EDITORIAL: Mr. President Take a Cue from Your Counterpart in Ghana on His ‘Ghanazation’ Policy


IN PRESIDENT NANA Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s recent interaction with the Ghanaian media, he reiterated the position of his government as it relates to doing business, especially retailing.

IN A BBC STORY in pidgin English, President Akufo-Addo emphasized that whether Chinese or Nigerian, the Ghanaian laws forbid anyone other than a Ghanaian from doing among other things retail business.

“GUTA BE RIGHT…de laws of Ghana ban foreigners from retail trade for wana market. Pipo wey no be Ghanaians no fit sell for wana market top” President Akufo-Addo stressed.

WE THINK THE PRESIDENT means what he said about this ‘Ghanazation’ Policy just looking at the general behaviors of our Ghanaian brothers and sisters when it comes to the full implementation of their country’s laws and policies.

MANY LIBERIANS, who sought refuge in that West African nation during our years of civil war, will tell you how Ghanaians don’t joke with ‘Ghana first’. This should be true for every nation as we also see today in the leading policy of US President Donald Trump — “Make America Great Again!” Attempts to make other governments do same in some countries, including South Africa, have not gone well as there have been human rights violation and violation of international laws. This has resulted into international outcries against those xenophobic tendencies. 

THIS HAS NOT been the case with Ghana; they implement their laws respecting the rights of others, who are expected, too, to likewise respect the host nation’s laws.

WE THINK PRESIDENT GEORGE Manneh Weah can take cues from his Ghanaian counterpart when it comes to being sincere with enforcing domesticated laws that benefit Liberians. 

MUCH HAVE BEEN said about the full and sincere implementation of the “Liberianization” Policy. Regimes after regimes are pushed by the public to fully exert efforts to have this empowerment tool for Liberians executed to the letters as written on the books. 

UNFORTUNATELY, AND SADLY, politicians and those in charge of the stake, play lip service with the process consequently, Liberian businesses and owners, in their own country, continue to be in the shadows of their foreign counterparts.

SINCE THE 1940s, that was the era of Liberia’s longest serving President, William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman — 27 consecutive years — this country’s life line has been literally in the hands of foreigners. This is over three quarters of a century. Sadly, those responsible to fully implement this policy only just talk about it at public fora and in the secret places where the enforcement should take place something else happens to the complete contrary.  

THE LIBERIANIZATION policy was first crafted in 1998, when 26 business activities were set aside and made exclusively accessible for Liberians. Many groups, especially foreigners, claimed the policy to be discriminatory and in 2010 a revision of the act reduced the amount of businesses to 16 while maintaining a threshold for another 12 business activities.

Liberian-reserved businesses include — among other things — block making, travel agencies and the operation of gas stations.

PRESIDENT WEAH remember these words of yours: “As we open our doors to all foreign direct investments, we will not permit Liberian-owned businesses to be marginalized. We cannot remain spectators in our own economy. My government will prioritize the interests of Liberian-owned businesses and offer programs to help them become more competitive and offer services that international investors seek as partners”?

MR. PRESIDENT the quickest way to end poverty in Liberia is to empower Liberians and their businesses so that they would be able to play more meaningful roles in their own country. By doing this sincerely and not looking in the way of cronies favorably, will reduce from your neck some of the tensions that come with governance. 

UNLIKE THE FOREIGN businesspeople, Liberians in business would reinvest their money right here, not in Lebanon, India, Nigeria, Guinea and elsewhere. Liberian businesspeople would empower their fellow Liberians to expand their businesses up country.

THERE ARE ALREADY existing laws on the book, Mr. President, only enforcing these laws has been a serious impediment to the laws themselves and to those they were made to protect.

USE THE LIBERIAN Business Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 and the Establishment of the “Liberian Business Economic Empowerment Authority” (LBEEA) to back your pledge of making Liberians and their businesses not spectators in their own economy. 

THE LEGISLATURE, which you were once a part of, had to enact this law after it found out that the “Liberianization” policy had minimally achieved its objectives due to a) circumvention, b) non-enforcement of those Acts and other related regulations intended to promote such Liberianization, c) fragmented advocacy for enforcement of such laws and regulations, d) lack of an effective framework to enhance the competitiveness of Liberian-owned businesses, and e) limited access to lower-cost capital for Liberians.

MR. PRESIDENT, there was the need to create a more enabling environment and a stronger enforcement mechanism so that Liberianization as envisaged by the Government and people of Liberia becomes a full-fledged reality.

“THE PURPOSE OF THIS Bill is to strengthen and expand the existing law protecting Liberian Businesses and business interests of Liberians as contained in the Liberianization Act of 1973 and the Investment Act of 2010. This Bill ensures the smooth transitioning in implementation, creation of a statutory authority to administer and enforce the provisions stated herein. This Bill also ensures the enforcement methodology and establishment of a Liberian Business Development and Investment Fund to provide financing for Liberian businesses and business interests of Liberians.”

MR. PRESIDENT, you wouldn’t need to “hurt your hay” as we say in Liberia, to start thinking about what to do with those who would violate the full implementation of the policy. There are penalties on the book.

“ANY LIBERIAN, be he/she a resident or not of Liberia, who violates any provision of this Act and any Liberian, for purposes of evading the aims and objectives of this Act, who fronts or attempts to front for a foreign national be he/she a resident or not of Liberia, shall be subjected to prosecution for Economic Sabotage and imprisonment for not less than three years plus a fine of not less than US$100,000 or it’s Liberian Dollar equivalent. 

“ANY FOREIGN NATIONAL who violates the provisions herein prescribed shall be subjected to deportation. In addition to the penalties herein described all materials, equipment and proceeds associated with the violation shall be confiscated and auctioned for the benefit of the public treasury, in accordance with Section 5.2 ‘A’ through ‘D’ of the Small Business Act of 2014. 

ANY PERSON who makes a false or intentionally misleading statement for the purpose of obtaining any loan under this Act or for the purpose of being qualified as a Liberian-owned businesses to circumvent this Act will be charged with violating this Act and be subject to prosecution for Economic Sabotage with the above penalties. 

“ANY PUBLIC OFFICIAL or Employee who deliberately or willfully aids or abets any individual or entity in circumventing this Act shall be dismissed immediately and subject to prosecution for Economic Sabotage In addition to the penalties prescribed under this section, if a person knowingly misrepresents the status of any business organization as a Liberian-owned businesses, the person and the businesses shall be ineligible to participate in any public procurement activity as well as Incentives provided for under this Act for a period of not less than five years. An aggrieved party may seek from the Commercial Court or a Circuit Court vested with the authority, any form of relief including injunctive relief, both interim and permanent, prohibition orders or other remedies, whether from enforcement of the provisions of this Act or decision of the LBEEA, on such terms and for such time periods as the court directs to meet the circumstances of the case.”

MR. PRESIDENT, you have the tools in your hands. By taking cue from your colleague, President Akufo-Addo, you can save Liberians and their businesses.