In business, as in politics, “yes-men” are among the worst groups of people from whom a leader could solicit advice. They are people that play it safe-never thinking outside the box to challenge the assumptions of a thin-skinned “chief-bossman”-as Liberians are accustomed to calling people in power, even for screwing up, as many have done so far, considering the current dire state of affairs. Challenging Liberian politicians for many ordinary citizens is equivalent to a punishable “social crime,” only because they dared inadvertently hurt the feelings of a thin-skinned “chief-bossman” by questioning his behavior and/or actions, which did not square with the facts. Despite the boastfulness of their educational level, many Liberian politicians are just not trained in handling personal issues differently from dealing with the people’s business.
Essentially, the self-pitying ones have a terrible habit of treating their job functions and responsibilities as if they were similar to a husband-wife quarrel at home from which they expected sympathy from friends and relatives. On that continuum, they switch gears to expecting sympathy from “yes-men” subordinates. Hey, Liberian politicians, the purpose of your job is to perform with positive outcomes hopefully, not necessarily to be liked. People do not have to like you as much as your ability to perform, which in turn aligns people behind your intent if it was any good and rewarding.
Liberians by nature are security-seekers, not risk-takers, which explains why corrupt individuals swindle the public coffers of much-needed funds and siphon them off to offshore accounts for safekeeping, rather than making domestic investments to create job opportunities for the many unemployed. One would think that with so much boasting of advanced degrees in economics, for example, many would apply common sense to the difference between investing to enjoy a better return on their investment(s) than settling for a meager 5% annual interest gained on their foreign deposits. Imagine the huge loss of purchasing power of liquid cash by which Liberians measure net worth, during a recession, for instance.
A million dollars in an account in a country experiencing serious inflationary pressures will remain a million dollars, but not its purchasing power/value, which would be reduced by the percentage of what that pressure was. If, for instance, a Liberia Minister of BS Affairs realized his savings account wasn’t growing at the same rate as inflation in a particular country at a JP Morgan, HSBC, Deutsche, Barclays, Lloyd’s Banking Group Citi, it meant he was effectively losing money, which could have grown much faster in Liberia had he/she invested in any number of businesses that catered to the numerous demands for consumer goods that outpace supply and availability.
After all, the banks mentioned above were among the many whose stock value plummeted considerably on 9/21/2020 after a US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network reported 2,100 money laundering schemes amounting to more than 2 trillion dollar fund transactions from 1999-2017. Did the reporting of these illicit transactions by the US mean that something big was about to be uncovered for leaders of third world countries, including Liberia, many of whom had parked their ill-gotten funds at those and other financial institutions promulgated by the reports! Is a major investigation in cooperation with Transparency International about to take place?
The security-seeking, non-risk-taking dynamic is a contradiction quite difficult to comprehend; that is, Liberian politicians of fortune have a bad habit of pretending to attract foreign investments, amid choosing to transmit their ill-gotten loots to Europe and the US for safekeeping. How is thatsuppose to calm the nerves of potential investors, who might conclude that if Liberia was not a safe bet to protect the assets and wealth of local politicians, it definitely could not serve as a safe investment hub for foreign investors? Come on people, are you that limited in your thoughts in believing that potential foreign investors are too ignorant to recognize how rampantly corrupt Africa/Liberia is. Are they that dumb not to be clued in on the uncontrollable capital flight that burdens
More so, for all of those supposedly smart Economic Advisers circling Mr. Weah, when will they begin to think outside the box of limitations that Liberia’s economy ain’t going a damn place but remaining in neutral until there is the recognition that a trained workforce in technical skillset, not liberal arts, is that country’s meal ticket to jobs, employment and hopefully a robust economy. Based on observation at social gatherings and similar outlets, the majority of Liberians—but mainly men with a college degree in economics—a dismal social science and business administration, for example, strongly believe that a successful Liberia needs nothing more than a bunch of paper-pushers, sitting behind desks evaluating feasibility studies all day, without recognizing the necessity of experienced hands to implement rewarding projects.
