Ghanaian Corporate Executive Speaks on Liberianization

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Monrovia – There are few conversations currently happening in Liberia, with all very key to the impending change that is anticipated by the nation. One of those conversations is Liberia’s Liberianization Policy, and its stance on Expatriation to that country.

In that light, we explored the perspective of Mr. Seth Adu-Baah, a Ghanaian who once worked as an Expatriate in Liberia, to gather a scope of his time there, how both he and the nation impacted one another, and his views on its current Liberianization Policy.

Seth Adu-Baah is a Ghanaian national who worked in Liberia for over 7 years beginning in October 2010, to January 2018, as the Country Manager of the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company (LCCBC), a subsidiary of Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company (ECCBC). Although he only moved to Liberia in 2010 to work, his relationship with the nation dates back to his childhood, when a close neighbor then worked in Liberia, and would always go back to Ghana with lamentations of his luxurious life in Liberia. Seth, being an ambitious and impressionable teen, also wanted to one day visit Liberia, which in his mind then, was like one of the Western nations,  of which he also heard grand tales. So, upon being urged by his mentor, Mr. Rocky Findley — a Liberian currently managing West and Central Africa, and the Islands (32 countries) in the Coca-Cola Company system — to accept the role as Country Manager of LCCBC, it was a childhood dream come true.

As most big moves are a bit challenging in it’s first few months, Seth’s was not exempt. The team in Liberia, comprising of majority Liberians, initially, were not as welcoming, as they were divided and unsure of him as a leader, which left them with conflicting loyalties against him and the status quo  to which they had grown accustomed. In all the unfolding drama as a result of that, Seth remained energetic and positive about the condition of the nation’s growing economy.

Liberia, between 2008-2010 was a fast growing economy, and the LCCBC market had a good foundation laid by Mr. Rocky Findley, who was then the Regional Manager of the Coca-Cola Bottling Plants in Liberia and Sierra Leone. This growth trend kept Seth excited to be part of the post-war transformation of the company.

As the months went on, things seemed to have been getting better, both for the country and the company, which saw a 25% volume growth in the first year (2011), with a 3 year cumulative average growth rate of 8% up to the end of 2013. It was only up from there, that was until 2014 when the Ebola Virus Disease engulfed the nation in the early to middle part of the year. In just a six (6) month period, the company saw a sharp decline by 40%, which at this point, put both the company and the nation into immediate survival mode.

Despite many attempts from all directions pushing Mr. Adu-Baah to abandon the country, as most of his Expatriate colleagues had respectively done, he understood that the situation was a test  of character, and decided the best option at the time was to stay and be a leader that the company and the nation needed.

With the support of the LCCBC team, ECCBC, and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, among other key local and international partners, the company, under the leadership of Mr. Seth Adu-Baah, was able to maintain all of its staff,  support them and their dependents with food items and safety supplies, and run campaigns in the local communities to keep them knowledgeable and safe. The company also donated 3 containers of PPEs to the country, and provided safe drinking water to the ETU’s to support the country’s fight against the dreadful disease. Because of the example set by Mr. Adu-Baah, all of the Expats at LCCBC, including the current Commercial Manager, Mr. Kwadwo Appiah, also decided to stay and be a part of the impact which the company had made on the community during such a crucial time.

After the devastation caused by the Ebola Epidemic, Seth commitment to changing the story of the company remained unflinching. This period marked the beginning of the real work which defined his career in Liberia.

When he first started as the Country manager of LCCBC, the company’s management team comprised of 3 foreigners, and 5 Liberians. Upon taking over, some drastic decisions had to be made which changed the makeup of the management team to 5 foreigners, and 3 Liberians. However, with the development and implementation of the HAWKS and Junior HAWKS programs, skills trainings were developed for company employees in the Supervisory roles to groom them into Assistant Managers, and those in the Assistant Manager roles into Managers. The Finance and Public Affairs and Communication Managers, among over 20 other Liberians, were beneficiaries of the career growth resulting from this training program, thus once again changing the ratio of the management team back to 5 Liberians, with 3 foreigners, including himself, with more individuals in the Supervisory roles ascending to Assistant Managerial roles in the company until his departure from the country.

The projects the company has since undertaken with the leadership of Mr. Seth Adu-Baah are truly countless, but one he is most proud of which was in line with his commitment to the skills development of Liberians, is the opening of the Alexander B. Cummings Model School of Science and Technology, which is the first secondary STEM school in Liberia. The project was made possible thanks to the combined efforts of Mr. Rocky Findley, Mr. Phillipe Ayivor, Ms. Leticia Reeves, Ms. Deddeh Howard, and Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, in collaboration with the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

Another project he remains proud of is the Post-Ebola project, which, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and a local Liberian-owned MicroFinance and Consultancy Firm, Business Link Incorporated, through its humanitarian aid sector, offered a 1 year scholarship to 500 girls orphaned or affected by Ebola, and provided startup material and business skills trainings to 1,000 women also affected or survivors of Ebola. This project, in addition to the implementation of the Coca-Cola 5by20 project, which aims to empower 5 million women worldwide by the year 2020, has led LCCBC to financially empower over 1,900 women nationwide.

Likewise, in his commitment to developing the capacities of Liberians across the country, Mr. Adu-Baah started the Coke Innovation Center in the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU), as well as provided  fully equipped computer labs to UL and St. Clements University, and personally undertook an ongoing scholarship scheme which provides scholarships to 6 Liberian university students. He also went on to open the first Action Chapel International Church, Liberia Branch, because of course, none of all these achievements and impact would have been possible without the divine intervention and guidance of God.

According to Mr. Adu-Baah’s take on the Liberianization policy, it is important for Liberians to understand that, due to the current state of the country’s capacity building process after it’s 14 year Civil War, which was a 14 year gap in the consistent and well executed flow of the country’s education sector, there is need for both Liberian and  qualified foreign or diaspora collaboration, in efforts of rebuilding that sector and rebuilding human capacity in the country.

Ghana and other neighboring African countries also carry such policies that requires companies in their country to be managed and lead by a team of mostly citizens of those nations, however, during the initial implementation of those policies, highly qualified foreigners were welcomed to certain positions in the company where they could train and groom citizens to overtake those roles, like what Mr. Adu-Baah initiated through the HAWKS program at LCCBC. That approach ensures the capacities of those citizens are developed, and they are fully prepared and qualified to take on key leadership roles in both the private and public sectors. Ghana’s approach to this policy is one of the forces behind Mr. Adu-Baah’s current role as the first Ghanaian Managing Director of The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Ghana , as it is where he began his 17 year old career in Coca-Cola system as an Assistant Accounts Manager back in 2000. It is also this same approach which has groomed the current Country Manager of the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Mr. Israel Okujagu, a Liberian who now manages both bottling Plants in Liberia and Sierra Leone, to take on his current role.

As a result of his experience as an Expat in Liberia, the nation and its people were able to benefit immensely from projects he undertook, and he now sees the country as a second home, remaining committed to supporting Liberian businesses, and the Liberian people.

In the main time, Mr. Seth Adu-Baah urges Liberians to remain welcoming of other qualified African Expatriates to the country, while keeping their energy focused on what can be learned from their foreign brothers and sisters. After-all, there are also Liberians on Expatriation outside of Liberia, being of similar support in capacity building to other nations.

Report by Adrienne Tingba, FPA Contributor

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