Liberians everywhere can take great pride in last week’s announcement by the Tony Elumelu Foundation that it has selected two young Liberian for its 2017 Entrepreneurship Program.
Why? Because the two Liberian entrepreneurs, Menekenu Waritay and Michael Pewu, have been selected from among a staggering 93,000 applicants from 55 African countries! The average Liberian is quickly asking the question, “Da smor tin dat?” meaning, “Is that a small thing?”
No, by any standard, it is not. This spells hope for a country whose economy is totally in the hands of foreigners, leading the German Ambassador a few years ago to tell Commerce Minister Miata Beyslow, “Liberians are not entrepreneurial.”
Why? Because the Ambassador noticed that mostly foreigners were manning businesses in the country and Liberians were still trading dokafleh (used clothes) bitter-ball and pepper. The means of production and distribution (wholesale and retail) were firmly in the hands of foreigners.
This newspaper has long urged the University of Liberia, Cuttington and other universities to introduce entrepreneurial training in their curricula. At the onset of his administration, Dr. Emmett Dennis, with encouragement from no less a person than Alexander Cummings, a Liberian and now former CEO of Coca Cola International, started an entrepreneurial training program.
During his administration as president of Cuttington University, Dr Henrique Tokpa introduced a vibrant entrepreneurial program. The Sierra Leonean Vice President, who was commencement speaker one year, embraced this program and vowed to introduce it to universities in his country.
We understand that the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU), under the leadership of President Joe Isaac, has also recently introduced an entrepreneurial program.
The Daily Observer has also urged our elementary and high schools to introduce entrepreneurial training to their students, from sixth grade onwards. We have often stressed the URGENCY of this training, for things have GOT TO CHANGE if ever we will and must rise up from our poverty and powerlessness in our own rich country.
All Liberians must encourage these two young Liberians, Waritay and Pewu, who had the courage and determination to participate in this great program initiated by one of Africa’s leading and most innovative entrepreneurs, the eminent and most successful banker, Tony Elumelu.
Immediately after this program was announced, the Daily Observer wrote an Editorial encouraging and urging young Liberians to participate. We are happy that several did, and most appreciative and proud that two of them won!
Waritay has already shown signs of great innovative and intuitive initiative. He makes T-shirts of all kinds and uses scrap metal, including used offset printing plates, to manufacture freezers.
All of us, along with our government, especially the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which happens to be headed by another young man, Axel Addy, should extend a hand of encouragement to Waritay and Pewu and follow them consistently until they succeed in their innovations and win great approbation from the Elumelu Foundation and beyond, including, of course, the marketplace.