It is as if the entire nation will succeed if it depended on people deriving public policies at the conceptual level, without regard for technocrats—operational types, to do the analyses, followed by tactical individuals to implement them. Seemingly, no Liberian calling him- or herself a “development expert” has recognized, much less cracked the “escape hatch code,” which suggests that in a struggling economy as Liberia’s, manufacturing, underlined by workforce investment and training in skilled industrial trades, vocational education, and apprenticeship programs is the top requirement that attracts foreign investors. Come on, if an American investor was interested in building a manufacturing facility in Liberia, that firm would likely bring in its senior accountants and administrators, but might buck at bringing in skilled labor, which they would be required to pay at the prevailing wage back in the US. Therefore, since Liberia does not have an hourly wage regime, it would be cheaper for an Ohio company to hire Liberian welders, electricians, plumbers… at penny-on-a dollar wage, than $29/hr for a certified electrician, plumber, welder, et al, brought into Liberia.
Considered as lackeys, “yes-men” also lack the wherewithal in providing honest opinions to a leader/supervisor/manager, when it might count in helping that person make informed decisions. But isn’t that precisely what insecure Liberian politicians desire, anyway-sycophants; people lacking a spine to point out the many flaws of politicians—many of whom thrive on braggadocio, textbook, and advanced degree knowledge, rather than demonstrating the necessary technical skills to ‘build and make things with their hands!’ Recently, we read about the negative reaction of some African leaders after hearing that Donald Trump asked his long-time lawyer—Michael Cohen, to show him one country run by a black leader that was not a “shit-hole” country. Controlling for the dislike of Trump by so many people, we have not noticed a single African leader who took the lead to challenge Trump’s assertion. No African leader has shown the spine, needless to say, the gravitas to tell Trump, “Look at me, look at my country, people, and economy, we represent the best in integrity and commitment to my country.” None/Zip!
Thin-skinned leaders as many Liberian politicians are, surround themselves with cheer-leading “yes men” to not only stoke their low self-esteem, if at all, but also hopefully boost their flattened egos with undeserved praises. As Abe Lincoln once said, “you can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry;” in Liberia as in all third world countries, it does not take much to discern the simplest of questions that would drive politicians nut, only because they had become accustomed to being lavished with undeserved praises. But little do Liberian politicians know that once they chose public employment via an election or appointment, they automatically became public properties, subject to scrutiny in the name of protecting the people’s interest. If you dislike being challenged as a public figure about a country that was never “Willed” to you by your parents, then damn it, consider taking your ill-gotten wealth, and hit the private sector where you could become an employer, rather than an employee on the public payroll. But of course, that will not happen, since as security-seekers, Liberian politicians find comfort as government employees, rather than investing their loots, which could soon go bust due to poor management. So why not safeguard their loots in foreign banks, while continuing to pinch on limited public resources.
We are speaking of politicians who hide their vulnerabilities behind credentials and a fake pronounced presence to intimidate others, because that way, they don’t have to prove their lack of technical, professional experience for those that truly had none. Amid that reality, many Liberians pretentiously continue to wonder why their country remains a member of the ten poorest in the world over 172-years of existence. But who cares how old a country is, if age did not comport with infrastructure development such as a suitable, adequate national road network to move goods and services around the country, compared to a dusty mess during the dry season and muddy mess during times of rain; what about utility platforms—water, electricity, and communication, to encourage foreign investors to consider Liberia a serious investment hub, making it possible to invest in other parts of the country other than a congested, filthy Monrovia? As if to remind policymakers, when was it that a country lacked a trained workforce in skilled trades, vocational education, and apprenticeship programs, and was ever considered a competitive investment nucleus. Liberia is not set up as a service economy, as it is for manufacturing, which in turn would require technical skillset—electrical, plumbing conveyor belt tech, pipefitters, welders, machinists, fabricators, bricklayer, carpenters, ironworkers, construction, masonry, material science, et al, to maintain operational efficiency of a manufacturing facility, for instance.
If Economic Advisers to the president weren’t aware that technical skillset, not liberal arts were the driving force that attracted manufacturing investors, then maybe they need to briefly separate from those advanced liberal arts degrees that made them the talkative they are, and aim for a personal self-evaluation, which might just transform them into actors/doers, not talkers. During that brief separation, they might want to revisit the history of China’s cultural revolution, for example, and the quest to satisfy its people first security need—FOOD, with a vision of simultaneously employing three key elements—skilled hands, technical knowledge, and hard work, which propelled that nation to become the second biggest economy by 2010, thus, replacing Japan.
