Liberia: The Road Ahead  

By Ansumana Konneh & Musa AF. Sherif

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 10, 2017


“Africa’s oldest independent state”, “Africa’s chief exporter of rubber”, and the “home of the only African “World Best”, are clichés that have filled the ears of Liberians at home and won the impressions of so many others abroad. But the question is: how are these in any way reflected in the development of a country so rich in natural resources, yet underdeveloped and impoverished? As a post-war country, Liberia’s drive to national reconstruction comes with huge challenges. These challenges cut across corruption, education, health, agriculture, job creation, and the national economy.  Statistics show that Liberia’s patient to doctor ratio is 19,000:1. And Over 60% of our population live on $1 per day, with Only 10% out of 4.5 million people have access to clean water and electricity. There is a deficit of over 16,000 trained and qualified teachers in Liberian schools. 

With just two more days to Liberia’s first peaceful transition of power since seven decades ago, we believe that with a strong political will from the national government, policy-makers in the new government, and an honest investment on the side of interested partners, these challenges can be harnessed if we  create smart solutions that will tackle them head-on.
As a historic event, the 2017 elections should focus on policies and issues that can lift our nation and its people out of poverty as we prepare to elect a  new breed of leaders to run the country for the next six years. This article, therefore, seeks to bring ten things which, we believe, electorates should look for in the platforms of political parties. This should be done with the hope of making positive and informed decisions in the interest of our country rather than an individual.

Education: The prime driver for every nation’s development process is education. This is reflected in the development of countries such as China, America, Rwanda, Ghana, etc. According to statistics, 33.2% of Liberia’s 60% youth population lack access to education.  Another 31.1% have had only primary education, while 35.75% have had a secondary and tertiary education. The education system has for years been termed as a “mess”, especially so by the Commander in Chief of the country-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The annual results of our national exams best reflect the woes in our educational system. In 2013, there were 7,884 failures (29.49%) out of the 26,993 registered candidates. Just last year, 48.46% of the students failed, while this year’s failure sums up to 41%. Although some of the blame can be attributed to the students, the national government through its ministry of education, whose responsibility is to provide quality education however shares the bigger portion of the blame.


Consequently, Liberia has inherited one of the world’s worst education systems; producing graduates who barely find it possible to compete with their peers in the region. This time must make Liberians select a candidate who not only place education at the top of their agenda but have clear and realistic plans for addressing the frailties in the education system.

The National Economy:
Liberia’s economic growth is a shrinking horror. The twin shock in the economy back in 2014 has left a steep stain on our economy. The Ebola Virus and the drop down in the prices of our major export commodities have stalled our growth from 8.7 to -1.6 this year. The growth has been projected by the ministry of finance and development planning to rise to 2.6 at the end of 2017. Boosting economic growth for the benefit of our people would require a commitment to expanding government revenues, and cutting wasteful spending by investing in the upliftment drive of our people across the country.  The economy of the Liberian people must be given back to the Liberian people and this must be on the mind of every voter when we approach the polls on October 10. When we go to the polls, frailties in the economy and the deplorable living condition of our people must be at the back of our minds. Electorates should, therefore, select a candidate who has relevant economic policies and financial expertise to alternate the growth and development of our country.

Youth Empowerment:
Huge investment in Liberia’s youth potential is critical to the socio-economic transformation of our country. For the most part of our development drive, youth empowerment remains one of the critical driving indicators towards the country’s quest to progress and sustained economic development. This is because the youth constitute over 60% of the country’s population with the most favorable age group of a workforce. Sadly, youth unemployment rate of the country is estimated at 85%. Though President Sirleaf has made some viable strides (although this issue is still seriously debated) by involving youth in our nation-building process, there’s still more to be done.  If Liberia is to be effective in her economic development drive and be a major competitor at the regional level, the untapped talents of the huge Liberian youth population must be developed and maximized appropriately. The solution to this problem must equally reflect in the policy documents of political parties that seek to pick up the baton of national power in these elections. Their policies must demonstrate their commitment to forming a partnership with private organizations to empower the Liberian youth with not just skills, but sustainable jobs that can better the lives of young people. The first instance, they could advance that they will allocate resources to sectors that are dominated by youths or sectors that focus primarily on youth development.

The National Health Sector:  The national health sector is in dismal decline- evidenced by the Ebola Virus disease that reported more than 10,600 cases and 4,800 deaths (CDC report). The infant mortality rate sums up to 65.8 deaths/ 1,000 live births. The nation’s referral hospital is in ruins, and can barely meet the demands of the people- majority of whom live on a dollar per day. The next government will have to have a tangible and realistic “Health Sector Reform Policy” to revamp the health system, increase funding for health workers, and invest in health facilities to bring them up to speed with our neighboring countries. Ask the candidates for their Health Sector reform policies before making a decision.

