CHRISTMAS MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
My Fellow Liberians,
As we celebrate Christmas which is a tradition of Christians around the world, I wish to extend sincere greetings from my family, and also admonish you to be steadfast and remember that Liberia as a Country still has challenges among many nations in West Africa. Leadership matters a whole lot in Liberia. The ability to define problem and solve problems counts a whole lot in governance. The free market system is provided by leaders from Liberia. Three problems I see today in Liberia, corruptions, big institutions, and the leaders that run those institutions. For instance, a single University of Liberia graduate have a sense of entitlement and no responsibility. I want to believe that our kids in Africa are smart and if we engage them, they will adequately meet those standards of the real world, and magic will happen in our country. It is an awesome thing to have the passion of helping to create a perfect society in Liberia. We cannot achieve perfection, but if we strive, we could do a really good thing. I have the passion to build an institution in Liberia that will serve as game changers in many counties in the country.
Some years back, I experienced the Liberian Civil War at the age of fifteen. Because of the war, my family had to leave my native home of Liberia and move to Neighboring Ivory Coast. As luck would have it, few months after we arrived, they too had a civil war. I vividly remember being woken up in the middle of the night and gathering the few belongings we could and walking for about two to three hours to a safe house. For a week, we slept under our beds because we were worried that bullets might fly through the window.
After two years, we moved to Ghana. This time, it was different. There were no wars. Everything worked. Great education. They had such good infrastructure that even at the time they had good road network, long before it had reached some countries in West Africa.
I remember on TV watching Nelson Mandela in jail being offered a chance to come out if he would give up the apartheid struggle. But he didn’t. He refused to do that until he actually achieved his objective of freeing South Africa from apartheid. And I remember feeling how just one good leader could make such a big difference in Africa. How many good leaders we have in Liberia that are making the difference today?
Being out of Liberia and constantly in contacts with citizens, I’ve come to realize that everything is different. It had shattered into pieces. Thousands of people today wishing to migrate out of Liberia, the economy is in a shambles, and it seemed all have lost for citizens, development are slowly initiated by the present government. How could a country go so bad? Most people would agree that it’s all because of leadership. Our leaders are single-handedly responsible for having destroyed our country.
Now, all these experiences of living in different parts of Africa growing up did two things to me. The first is it made me fall in love with Liberia. Everywhere I went, I experienced the wonderful beauty of our country and saw the resilience and the spirit of our people, and it has reached the time, I realized that I want to dedicate the rest of my life to making this country great. But I have also realized that making Liberia great would require addressing this issue of leadership. You see, all the coups d’état and the corruption I’d seen in Liberia and neighboring countries, contrasted with the wonderful examples I have researched about Botswana and in South Africa of good leadership. It made me realize that Liberia would rise or fall because of the quality of our leaders.
Now, one might think, of course, leadership matters everywhere. But if there’s one thing you take away from my statement today, it is this: In Liberia, more than anywhere else in the world, the difference that just one good leader can make is much greater than anywhere else, and here’s why. It’s because in Liberia, we have weak institutions, like the judiciary, the constitution, civil society and so forth. So here’s a general rule of thumb that I believe in: When societies have strong institutions, the difference that one good leader can make is limited, but when you have weak institutions, then just one good leader can make or break that country.
The good news is that the quality of leadership in Liberia has been improving. We’ve had three generations of leaders, in my mind. Generation one are those who appeared in the ’50s and ’60s. The legacy they left is that they strengthened our independence to Africa. They freed us from colonialism, and let’s give them credit for that. They were followed by another generation. These are people that brought nothing but havoc to Liberia. Think warfare, corruption, human rights abuses. The good news is that most of these leaders have moved on, and they were replaced by generation three. These leaders are by no means perfect, but the one thing they have done is that they have cleaned up much of the mess of generation two. They’ve stopped the fighting, and I call them the stabilizer generation. They’re much more accountable to their people, they’ve improved macroeconomic policies, and we are seeing for the first time Liberia’s growing, and in fact it’s the second fastest growing economic region in the world. So these leaders are by no means perfect, but they are by and large the best leaders we’ve seen in the last 50 years.
So where do we go from here? I believe that the next generation to come after this, generation four, has a unique opportunity to transform Liberia. Specifically, they can do two things that previous generations have not done. The first thing they need to do is they need to create prosperity for Liberia. Why is opulence so important? Because none of the previous generations have been able to tackle this issue of poverty. Liberia today is growing in population, but also is the poorest. By 2030, Liberia will have a larger workforce, and by 2050, it will have some of the largest workforce in Africa. Thousands of people will need jobs in Liberia, so if we don’t grow our economies fast enough, we’re sitting on a ticking time bomb, not just for Liberia but for the entire Africa.
The is a reason why I have a high expectation of Liberia. The is lady who is living up to this legacy of creating prosperity: Laetitia. Ms. Laetitia’s a young woman from Kenya who at the age of 13 had to drop out of school because her family couldn’t afford to pay fees for her. So she started her own business rearing rabbits, which happen to be a delicacy in this part of Kenya that she’s from. This business did so well that within a year, she was employing 15 women and was able to generate enough income that she was able to send herself to school, and through these women fund another 65 children to go to school. The profits that she generated, she used that to build a school, and today she educates 400 children in her community. And she’s just turned 18. I have the dream that we can do the same for Liberia.
Now, all of this sounds great, but where are we going to get this generation four from? Do we just sit and hope that they emerge by chance, or that God gives them to us? No, I don’t think so. It’s too important an issue for us to leave it to chance. I believe that we need to create Liberian institutions, home-grown, that will identify and develop these leaders in a systematic, practical way. We’ve been doing this for the last 5 years through the Game Changers Advocacy Programs. We are aiming to create more leaders, and over the next 50 years, we expect to create 5,000 of them. These leaders will be spotted from different vicinity.
My hope is that half of them will become the entrepreneurs that we need, who will create these jobs that we need, and the other half will go into government and the nonprofit sector, and they will build the institutions that we need. But they won’t just learn academics. They will also learn how to become leaders, and they will develop their skills as entrepreneurs. It is not going to be of how much money you have or which family you come from, the main criteria will be what is the potential that you have for transforming Liberia?
Nelson Mandela once said, “Every now and then, a generation is called upon to be great. You can be that great generation.” I believe that if we carefully identify and cultivate the next generation of African leaders, then this generation four that is coming up will be the greatest generation that Africa and indeed the entire world has ever seen.
Thanks for giving me your attention, and that the is no doubt all of what mentioned above would be achieve, if only we love Liberia and work hard in achieving them as a generation who mean good for our beloved country.
May God blessed you and may God blessed the Republic of Liberia. Thanks!