Costa Rica, under the leadership of Oscar-Arias Sanchez was another example that pulled itself from a disheveled economy in the 1980s, including disbanding its rag-tag disreputable military and police forces comprising so many semi-literate Generals and lieutenants, to becoming a major investment attraction in Latin America. At some institutions in Costa Rica, political science took a step downward, replaced by Food Science Technology outfits, with available scholarships for many with a science background to travel to countries like Cuba and the US—Florida, to learn the art of processing cane sugar, for instance, not just reading the procedures from a textbook, as many do in Liberia, just because there are not sufficient industries to provide practical support. Others were dispatched to Brazil to learn the entire process of farm-to-market dynamics of coffee processing, which led to processed coffee for export and domestic consumption.
Still, other scholarships were made available for a slew of unemployed colleges undergraduates to travel abroad to learn disciplines such as furniture design and making, testing lab setups, as its visionary leader predicted a growing food processing industry would require testing for ecoli and other food-borne pathogens. To that end, flagship public universities became incubators for business startups, and testing labs meant to assist the food industry. Unlike Costa Rica and others that sought hands-on application, many Liberians at the same time sought scholarships, seeking a Master’s Degree, only to return, for teaching positions without demonstrating any technical, professional experience to combine classroom instructions with hands-on applications, or sought government employment.
Like China, Costa Rica’s visionary leader understood that Food science drew from many disciplines, including biology, chemical engineering, material science, biochemistry…, which explains why Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, for example, can boast of manufacturing facilities in many industries, whereas Liberians tend to boast of how many degrees they have. Never met a piece of paper on a wall that possessed the capability to feed or cure people. But do not tell that to grandstanding Liberians. If knowledge is power, as they say, then “information is the catalyst that fuels such energy” for any curious, conscientious Liberian, which does not include “yes-men,” who generally are too intimidated to provide important information, albeit bad news to a timid “chief/bossman. So who are these brown-nosing “yes-men” anyway?
Who are these Brown-nosing “Yes-men,” and What do they Desire!
Brown-nosers are people usually devoid of any providence, hence, deliberately engage in offering an inattentive leader advice they think he wants to hear, not what he needs to know; in that case, it would be the hope of celebrating fantasy of the “enjoyment” by a few, rather than confronting existing realities of a suffering majority. The single biggest unintended consequence of playing it safe by feckless “yes-men” if Mr. Weah did not remain vigilant and focused on why Liberians hired him is, “If you do not see it, Mr. President, it does not exist.” Essentially, it would appear that advisers were communicating to Mr. Weah that it was quite okay to cast off the collective majority of Liberians, who are the true victims of abject poverty because they were not in the spotlight around Monrovia to be seen.
Brown-nosers are cunning individuals whose sole purpose is a dichotomy of how to gauge the tactfulness or lack thereof of a leader. First, is to offer conspicuous support, including continuous overwhelming praises of that leader—Mr. Weah, in this case, as if he was not a human being that made mistakes like the rest of humanity; in his presence, they demonstrate unimaginable flaccidity, including prostrating and separating from their human value, pretending to love Weah more than they do themselves. Once they had offered their cynicism to an unsuspecting, gullible leader then comes the second part—delivering the coup de gras—protecting their interest, which had been the ploy all along. Put simply, “yes-men” will use the protection of a credulous leader to amass wealth however way possible, for as long as that leader keeps them around. After all, who gets blamed if the leader failed!
Mr. Weah inherited a massive failure from former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf—mainly her dismal (Poverty Reduction Strategy). As it is human nature, people will never admit to failure, if they could get away with blaming others, to diffuse responsibility. And you better believe Ellen will sing her praises, even if she could not explain what happened to the abundant international charities—including debt forgiveness for which she cannot explain why the road conditions she knew as Finance Minister in1979 remained the same dust bowl and muddy after twelve years as president. That failure began with Ellen inviting self-perceived paper-pushing charlatans to discuss and design poverty programs, without a single victim of poverty represented at the table to give input. They weren’t good enough, because they did not speak the language of intellects. But you bet they could have taught even Ellen, the essence and downward impact of poverty on human dignity.
