is that many Liberians find it very difficult to survive. Hence, begging for assistance daily has become the way of life for some of our impoverished brothers and sisters. Urgent action through the provision of employment and living wages are required to address this national problem. Public Private Partnerships in labor force training, and job recruitment in public works projects such as road construction and sanitation can also address this problem in the short run.
The second area of intervention is the reduction of unemployment, which is currently estimated at about 95% of the population actively seeking jobs. Youth unemployment is particularly very high. This phenomenon is evident, for example, by the large number of young people roaming the streets of Monrovia, other cities, and communities throughout Liberia. Consequently, the crime rate is rising.
The third area of intervention is repairing the healthcare system, which currently has inadequate personnel, facilities, equipment, supplies and drugs. In addition, some existing health care facilities in the country need urgent repair. Sanitation and access to clean drinking water need to be addressed to address the risk of water borne diseases like typhoid fever and cholera.
Education is the fourth sector urgently needing our attention. Serious challenges facing education include untrained teachers, lack of instructional materials and equipment. Consequently, there was a recent mass failure in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and University of Liberia entrance examinations. These outcomes indicate the urgent need for massive investment in basic education, from K to 12 complemented by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and proficiency training for teachers nationwide.
The fifth issue, which is related to poverty reduction and health, is food security. Many Liberians now find it difficult to meet their food needs. And this is contributing to hunger deterioration of their health statuses. Food production programs, with the aim of making Liberians self-sufficient in their nutritional needs, are urgently needed.
The sixth area is the need to address the physical infrastructure which is characterized by inadequate roads, bridges, power, water and food storage facilities. Fortunately, the Weah Administration has committed itself to constructing roads throughout Liberia.
A key pre-requisite that Liberia must meet for national unity is the development of a patriotic citizenry that places the interest of the country first. Patriotic citizens must be fully and actively engaged in the affairs of the country, be grounded in its critical values including honesty, integrity, commitment, tolerance, respect for others, and hard work. Further, the patriotic citizens must develop skills urgently needed to develop the country as a new democratic and prosperous abode for all Liberians.
Another pre-requisite is the need for servant-leadership. Those who lead in government, the private sector, and the civic and religious spheres must consistently demonstrate a commitment to serving and promoting the interests of the people that they lead, rather than promoting their own interests. They must be willing to make sacrifices that will better the citizenry, the communities and the nation-state.
Finally, my fellow Liberians, Liberia now has an historic opportunity to unify for a progressive development that will lead to the building of a democratic and prosperous country that can be the envy of the world. But, this cannot be done simply by rhetoric. Instead, it will require that all Liberians at home and abroad combine their individual and collective efforts in contributing to national socio-economic development, as briefly outlined above. As our National Anthem guides us, “In union strong, success is sure. We cannot fail…. Long live Liberia, happy land, A home of glorious liberty by God’s command.” THANK YOU, AND HAPPY ’26’!