Clean water and Sanitation:  A World Bank Report says that only 25% of Liberians have access to clean water with an estimation of 15% to sanitation.  The next government of Liberia will have to make it a priority to provide clean water and sanitation to the vast majority of the Liberian people. That is only possible when there is an effective plan and timely implementation by the government. When we go to the polls on October 10, let’s remember that the Liberian people deserve clean water and sanitation. Keep asking the candidates the hard questions concerning the betterment of lives in Liberia after October 10, and their plans for improving the living conditions of our people across towns and villages.

Agricultural Development
Success stories have proven that most countries that have progressed in the world have done so because of their huge investment and honest political will towards the agricultural sector. The history of China and many other developed and developing countries have taught us a key lesson: that more than any other factor, investment in agriculture remains a key foundation to economic growth and development. Future political leaders of our country must demonstrate the willingness to invest in the agricultural sector. As a country, our model of our agricultural production must change from being the usual 90% percent cash crop to a better version. Towards this, political parties' policies should advance that they will, for instance, invest in food crops rather than in the 90% cash crops for local consumption and export purposes. The goal of this production must be to alleviate the vast majority of Liberians from hunger. In the same way, a political party’s policy frameworks must highlight how their government/leadership will help introduce other agricultural products that will help to serve the need of the people within, and at the same time having its excesses exported to other countries for the nation’s growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Fight Against Corruption: According to Transparency International Corruption Index report, Liberia is ranked 90/176 with a score of 37/100. The President on numerous instances has labeled corruption as a “vampire” and a “major public enemy” stalling development in Liberia. Though there have been some policies to address the issue of corruption through the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the commitment to fight corruption remains a national impediment.  The enactment of the LACC into law has not been able to yield the desired results and has relatively failed to fulfill the hopes of the Liberian people in terms of minimizing corruption. There can be no better progress without tackling head-on the issue of corruption for any country. The consequence of lack of strengthened integrity institution that should possibly execute corrupt people has led the country losing millions of dollars every year. The country’s drive to progress must stem from the commitment of incoming leadership to put in place a rigid punishment system for those who squander the nation’s wealth.

Job Creation
As in many African countries, unemployment in Liberia is abysmal. Average Liberian suffers from unemployment amid a huge possibility of job creation. President Sirleaf, in her 2011 elections platform, promised 20, 000 job every year. But there is little achievement in this regard. Over the past 12 years, the current government has not meaningfully addressed the issue of unemployment in Liberia. It has rather heavily relied on export companies to provide jobs for ordinary Liberians and has barely follow up as to how many Liberians are employed in these companies or the quality of jobs given them.  The next government will have to find alternative avenues to create jobs for Liberians–preferably in the private sector.

Infrastructure: Liberia is still recovering from the remnants of the 14 years civil war that destroyed much of the little infrastructures the country had. The capital city, Monrovia, is urbanizing not in terms of infrastructural development, but population growth and expansion.  In contrast to the eighties and nineties, more rural dwellers are opting for the city. For most of these people, the reality of housing challenge is ever green. Slums like West Point, Clara Town, and New Kru Town are dwelling places for many urbanizing Liberians who cannot afford the rent of the city’s expensive housing system. A solution to this challenge could be through a smart alliance between and among the government, private partners, and real-estate developers to invest in the constructing affordable housing system with the ambition of not only providing homes for the poor (to pay rents), but achieving infrastructural development. Cities like Kigali have adopted a master plan to address theirs, and it seems to be working greatly.  This could work for Liberia with a government that cares about development and leaving a good legacy.

Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial venture is a driving force for the boom of private sectors economy in countries of the world. In African countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria, there is a great achievement of success towards development through entrepreneurship. In these countries, the majority of young people, especially school-leaving youths, invest their time in fresh business venture that achieve a huge level of progress. Here in Liberia, little or nothing is done by the national government and responsible partners to invest in building the capacity of the youth towards promoting entrepreneurship. As a result, average Liberian youth find it difficult to break away from the usual dependency syndrome on political leaders as they turn to regular soon-morning radio talk show callers and “Kpakus” at various ‘hatayea’ centers. It is a difficult challenge for the average Liberian to start their own business and or develop plans for the sustainability of such business due to the lack of capacity and knowledge.

As we go to elect our new leaders (legislative and presidential) on Tuesday, we must hold dear to heart the believe that our country can only develop and prosper when there is a huge progress in the areas of education, economy, youth empowerment, health and sanitation, job creation, infrastructure, and entrepreneurship.



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