How Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone Can Join Forces through Guilisi
The three West African nations are among the World’s poorest countries. Surprisingly the road is prosperous ahead if Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone embrace extreme supranational integration, proposing Guilisi as the new Federal Capital
When designing fiction states the first question once the integration area has been identified is how we start the fire, how we take off the integration process. The answer, to begin with, lies in the ability to identify presidential candidates and construct presidential teams willing to embrace the principles of radical supranational integration. Cristopher Columbus had a wild, revolutionary proposal for Queen Isabella. His crew, too, had to believe it’s possible to discover The New World.
West Africa’s three poorest countries are Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia. If there are three countries in West Africa which will benefit from the phenomenal spillover effects of radical supranational integration it’s precisely these three.
Three presidential candidates, young, talented, well educated and with a passion to work for their countries, for their societies, in my opinion the three key ingredients necessary to successfully launch the take off of the fiction state “West Africa”. Guinea Conakry’s Mamoudou Kouyate and Sierra Leone’s Mathew Sandy were my classmates at Columbia University in the City of New York during the academic year 2007–2008, the three of us graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration. I trust my classmates because I myself have, like them, gone through the difficulty of some of the World’s toughest and most rigorous academic programs. In the meantime Liberia’s Thomas Kaydor has graduated from The Australian National University’s Master’s in Public Administration, one of the World’s top ten, and has been Assistant Minister in his native Liberia in the second term of the charismatic president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2011 and Mo Ibrahiim Prize 2018) whose mandate concluded in January 2018.
In reality three-president federations are not so rare. In Switzerland the seven cantons’ leaders choose one rotating president who serves only for one year. In Boshia-Herzegovina each of the three ethnic groups has its own President as representative. Ethnic tensions, if any, can be reduced or eliminated if a representative leader of each group is brough on board leadership. A rotating president can then be assigned via agreed protocol.
Liberia’s football player George Weah ran as serious contender in the 2017 presidential election, subsequently winning it. Cameroon’s football player Samuel Eto’o has announced he might run in the 2018 presidential election. The issue, the problem that these football super stars bring to the table is that they simply do not have the credentials to lead a country forward. Being a well known Hollywood actor or actress, a successful singer, or winning tennis player does not make a great presidential candidate. Citizens, who end up choosing a presidential candidate, must understand that only certain individuals have the caliber to be successful policymakers and presidents. The trophy is not a Champions League or a Wimbledon Grand Slam, but The Mo Ibrahim Prize.
I have been in the business of headhunting presidential candidates since I first met former Madagascar’s former deputy prime minister Zaza Ramandimbiarison at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C. in December of 2008, whom I have introduced as Madagascar’s Next President on The Huffington Post. It is very rare and unusual to find successful actors, actresses, singers, or footballers as Presidents, perhaps with the sole exception of former President Ronald Reagan or California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Most likely a successful presidential candidate has graduated with a renowned Master’s in Public Administration.
The Mo Ibrahim Prize
Mo Ibrahiim, a Sudanese billionaire, investor and philanthropist, established the Mo Ibrahim Prize in 2006, awarded “to a former Executive Head of State or Government by an independent Prize Committee composed of eminent figures, including two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates”. The prize criteria are five: i/ awarded to a former African executive head of government; ii/ who left office in the last three years; iii/ who was democratically elected; iv/ serving his or her constitutionally mandated term and v/ demonstrating exceptional leadership.
Launched in 2006, the prize has been deserted in years 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 when the Committee, “after in –depth review, did not select a winner”. Awardees include Mozambique’s Joachim Chissano, Botswana’s Festus Mogae, Namibia’s Hifikipunye Pohamba and Cabo Verde’s Pedro Pires. It seems to be that Mo Ibrahim is running out of stellar candidates, who in addition are contemporary with Mo Ibrahim, as the Prize has now been deserted more often (7 times) than it has been awarded (4 times) a rather unusual trend which is in my opinion unfortunate besides undesirable. The Nobel Prize in Economics, Medicine, Chemistry or Physics is always awarded, for instance.