One could equate Ellen’s malfeasance on poverty, to international donors designing programs from the outside to be filtered to Liberian villagers, without ever familiarizing themselves with defining the problems for which they opted to dispense of solutions. As Ellen & Co. drew up papers to impress international donors about their diction and sophistication, even though she had nothing to show after a dozen years, many in her administration sought foreign banks to safeguard their dough—however way they obtained it. In Ellen’s case, Wachovia Bank (Bank of America), North Carolina, as we now know, became one of her depositories, with Robert Sirleaf—a signatory on that or those accounts, acting on her behalf at the time of her presidency. As Matthew Mangolie—a Liberian rightly asserted in early 2006, “Ellen sought power mainly to complete the bank withdrawal for herself and family for which she did not make any deposit, during her years as a public servant in the 1970s.” Accordingly, as Matthew noted, how could Ellen, who once advocated burning down Monrovia and rebuilding it, be so inept at even minimally steering the economy of the Capital city—Monrovia, to prewar levels, focusing on necessary infrastructure—water, electricity, communication, sanitation…platforms for both commercial and private consumption. Did she expect foreign investors to bring their money into Liberia and use “well or pump water” and “generators” to run a processing plant in Lofa, for example, he wondered.
Furthermore, where was the vision for creating a trained workforce of “skilled hands and technical knowledge,” which she could have sold as she traveled and met so many foreign investors? With the local news media salivating over Ellen’s credentials, and not the ability to interrupt poverty, thereby altering the lives of the majority disenfranchised, they—the media, that is, became culpable in propping up the notion that Liberians cared more about a college degree than whether an individual could prove his/her ability to move the needle. By the way, a trained workforce has far less to do with granting scholars to a select few to pursue graduate degrees in business administration and economics, and more about seeking international assistance to send more technically inclined Liberian abroad for training in vocational and technical education, to get their dexterity refined and updated. Come on, Mr. Weah, Liberia does not have any shortage of young, unemployed Liberians with undergraduate technical degrees; what is in short supply, however, is, the government—through its National Investment Commission inability to corral and persuade the international community to provide scholarship funding for purposes of dispatching select groups of Liberians for hands-on training in countries like South Africa and others. Eastern and Southern Africa would be regions where Liberians could be trained in the hospitality/tourism industry, for instance. In fact, many wealthy European countries might just set a quota of how many Liberians they would accept for such a training, if Mr Weah lined up the necessary salesmen to sell the hell out of Liberia’s potential.
Is there a lesson Mr. Weah could learn from Ellen’s failure dump? Most definitely! For starters, it means never to repeat the cycle by bequeathing the second round of failure to Liberians. If you are going to design programs, highlighted by projects to be implemented for poverty mitigation, then it must include extending an invitation to the people burdened by the problems your policies were attempting to assuage. Any convention on poverty must include a randomly sampled representation of people burdened by the problem. Just because the objects—victims of abject poverty weren’t products of formal education, let alone suit and tie-wearing individuals, did not mean they were incapable of contributing to finding solutions to problems that affected them directly.
Defining and Adopting the Essence of Poverty:
Despite Liberia’s failure in successfully tackling poverty, all is not lost if Mr. Weah became that transformative leader, prepared to cut his country’s losses, by sidelining his matrix of “yes-men,” with people capable of getting things done with conspicuous evidence of outcomes Liberians could see, feel and relate to. Let us call it “homework” hour because now, Mr. Weah should send members of his team, especially those on the domestic policy front to draw up and adopt a flexible plan based on poverty-related challenges like the one offered by the late King of Nepal—BirendraBirBikram’s. The synopsis offered below by the King was so in-depth that no third world policy-making could have gone wrong in deciphering each point and collectively incorporating them into a pragmatic initiative. Having done so, Mr. Weah would undoubtedly recognize a need to transform poverty challenges into opportunities from which workforce training, small business startups, job creation, and employment could derive.
Poverty and human misery were an issue, not lost on Nepal’s King BirendraBirBikram’s watch as the keynote speaker to the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Conference, in Paris, France, September 1981 (Economics of Social Issues). He could not have summarized poverty and human misery any better than calling it “The biggest issue of them all,” which, if adopted by Mr. Weah, for example, would form the template, necessary to address his country’s currently conspicuous human desolation—hunger, starvation and preventable illnesses, on many different fronts. If the “yes chief/bossman” advisers, along with the Liberian leader chose to decipher the various elements embedded in the synopsis below and addressed them individually, future poverty reduction plans might begin to bear fruit, because of commitment to his country, not individuals seeking personal gains.
