LIBERIA @175: A Country with Challenging Crisis amid Opportunities


ON TUESDAY, July 26, Liberia will mark 175 years of independence. There is going to be a fanfare, but the celebration will come with mixed feelings for the citizens. Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, is far from where it ought to be. At 175, the country remains a work-in-progress

A COUNTRY with different ethnic groups has gone through brutal civil war for over over a decade. The end of the civil war in 2003 was widely seen as an opportunity for the country to restructure governance and ensure equity in its distribution of resources. 

BUT GROWING corruption has contributed to its failure to effectively tackle some of its most critical problems.

IT IS PARADOXICAL that a country with abundant human and material resources, a country whose nationals are breaking barriers across the world, a country that has produced Nobel laureates would same time be the world capital of poverty. 

THERE’S ALMOST nothing to celebrate in a country where almost everywhere is so insecure. 

ACCORDING TO TRANSPARENCY International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2021, Liberia is the least corrupt nation out of 180. The amount of money stolen by the political class is enough to fix the most important infrastructures in the country. 

IT IS SO ANNOYING to see millions of Liberians languishing in poverty while a group of persons squanders the country’s resources.

IN 175 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE, our key achievements as a nation are that we survived more than a decade-long civil war and that we are still a country. Beyond these, every index in terms of physical and social parameters shows that we have declined. 

UP TO THE EARLY 1970S, Liberians most likely contemplated going abroad to study only if he/she did not find a place in a Liberian university. Our universities compared with some of the best in the world as did our primary and secondary schools.

OUR MEDICAL FACILITIES, largely public or owned by religious missions were first rate. Today, our social and physical infrastructures are in shambles. 

WE HAVE ONE of the highest, if not the highest, number of out of school children in West Africa, the unemployment and poverty rates are scandalous.

THERE WAS A TIME when the safest time to travel was at night. Crime was very low. That has changed for the worst.

LIBERIA REQUIRES a national leadership with the understanding and capability to set the tone and direction for national growth and development. This must incorporate all citizens, irrespective of ethnic or geo-political affiliation in a grand vision of collective dynamic growth.

A LACK OF SUCH POLITICAL leadership denies the country of the possibility of meaningful growth and critical citizenry.

LIBERIA REMAINS a country of great potential. Her fountain of possibilities can be found in its growing population of educated citizens. The population of the educated at this very moment in the country’s history is at the threshold or point of national acceleration. 

ALL THE FUNDAMENTALS are indicative of a country at the point of a great leap forward, the role of an enlightened and well-educated population is crucial to that process.

DESPITE LIMITATIONS in the education sector, Liberia has more than over 10 universities. The country churns out many graduates annually.

THIS GROWTH REPRESENTS both a challenge and an opportunity. It will be a challenge and a huge economic burden if productive opportunities are not found for their engagement. Gainfully employed, these educated youths can be harnessed to drive Liberia’s economic growth, thus promoting social stability.

LIBERIA NEEDS a modern political administration where the country is not about maintenance of the status quo and the mere allocation of existing economic values for project and self-aggrandizement.

THE COUNTRY should be reoriented and directed purposely towards a more expansive interpretation with a focus on rapid economic growth and the provision of public goods that empower citizens to become meaningful actors in the overall positive transformation of their society.

SUCH PURPOSEFUL action by the national leadership, who must be clearly reformist, is required to alter the trajectory of poor economic growth. It is also required to foster sustained productivity gains in the country’s economy to generate growth to an average 6%-10% annually. 

INEVITABLY, a growing economy represents the best pathway toward addressing many of the social and economic problems facing the country.