Ethiopia Has Little Iron Ore, Yet Is Manufacturing Trucks, Buses, Tractors… and Liberia?

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The world does not know it yet–at least this is not at the top of the news, but Ethiopia is speedily becoming   one of the world's emerging economies.

This oldest nation in sub-Saharan Africa, known only 20 years ago as a basket case, with millions of starving, emaciated children perilously hanging on to life at the mercy of donors, is today self-sufficient in food.  More besides, the country is growing maize (corn), which they do not eat, for export, and sugar, too, though much of their land is drought-afflicted.

How did all this happen?  The government had a vision that impoverished and backward Ethiopia could be turned around and made a more prosperous country.  Instead of putting the vision on the shelf, the government got to work, mobilized the people, trained them SERIOUSLY in every avenue of vocational and technical education and high technology and produced tens of thousands of engineers in all fields.  They trained their farmers and gave them the resources to become more successful at farming; and in the Ethiopian army alone there are more than 16,000 engineers.  This means the army is not just drilling and learning how to fight war; they are substantially involved in INDUSTRIALIZATION AND NATION BUILDING.

Does anyone remember our pre-Armed Forces Day editorial, in which we called on Defense Minister Samukai to train and put the soldiers to work in agriculture and road building?  That is what the Ethiopian army is doing–and much, much more.

And Liberia, this second oldest nation in sub-Saharan Africa? Liberia must protect it resources and use them for the Liberian people and not allow itself to be exploited by foreign interests. We must get busy adding value to our land and other resources to put ourselves on the international market as major players.  The empty holes left in the ground by former "investors" are ample reminder of what we need to do to protect ourselves and advance our own cause. Let those be the lessons that will make us wiser and stronger.

Just a few weeks ago the Daily Observer, in an editorial, warned the Liberian government and the Lofa people to leave Wologizi alone. We suggested that the next iron ore agreement Liberia signs should stipulate that a steel plant would be built in Liberia, so that we can start using our own iron to enter the manufacturing phase of development.  And we also pleaded with government to renegotiate all extractive concessions agreements, including rubber, with the aim of making use of our rubber for tires, gloves and other products for local consumption and export to other West African countries and beyond.

But unfortunately, we now see that the Lofa people seem to be softening on Wologizi.  A meeting called by Lofa students at the University of Liberia recently brought in many Lofa stakeholders and they were talking about ensuring that the Lofa people "got something" out of any Wologizi deal.  What this tells us is that they are prepared to give away Liberia's last remaining iron ore mine for promises that will never be fulfilled.  The Lofaians will start complaining just as the Nimba people are now complaining against Arcelor Mittal.

We hope that the people of Lofa and the Liberian government can see THE BIG PICTURE: save this last iron ore mine for steel manufacturing. This will allow more training and more employment for our people and put money into pockets of many more people in micro business enterprises, just as the Ethiopians have done.

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