Arguably, to begin the process of pretending to address poverty, Mr. Weah must accept first, that embedded in leadership of any kind is the flexibility to be in a continuous learning mode, alongside adapting to unexpected changes, especially external factors beyond his control. Learning and adapting means also being tactful enough to entertain “diversity of thoughts” from civil society and others, whose views may be different from his, yet add value to what he intends to accomplish.
According to King BirBikram:
A poor man in a least developed country—and his number runs into millions—suffers from poor nutrition. He is vulnerable to diseases. His average life span is short. He lives in huts where squalor perpetually surrounds him. He is illiterate in both letters and skills. He does not get his meal regularly, but when he does, he is haunted by the fear of where his next meal will come from. He is clad in rags, if at all. He walks without a pair of shoes. Lack of hygiene, minimal food, and contagious diseases have inflicted some scars on his body. He lives mostly in villages—remote and inaccessible to the rest of the world—or slums or shantytowns. The water he drinks is neither safe nor clean. He is either unemployed or underemployed; but when he is employed, he’s overworked and underpaid. He suffers from apathy and ignominy. From birth to death, he remains destitute. Usually, he dies an infant, but if he does survive, scarcity and wants haunt him to his end. Famine, drought, and other natural disasters continually plague him. If he is a villager, he may be landless; if he is a town-dweller, he rarely has a roof over his head. When the prices go up, the quality and quantity of his food go down, because his income can no longer buy him the food he needs. His wife, if she is pregnant, can only have a worse fate. He cannot buy books for his children, nor pay fees for school, let alone the toolbox he would love to buy for them to make ends meet. When he falls ill, he cannot pay fees to a doctor, nor buy medicine for himself, let alone getting better amenities of life in these crises. …Starvation and death stare him in his face as in medieval times. …and this is the greatest irony of all—giving birth to the largest number of children; children, he can hardly support on the income he does not have. “I speak of destitute at length not merely because this occasion places on me the special obligation to speak for him, but even more, because his story is perpetrated on a scale and dimension that indeed is tragic because of what man can do for man and yet is not done…”
What the King neglected to mention, however, was one of the many contributing causal factors of poverty in third world countries—theft by public officials, drains national coffers of funds, making it impossible to allocate adequate funding for any of the above distresses, which plagues Liberians, for instance. In a country where people pretend to be too proud to work with their hands because it is not as prestigious as having a chauffeur, flaunting a college degree, and working out of an office, is a country where citizens are unlikely to achieve other national objectives such as addressing man’s number one security for basic survival—FOOD. Nope, it is not being proud that prevents Liberians from working with the hands to make things; it is absolute LAZINESS, which in turn allows for a lot of talking, much more than “doing,” for people that find pleasure in pontificating on sheer platitudes. About Liberians, they are more comfortable “telling subordinates to do,” but “not how to do it,” because too often, those issuing directives have no clue about the applied aspects of what they were directing others to do.
As if this was a memo to President Weah, would you disagree, Mr. President, that the late King was speaking of your country, Liberia! If you do agree, however, what are you prepared to do differently from Ellen’s failure to shore up the way forward. Are you willing to begin organizing focus groups of young, unemployed Liberians, to test their pulse for how they could contribute to a national conversation on poverty, education, jobs, and employment? We should not be the ones to remind you that the one basic need common to human and animal survival, is FOOD. No matter your education, position, background, and life’s experiences, whenever you are hungry, not a damn thing matters more than the need for FOOD to satisfy hunger; not even sex—looking at naked man or woman could attract a starving individual, amid the lack if food.
So imagine the impact on growing Liberian kids, who do not have the privilege of even a school program, highlighting a National Breakfast Initiative, to provide one daily meal needed for the energy to concentrate. Come on now, how much better would grade school kids do if Mr. Weah would interrupt the untenable theft of funds destined for offshore deposits, and reinvested them in a National Breakfast Program if only to give kids a fighting chance at beating starvation at its core! That brings us to an attempt to jolt the motivation of industrious Liberians, who seek financial independence instead of a government job that pays a meager salary once every four months, for instance! Of course, that does not apply to those closest to the seat of power, who are members of the “gravy train express” that makes continual stops at their offices to drop off their share of “spoils.” It has always been an open secret that members of “Liberia National Corruption Syndicate” do not rely on a monthly paycheck for financial independence; they rely on the drops the “gravy train” makes ever so often. Because of that, no senior government official dares makes noise about his fellow partner in crime; Samuel Doe who was no stranger to riding the “gravy train” once challenged any senior official in his government to come forward, if he or she had not been stained by corruption. Not a single Cabinet officer, Legislator, Managing Director of Public Corporation—government-owned enterprises…took Doe up on his challenge. Against that backdrop, we believe that now is the time for Mr. Weah to embark on a Small Business Startup Revolution for entrepreneurial Liberians, something the 1970s generation—Ellen’s generation was incapable of.
