How Can We Empower Liberians to Enter the Grocery, Hardware and Building Materials Businesses?

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You have to give it to the Lebanese—and the Indians and Fulas, too. These people know business.

Their strength is not just counting—simple arithmetic. That is only one of their three positive attributes. The others are seriousness, focus and a passion for business.

So passionate are they that they religiously involve their children, nephews and other relatives.

Take Ghassan Rasamny, owner of Mamba Point’s Cape Hotel and son of Oldman Rasamny who started his grocery store down Waterside. Later, like Oldman Elias and others, Rasamny moved up town, entered the automobile business and became richer! He leased the King-Richards property across from the St. Teresa’s Convent where he opened his automobile show room and garage. So did Oldman Elias, who leased the property across from Monrovia City Hall, built a large building, opened his garage and began selling and servicing Toyota vehicles.

Other Lebanese moved to Bushrod Island, selling building materials and automobiles.

Amal Halim Ayoub, whose obituary The Inquirer recently carried, for many years ran a hardware and household supplies store down Waterside, near the Gabriel Tucker Bridge.

What next did he do? He moved up town and opened their first supermarket, Stop and Shop on Randall Street. The overwhelming success of that led them, a few years later, to open a second on Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor.

That is what good businesspeople do—they effectively and prudently (wisely, farsightedly) manage their businesses, however small. In the beginning they live frugally (economically), save their profits, then expand into other business avenues. These Lebanese did something else—they involved their sons and nephews in trading from their youth, growing up in the businesses and learning all the ropes. They are thus ready to take over and carry on, even expanding the business.

The Lebanese do one thing more—they help one another.

Can we say the same about Liberian businesspeople? No. We lack the passion for business, the patriotism—love for country and love for one another. We have got to learn and practice these positive attributes that have made these foreign businesspeople in our midst successful.

The question we continue to ask, as we have done in many previous Editorials is, WHO can help us to take seriously these attributes and steer us toward become daring, serious-minded, passionate and successful businesspeople?

Three answers: First, we can help ourselves by each of us becoming passionate and diligent about our business. Remember Solomon’s admonition: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings: . . . [and] not before mean men.”

When one succeeds in business, he or she becomes self-reliant, depending on no one for anything. One is able to afford the children a good education; to reach out and help others in need and society at large.

The second answer to who can help us: people who are already successful in business. But in our lifetime we have seen many highly successful businesspeople who kept their money to themselves and to their women and men. But how sustainable is that? Mean rich people fail to realize that when they die they leave everything behind, not knowing who will really benefit from their riches. They think their children, but see what many rich children have done with their inheritances. Many have sold their property or mortgaged it for 50 years, not knowing if even their grandchildren will ever see it again. Look around Monrovia and one will see what we are talking about.

Our third source of help is our government. Yes, it is our government that can help us Liberians to grow, develop and advance our businesses. Not this government, however, which has, with few exceptions, done little to encourage Liberians in business. Look what happened to one of the leading Liberian hoteliers, Sam Gibson, who was elbowed out of business. We are not saying that he was A-1 in business management, but he was denied the opportunity to expand because GOL gave the Robertsfield Hotel to a Lebanese businessman—George Abidjoudi—who had no experience in hotel management. Abjoudi’s only advantage was he had serious connections with the powers that be.

Until we can one day get a government serious about empowering Liberians in business, we have to help ourselves. Without any illusions, we better start doing so now.

7 COMMENTS

  1. To all Liberians, do not panic!
    Our professional doctors are at work to keep us safe.

    Dear Webmaster,
    Very good observations. You even left out many points.
    When Liberians come down to invest, they must be smart to join the “home boys or girls” lest they are bullied by our own customs and LRA officers. Why? Whenever the latter come around, those business owners must have the flair to give them their “lil” thing or else you would be checked or tormented regularly if you don’t have anyone in authority.
    When it’s a Lebanese or Indian or so, their bosses are directly in their pockets. No petty guy will stand before them to say nonsense or else s/he would be fired.
    Result: the Liberian government collects only 0.017% of taxes into government coffers and a meagre amount (also estimated at 0.001%) goes into the pockets of those corrupt collectors and bosses.

    On the other hand, Liberians too, have real problems to surmount. Let’s learn to make the decision to become businesspeople or decide to fairly hustle to travel to the USA.
    Most Liberians resolve to business when there is no stable job. And the first thousand bucks in the pocket usually rings the traveling bell in their heads. Consequently, many banks are afraid to easily give out loans to all Liberians; dodgy and unfortunately serious businesspeople. A high-risk premium is therefore placed on loans to Liberians, creating hurdles for small businesses.

    What to do?
    Many Liberians are not business minded. Create jobs and send our people to work. Most people considered businesspeople in Liberia are hustlers. Some may create business when there is a friend in government or in an organization who has promised to award them markets through biased bidding process.
    By the time job are created for most, the few business minded Liberians would have a disinfected environment with lower premium risk on loans.

    It is time we established a vibrant stock market in Liberia where people who cannot venture on the field can easily sit home and invest in stocks to create an impetus for Liberian businesses. In so doing, everyone benefits: the companies, the investors and the government. Ultimately, there will be transparency in management to the advantage of the government as company performances would be communicated on regularly basis.

    How do we get there?
    We can get there through a credible and clean leadership that the CDC cannot provide. The government of Liberia should be able financed some projects from the Liberian market through bonds. Can the CDC-led government launch one? No way. Who would like to burn their hard-earned cash in thin air?

    Governments don’t create jobs but create a sane atmosphere for job creation. An unpopular and unqualified government can never attract clean money.

    Cummings and ‘apologists’ are eagerly awaiting to provide 100, 000 jobs to Liberians within 90 days.
    We will NEVER embark on policies that have failed Liberia for over 170 years. We will create vibrant money and financial markets, a credible and reliable produce market, and embark on the transformation of some of our raw materials into semi-finished products. We will accomplish these through our upgraded human capital; education will be the bedrock of our leadership.

    We will recover at least 25% of all tax revenues and 100% of customs duties. We will constitute enough reserve funds for the country to stop being a beggar-nation. We will start the first fiscal year (2024) with a minimum annual budget of 2 billion. We will put Liberians to work and bring our people back from the diasporas.

    We can clean the ghost payroll lists in just 2 weeks and increase the meagre salaries of our civil servants to decent living incomes.

    We are fine with the emoluments of our representatives and senators. We will keep their earnings as they are. They are paid far BELOW that of their counterparts in the USA. Some anti-progressivists want you to believe our lawmakers are paid higher than those of the USA, far from the truth. It can NEVER be true on planet.
    In the future Liberia we envisage, janitors, the least paid in our administration and on government payroll, will earn USD$150.

    Think well and vote come October 2020 and 2023. We can deliver BIGLY.

  2. Corrections:

    By the time job are created for most,….. = by the time jobs……

    The government of Liberia should be able financed some projects……= the government of Liberia should be able to finance some projects………..

    It can NEVER be true on planet. = It can NEVER be true on planet earth.

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