Moving LIBA from Politics to Serious Business

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Ever since the recent revitalization of the Liberia Business Association (LIBA), it has made remarkable progress, especially in expanding its outreach and membership throughout the country.

In the past, LIBA was mainly Monrovia-centered. But since the incumbency of D. Maxwell Kemeyah as president, LIBA wasted no time in expanding its membership throughout the country. Within a year businesspeople in all 15 counties became full LIBA members, and were constantly engaged in consultations, conventions, meetings and training. As a result, LIBA started giving Liberians hope that they were on a trajectory (path) to real progress and empowerment.

This new, dynamic and inclusive LIBA gave Liberians hope that at long last, there had emerged an organization that would seriously and consistently look after the prime interests of indigenous Liberian businesses, in all parts of the country, toward expansion and development. They entertained the radiant hope that one day soon Liberian businesses and Liberians would play a greater and more substantive role in their own economy, instead of continuing to surrender it to foreigners.

But then politics, this hydra-headed monster, stepped in and for a good while almost disrupted LIBA’s operations. For a while all we could hear was news of the alliance between LIBA and the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), the political party started by Dr. J. Mills Jones, former Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.

For over three years political pundits (commentators) had been speculating that Dr. Jones was contemplating putting his hat into the 2017 presidential race. But all along he remained tightlipped about this. This speculation stemmed from the overwhelming success of the CBL’s microfinance program that had touched so many cooperatives, credit unions, savings and loans associations, market women and many other citizens at the bottom of the economic ladder. This program empowered these people and institutions in business and made many more self-sufficient and successful. It began to lift them out of poverty.

The market women particularly and all the other beneficiaries started hailing Governor Jones as their savior, because they said that never before in the country’s history had anyone infused government money directly into their welfare and making a serious difference in their lives.

Many, including, believe it or not, people in the very Liberian Legislature, immediately began speculating that this sudden burst of popularity might tempt Mills Jones to seek the presidency. Many of these legislators harbored their own presidential ambitions, whether or not some of them were truly presidential timber, or were able to muster the credible constituencies that could propel them to the Executive Mansion.

Yet these legislators soon became greatly concerned about what they perceived as the Mills Jones phenomenon and immediately, with the input of powerful people in the Executive Branch, began conceiving what became known as the Code of Conduct. And none of them rested until it was enacted into law, demanding that any Executive appointee, such as the CBL Governor, seeking any elective office should resign three years before contesting.

It remains to be seen whether this law, which most people perceive to be patently unconstitutional, will hold in the coming electoral season.

In any case, now that Kemeyah has resigned as LIBA president, and his vice president, David Sembeh, is now acting, LIBA will move forward to fulfill its lofty and laudable objectives.

Among these is to further empower each and every Liberian business to develop, expand and succeed.

This newspaper, the Daily Observer, has often urged LIBA, of which we are a full member, to do everything possible to remain FOCUSED on the important and urgent mission to which it has assigned itself. LIBA’s ultimate aim is one day to put the Liberian economy into Liberian hands, for so long as it is in the hands of foreigners, so long shall we Liberians remain dependent, deprived, poor and powerless in our own country.

We have pleaded with LIBA to do all it can to help Liberians enter the grocery business, the business that made the Lebanese rich, empowering them to move on to the automobile dealership, supermarket, real estate and the hotel industries. Now the Fula have followed with small grocery shops and moving themselves into big buildings.

LIBA should never again slip from its primary focus, for while we Liberians remain unfocused, other people are moving fast ahead.

We know that politics is important, but politics is not everything. Business is far more important. That is what has made Europe, the United States, China, India and other nations rich, prosperous and great.

We have urged LIBA to focus on empowering Liberian businesspeople up country, engaging in strategic studies and helping its members to open bigger and more modern shops, supermarkets, dry cleaning and up-to-date cosmetics enterprises and even agro-industries, such as piggery, poultry and eggs, processed chicken and even ham, bacon and sausages. The hotel and tourism businesses are other possible avenues.

Most of what we have been suggesting to LIBA has already been undertaken by one man in Nimba County—Tomah Seh Floyd. He has even ventured successfully into hotels, both in Sanniquellie and Ganta. And so far he is the only Liberian businessman with a wholesale store in Clara Town.

LIBA should not rest until more Toma Seh Floyds, Daily Observer’s Person of the Year 2016, are created throughout the country.

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