Liberian Small Business Startups: Attracting Small Business Microloan Much Quicker Than High Capitalizing Businesses:
Liberians are dreamers of success as other groups of people in countries around the world; however, the one difference is, many others put their dreams and imagination to a test drive to determine possibilities because they are optimists; Liberians generally hide their potential in a textbook mentality and government employment, for fear of failure on their own volition. As if to make the point further, Liberians generally ride the wave of credentialism, are more talkative than doers, and inadvertently thrive on “telling subordinates what to do,” but “not how to do it,” because many of those giving instructions could not do it due to the lacked skills and experience to perform certain jobs, requiring technical knowledge. Teaching from a textbook without the ability to demonstrate “how things are done,” is a waste of time, money, and effort. And for those of you crying foul about this assertion, let’s just say, Liberia’s dilapidated infrastructure—water, electricity, communication, and national road condition is proof of laziness, lack of vision and skills. If this attestation of facts hurts the feelings of thin-skinned politicians, then what is your counter argument, for those sitting around Monrovia having a good time?
As William Howard—another Liberian put it so succinctly, “Liberians are a finished product mentality group of people; we have become accustomed to enjoying other people’s labor, while relishing in the pleasure of boastfulness, amid being too lazy to demonstrate a ‘can-do’ attitude, which requires hard work with our hands,” he said. Furthermore, we are mostly good at seeking out social gatherings to drink beer, talk empty politics and boast about credentials; however, when challenged to produce proof of a match-up between those credentials and any existing practical outcome, we become angrily defensive, he continued. Essentially, what this Liberian was saying as a matter of summary was, his fellow Liberians had difficulty translating what’s in their head to the hands for implementation because many rely on “poor pride” that prevents them from getting their hands dirty. And they are the same people that demonstrate a disdain for others with a skilled trade background, which did not reflect a liberal arts college degree, he said.
This damning assertion by William Howard should catch the attention of President Weah enough to reflect on and demand answers to these questions. That is, by comparison to Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: how many new, small businesses Mr. Weah’s administration could account for; what is the nature of those businesses and their quality; what is the total number of people those businesses have employed, hence, reducing the national unemployment numbers? How much new tax revenue generation has the government realized from those small startups since George Weah became President? Conversely, what tax incentives are there to encourage other new, small businesses? Where are those businesses located around Liberia; are they concentrated in Monrovia or spread around the country, to provide services to people in Sinoe, for example, as they do people in Cape Mount? Or is it impossible because the Liberian road network is crap! Given the need for new tax revenue for the government coffers, the alternatives below could be a starting point, which means Mr. Weah would be in his lane to create a (Small Business Liaison Office) under his direct supervision, to track and get direct feedback from the impact of newly created businesses, the services they provide, monthly number of new hires, and most definitely new tax revenue flow.
In our next post, we will examine specific ways by which Mr. Weah’s administration could derive new money to provide government-backed microloans for the types of small businesses delineated below. One industry that could attract microloans much quicker than high capitalizing businesses is Foodservice; seemingly, financial independence is quite possible for Liberians who seek to carve out specific niches that cater to the needs of the general population, which for Liberians, is FOOD and other sustenance to abate hunger. Below, we have sketched out several startup businesses, mainly in the Foodservice industry that talented, ambitious Liberians could embrace, which undoubtedly could become candidates for tailored microloans because those businesses required far fewer dollars for investment.
For starters, the foundation upon which to build financial futures could start with the establishment of communal cooperatives to purchase and share much-needed equipment and machinery to take advantage of any newfound business opportunities. For example, Cold-Press machinery to process oil on a small scale, and mini-commercial juicers to process mango, lime, lemon, and other juices; Coffee roasting equipment, cassava slicer, to say the least, are all necessary equipment required for a competitive Foodservice revolution. This, in our opinion, is thinking outside the box of textbook concepts and principles. Here we go!
