Value Addition, Not Value Subtraction


By Togba-Nah Tipoteh

When I write for public consumption, I do my best to write in ways that any person who reads can understand what I write and explain it to at least most people who cannot read, who do not know book but are educated, being aware of where they come from and where they are going. In this Commentary, I am writing about value addition to show that it is of highest importance for improving the living conditions of the people, especially the poor, sustainably.

Value addition is about increasing the value of a resource by using it to make something that can be used locally, as in raising the value of education through the use of Liberian culture, and the manufacturing of furniture through the use of Liberian logs. The longstanding and widespread production of raw materials for export is the way of value subtraction rather than value addition because value is added abroad rather than locally. Whenever national leaders speak about resource shortage, they mean financial resource shortage, with the position that financial resource is the most important resource.

The illiterate but educated women of West Point, Monrovia, through their Organization, The Seven Sisters, know better because they say that the money or financial resource problem is not the problem. According to the women of West Point, bad management is the problem. The women of West Point are correct.  Give any person, who has no record of service in the interest of at least the vast majority of the Liberian people, who happen to be poor, a billion dollars and give any person who has a record of service in the interest of at least the vast majority of the people of Liberia a thousand dollars, the person with the one thousand dollars will work in the interest the people while the person with the one billion dollars will work in his or her own interest. All of this means that the number one resource is the human resource and not the financial resource, the natural resource and other resources.

What continues to happen in Liberia is the dominance of the position of national leaders who continue to engage in value subtraction rather than value addition and such engagement results in poverty generation rather than poverty alleviation. Foreigners continue to produce what we Liberians do not consume and we Liberians continue to consume what we do not produce. Foreigners in the Commercial Sector alone account for at least US$50 million monthly through engagement in employment and ownership, in violation of the Constitution of Liberia.

Placing the highest value on the human resource is done through the Liberianization of education, where education is based on Liberian culture rather than on western culture, as it continues to be based. The Liberianization of education gets students to know about Liberian problems and, therefore, get to know how to solve problems in Liberia.  With Liberianization in education, there is action for value addition rather than action for value subtraction. As there continues to be westernization in education, students, upon leaving schooling, become elected and appointed government officials and employees making decisions that promote value subtraction over value addition and the poverty generation syndrome continues.

This is the same poverty generation that became the pretext for the Civil War in Liberia that killed ten percent (300,000) of the population and destroyed billions of dollars of infrastructure, leaving a broken down economy with negative economic growth, zero economic growth and low economic growth, as the economy has not yet recovered to its pre-civil war level, while longstanding and widespread poverty increases the suffering of he vast majority of the population.  In the midst of this vexing situation, with the Liberian dollar shortage and the scary national security saga, the government and its foreign partners, are praising the government for exercising effective fiscal discipline and predicting a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 3.2 per cent for 2021.

This profit-oriented praise-based prediction is nothing new. Witness all of the praises during the Doe regime; yet, the Civil War came. Now, we are experiencing worsening social conditions and the praises continue. Just witness again the experience with the Corona Pandemic, with praise coming from the Wall Street Journal, in the face of the worrisome data: 20,000 tests in a population of nearly five million people; two testing centers operational in Monrovia and no testing centers any where else in Liberia; low awareness-raising; poor hand washing; poor mask wearing and even poorer social distancing, as seen in the commercial transport vehicles, religious houses, market places and other public places. The Truth of the matter is that the House called Liberia is on fire and our duty as citizens call for us to take non-violent actions to put out the fire, sooner than later. Let us do the right thing by raising awareness in ways that motivate people to take non-violent actions through their communities to put out the fire to prevent further violence and even another civil war.


  1. Professor, Dr. Tipoteh; Thanks! Very well said in layman’s terms. I hope your colleagues and fellow PhDs get the point. Your message is very well understood. After all, what good is the message; if the audience do not understand a word… The professor is absolutely right. Unless we begin to “add value” to our resources and stop shipping them as raw materials, we are forever doomed to poverty. In [REAL] business sense, we continue to give away our natural resources for very little or for nothing. Imagine, the price we pay for one ton of steel, compare to the price they pay
    us for one ton of Raw Iron Ore. Absolutely, there’s a big difference in their favor. Business demands that they add all of their costs to the finished product plus a handsome profit; for their investments. We, on the other hand do not have that choice. Not only should we produce goods in Africa; for exports. We should also love our own; just as others do. Bilateral trade should be given a real meaning. It should not be one sided. *Just as we provide raw materials; that create enormous amount of jobs for our trading partners, they too should be willing to give us raw materials that can be processed locally by our [OWN] work force. Instead of selling us finished/processed rice🌾, they should be sending us rice in the pods and let it be processed locally. They may sell us sugar, detergents… but let’s do the packaging locally.


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