When I identify a presidential candidate for a Subsaharan African country, when I make a nomination, it is my priority to propose an individual who could potentially be a serious contender to win the Ibrahim Prize. Only talented individuals make it to the NBA, or win a tennis Grand Slam such as Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Individuals, with the right set of skills and incentives, can thrive in an environment of excellenc, if a particular philosophy of governance and a strict set of operating principles are embraced.
A Fiction State within a Fiction State
Population in Subsaharan African countries is rapidly increasing. It is expected to double in most countries by 2050 and to quadruple by 2100. Nation-states must cooperate to reduce expenses and embrace economies of scale. Within the 11 nation-states of West Africa, three are particularly well positioned to embrace radical integration, as said Guinea-Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone.The initial integration of the three countries is first and foremost important for the successful take off of West Africa.
With the sole exception of Guinea-Bissau where Portuguese is official language, in the 10 remaining countries of West Africa either French or English are official languages. French and English could coexist as co-official languages in Guinea-Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The three countries are coastal and neighboring. The three capital cities of Conakry, Freetown and Monrovia are not only on the coast, but aligned within 678 kilometers, a distance that with today’s infrastructure can be driven in circa 11 hours. It’s rather easy to envision a corridor linking the three coastal cities through highway and train, a corridor that later on could be expanded north and eastwards linking Senegal’s Dakar with Nigeria’s Lagos in what could become “The Gold Coast of A New World”, eventually the new name for the West Africa fiction state. The question remains which among the three capitals should be the new federal capital of the integration of the three countries?
The three countries have of course much in common, but much of the worse not much of the best. When a nation-state is small and wealthy, for instance Norway or New Zealand, the incentives to join a larger union are almost nonexistent. The Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, although they share a common culture and almost similar languages, have not created a Federation. When a nation-state is small and poor the incentives of joining forces with neighboring countries sharing same challenges are phenomenal.
In reality neither of the three countries is part of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), a currency union of eight countries (one of the World’s only four currency unions) including Benin, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The three countries are however members of the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS. There is some degree of partnership which shows the three countries’ willingness and determination to cooperate supranationally. The absence of a common currency is however an opportunity for the three countries to either join UEMOA or create their own currency. When commitment to supranational cooperation is timid, new leadership with a more ambitious agenda can accomplish more in less time.
The consultancy Mercer publishes the ranking “Quality of Living City Rankings”. In the 2017 edition of the rankings –the 19th one- 237 cities, mostly capital cities, were ranked. Conakry ranked 222 out of 237, with Freetown and Monrovia not included in the survey. One of the factors evaluated by Mercer to build up the city rankings is “health and sanitation”, allowing a sub-ranking of dirtiest cities to emerge. As a result in the 2016 Mercer’s index of health and sanitation, Conakry shows us as the World’s 16th dirtiest city, whereas Freetown and Liberia remain unranked.
Many neighboring countries in the developing world are clustered in a majority of indicators, for instance the six Balkan countries which still have not joined the European Union, or many of the coastal countries in West Africa. The same principle motivated the creation of the European Union in the aftermath of World War II.
A search for alternative, newly established capitals is most interesting, designed to become purely administrative centers. A new administrative capital could emerge in Sierra Leone’s Sherbro Island, mainly because it’s unexplored territory roughly equidistant from both Conakry and Monrovia and a mere one hour by car or train from Freetown once a corridor has been established. Sherbro Island has an area of about 600 km2 and an almost non-existent population of almost 30,000 inhabitants. 51 kilometers long and 24 kilometers wide, it has over 100 kilometers of tropical beaches, all of them remain unexplored. Sierra Leone has its own Dubai, the advantage is that it’s already been built, waiting to be conquered. The establishment of a new city is a great opportunity for development. Singapore and Hong Kong are in reality islands with areas of 719 and 2,754 km2 respectively.