Coconut, Peanut and Corn: From dried coconut would come oil, milk, and cream, considering Liberians don’t like to get their hands dirty by investing in dairy cow farming like Kenya, for example, to produce milk. Hence, coconut milk and cream would become the new substitute, processed using cheesecloth. Peanut is another product from which to produce oil; then there is corn for which a new breed of farmers that didn’t grow rice could engage in small scale commercial corn farming from which to produce oil. The oil production of these and other products can be processed, using a relatively inexpensive cold-press machinery. They called it Argo Oil, for the many Liberians familiar with it; however, little did they know that Argo is a brand that makes lubricants, edible oil, ATVs, to say the least. But Argo oil is usually corn oil, which Liberians could produce on a small scale. The by-products after processing would open up a new business opportunity for any Liberian interested in supplying animal—chicken/hog feed. These by-products contain very high levels of protein and carbohydrates ,essential for chicken and pig health and development.
Mango/Plum—why enjoy Mango (plum) during the rainy season only when it is in abundance. What if people could process it into juice concentrate during peak season, flash freeze it, and reconstitute it as an ice-cold drink during the dry season; other opportunities for processing mango include, (puree, diced for pie-making, dried (dehydrated), and transformed into a powdered drink. Jelly/jam/preserve…many more uses could be pursued. A combination of mango juice/lemon/lime/orange.
Coffee: Liberia is a major coffee grower, but you won’t know that because unlike Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania….that not only process coffee for domestic consumption, but also export it, the “poor pride” mentality limits Liberians’ ability to see the financial potential because getting their hands dirty is never prestigious thing. Prestige for many “big shots” means having family members ship Starbucks coffee to Liberia for personal use and something to boast about among many Liberians returning from the US, even for those that didn’t drink Starbuck because of its cost.
Cassava: Outside of roasting, boiling, making fufu, dumboy, gari, other uses of cassava processing include, but not limited to flour for bread-making, dredging, and frying to make cassava fries/chips, modified starch as a thickener, et al.
Bottled Water: As observed in Costa Rica, rainwater can be inexpensively collected, bottled during the rainy season, stored in warehouses, distributed, and sold during the dry season. Sells relatively cheaply because of low production costs, compared to imported bottled water.
Fish: Liberia’s biggest source of protein could be altered many other ways for business purposes, other than fish soup, grilled (roasted), or fried for “dried” rice. Business-minded Liberians could dive into processing fish nuggets, paired up with cassava fried; fish balls and patties…
Bakery: Could be communal, which people could use, based on scheduling, to baked their brand of bread/pie/cake/cookies for distribution, or a professional bakery servicing many different vendors based on their specification request for texture, color, taste, size, design to distinguish from other vendors.
Sugar cane: Again starting on a small scale growing and juicing sugar cane and converting it to syrup using a rebuilt or second-hand juicer/press, which would reduce sugar importation, as Liberians continue to learn the process of transforming sugar cane juice into other products.
Consignment Merchandising: Teaching Liberians the rewards of consignment merchandising, for instance, through a cooperative set up, would be of immense benefit to people that have products to offer, but lack the opportunity to own a storefront due to high rental cost. So how would consignment merchandising work under one roof, with people displaying many different consumables! This would include reexamining under-used available warehouse/real estate space for consideration. Discussion!
General Retailing: Since it is virtually impossible for mom & pop businesses to secure loans from banks, wholesale distributors would rescue many small businesses, by offering “inventory-based lending,” where credit via merchandise offerings and a revolving account are awarded to small retail businesses, who in turn make a monthly payment, having agreed to terms and condition such as weekly sales auditing to determine how well a business was doing with merchandise purchased on credit; making sure it was properly recording daily sales activities, which could translate to an increment in its line of credit, based on payment history. Much, much more to discuss and relate.
Future Post Now that we have provided information about a few startups, one question remains: What options are there for people to secure money to finance any number of those and other small-scale related businesses. In our next post, will examine where Mr. Weah and his team should look to tap dormant resources to trigger a once-in-a-lifetime Small Business Development Revolution. Revamping the entire tax code to identify untapped revenue sources would mean a focus or both the Formal and Informal Economies.
