WHILE VISITING Liberia’s next-door neighbors, Ghana at the weekend, President George Manneh Weah made an urgent appeal to his counterpart, President Akufo-Addo and Ghanaians to help Liberia to progress and succeed. Said President Weah: “I am young, I agree, but you are my big brother, and I know that you will help Liberia to succeed”.
LIBERIA IS AFRICA’S oldest republic. Formerly a colony of the American Colonization Society, the country declared its independence in 1847 after the United States of America, under pressure from Great Britain, accepted Liberian sovereignty, making the West African nation the first democratic republic in African history. A constitution modeled after the U.S. Constitution was approved, and in 1848 Joseph Jenkins Roberts was elected Liberia’s first president.
IT'S NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS, Ghana, dubbed the Gold Coast, gained its independence from Britain on March 6, 1957 and immediately became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations under the guidance of Kwame Nkrumah who transformed the country into a republic, with himself as president.
THE TWO COUNTRIES ARE not only divided by a 110-year age difference but a string of swings that have thrown both in opposite directions over the past few years.
PRIOR TO THE CIVIL WAR, Liberia was listed among the fastest growing economies in the world. In the 1960s, the country was ranked second to Japan in income and growth registering 12% and performing far better than a lot of the countries it is now turning to for aid these days.
DESPITE THESE strides and succeeding governments, Liberia remained largely poor and underdeveloped.
OVER THE YEARS, a long-running civil war followed by a deadly Ebola virus outbreak set Liberia into decline.
BUT EVEN BEFORE EBOLA, Ghana was making strides as one of the more progressive economies on the continent and this year, a multitude of global economists are reporting that Ghana is poised to take the lead as Africa’s fastest-growing economy this year, the first time in at least three decades. BOTH THE WORLD BANK and the African Development Bank, are reporting that expansion in the region’s second-biggest economy in 2018 should surpass that of recent champions Ethiopia and Ivory Coast, which will make the country the fastest on the continent in 2018. AIDED BY GROWTH DECLINES IN Ivory Coast and Ethiopia, Ghana reportedly has a more diversified economy than a lot of its African peers, largely due to growth in crude since it became an oil producer in 2010, when Tullow Plc started the Jubilee field. Economic growth surged to 14.4 percent the following year and slumped to less than 4 percent from 2014 to 2016 as oil prices dropped. The country is also making strides in other commodities, including oil, gold and cocoa which are the mainstay of the $43 billion economy and rising crude output is boosting the nation’s finances.
LIBERIA HAS BEEN THROUGH A LOT and while there are many excuses to be thrown around, past leaders have dealt the nation a bad hand through bad governance, corruption and blistering impunity.
THIS IS WHY WE FEEL that President Weah’s appeal to Ghana is not what the country needs now.
WE SHOULD BE STRIVING to compete and even surpass Ghana by improving the way we do business with ourselves, the way we structure our business environment and how we make it as friendly as possible for investors to want to come in.
TOO MANY BOTTLENECKS and hindrances are causing the more damage and stopping the country from progressing. Many small businesses are packing up and leaving because they simply cannot deal with the uneven taxation issues being piled up onto them.
IT IS GOOD that President Weah and his administration are working to “renew the bonds of friendship and solidarity that there are between the Liberian and Ghanaian people,” but we must go beyond the rhetoric and work within existing framework and heed the advice from stakeholders who have an interest in how the Liberian story is told and how the story ends.
TO ITS CREDIT the previous government of President Sirleaf made some strides in 2009, when Economy Watch put Liberia among the top 12 fastest growing economies in the world, with Ghana topping the list at 20.2% and Liberia at 9%.
AS PRESIDENT ADDO said during his meeting with President Weah: “The world is going through some difficult moments, all kinds of new arrangements are appearing, and we, here in the West African region, must continue to deepen the contacts, the links, the friendships between us in West Africa.”
IT IS TIME FOR LIBERIA to begin making use of existing opportunities and addressing pressing concerns about agriculture and its potential.
NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS Ghana and Ivory Coast have been making strides in terms of putting emphasis on agriculture and development.
THE WEAH-LED GOVERNMENT must not only focus on the basic bread and butter issues but also begin focussing on how it can impact its core base, the grassroot as well as all Liberians.
THE GOVERNMENT MUST STRIVE TO BE a government for all people and not just a few or its die-hard CDC supporters.
THE REMOVAL of qualified officials from the former government from their posts sends a bad signal and suggests that the administration is not fond on pushing a reconciliation agenda in its first term.
AS LIBERIA CONTINUES its journey into the 21st century, rapid economic growth will be key to how the current generation survives the difficult spell we are all now engulfed in at the moment.
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is no government, not the Weah-led or any future government can survive or succeed in isolation. This is why it is important to utilize fully the tools and mechanisms at our own disposal and avoid putting our hands out for help all the time.
GHANA HAS BEEN a good partner and will continue to be. But President Addo and his people have their own problems to deal with. We cannot expect Ghana to leave their own plate and try to help Liberia succeed.
WE MUST INSTEAD, take the bull by the horn by becoming more innovative and creative with a vision for our country that allows us to thrive and compete with our neighbors on an equal if not better footing for a nation and people without a vision will continue to linger in abject poverty and a recurring circle of impunity.