Informal Economy: Reclassifying certain businesses that may qualify to pay a flat tax instead of remaining under the radar and not paying into the system; the informal economy in all third world countries undermines the government’s ability to raise additional tax revenue because it is not only very disorganized, but evade the government’s ability to reclassify those businesses that pull in substantial incomes but pay nothing. Because of its disorganization, people tend to glide under the radar by pretending they were just too small to pay any tax. But many of those businesses are relatively mid-size businesses that if identified and registered, could bring in much-needed added revenue to the government coffers. Discuss!
Formal Economy: Personal income taxes, Property Taxes: Real estate/Business…. Revisit. Value Added Tax(VAT): Possibly assessing new taxes on supposedly well-off Liberians, bringing in luxury and durable goods, who even buck at the idea of paying container clearance fees, not to mention the numerous “under-the-table” deals with Lebanese and other business individuals, which reduce their excise tax contribution and container clearing fees, hence, reducing revenue flow toward the government. The net effect of diluting revenue flow to the government coffers via “elbow greasing” by Port officials on behalf of friends and business people, means deeper pockets for certain individuals. Discuss!
Consolidation and Dismantlement: The Liberian government is so bloated it can hardly breathe; therefore, dismantling and consolidating some agencies and run with the savings would generate new much-needed revenue. Dismantlement and consolidation in some instances would allow the government to contract out some services to the private sector, force some agencies to become self-funding based on fee collection, which would have the effect of creating new businesses and hiring opportunities. Such a decision would reduce many “warm body” government employees on the public payroll, let alone force them to seek employment in what may become a new, robust private sector. But the biggest gift to Liberians would be a reduction in corruption and theft because no longer would so many people remain so close to the public coffers. Discuss!
Reducing Hiring Redundancy: Personnel audit is one vaccine capable of compressing the bureaucratic bloat, which is compressed in overlapping job duties and essential functions. Discuss!
Duty-free: Who’s entitled and who’s not and why, considering the huge losses by Lebanese businesses and senior-level Liberian government officials’ mistresses shipping containers to Liberia without paying any clearance money. Discuss!
National Lottery Funding for Schools: In every country and state in the US that authorized a lottery system, the government owns the lottery; in cash-strapped Liberia, taking full control of the lottery system would generate new funding for primary and secondary education after expenses. That could men reallocating portions of budgetary allotment for grade school, to higher education, for instance. Discuss!
A National Bond & Gasoline Tax Initiative: Funding exclusively for road construction and maintenance. For example, a toll-paying coastal highway from Monrovia to Cape Palmas. Much more to relate. Discuss!
Finally: Liberia’s economy has always been in a terminal phase, crying out for transformative leadership capable of putting the country ahead of self. Mr. Weah has an opportunity to demonstrate he’s that rescuer, who can bridge the gap between the failed generation of the 1970s of which Ellen was an integral part and his generation. To accomplish that feat, however, he must prove that his leadership was not one signaling optical illusion to deflect his people’s attention from the real problems facing his country. It should be one incorporating respect for his fellow Liberians, regardless of position, highlighted by a diversity of thoughts, given that his ideas are not the only factors that mattered. And “poor pride” by “yes-men” definitely has no place in the furtherance of good governance; all it does is breed laziness and contempt.
In the immortal words of Pogo, “…we have found the enemy and he is us.” Until Mr. Weah succumbs to the realism that it is about every Liberian, he could end up blaming everybody else but himself for being surrounded by “yes-men” whose idea of governance was merely impressing him, while unsuspectingly, were using him as their cover for personal gains. Without a diversity of views, even from those that oppose him, Mr. Weah is highly likely to continue wondering why creativity, innovation, and development always evaded his presidency. No leader that entertains “group think” to support his/her follies ever succeeds in realizing his/her defined objectives.
Opponents are not always enemies as African leaders would like people to believe; instead, people’s reaction is usually to the dislike of a leader’s uninviting attitude and behavior, which negatively impact policies. Hardly do people hate a leader personally, as much as their disdain for policies that offered promises not kept. It is never about the individual as a leader—no matter your position or title; it is how your policies impact people’s lives relative to whether they can see and feel the practical impact on their standard of living. One point of reference whenever a leader supposedly sees people as enemies is remembering when he or she wasn’t in power and fought for the same rights and protection he or she may now be denying people.
As a plug-in, I’d encourage those closest to the Liberian Chief Executive—friends/influencers to offer as a X-mas gift, for instance, this little inexpensive, but power book. Matter-of-factly, it would be a good read for any and all Liberian political leaders. “ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.” By Ike D. Coleman