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14.04.2019 Feature Article

How do we salvage a State of Historical Significance from Failing?

..."The Call for Reflection & Assertive Leadership "

How do we salvage a State of Historical Significance from Failing? A Country that is one of the only four African countries (Apartheid South Africa at the time, Ethiopia, and Egypt) to have served as signatory to the Bretton Woods Accord, produced the first female, black, and African Chair of the General Assembly of the United Nations, The first Sub-Sahara country to gain independence-1847 (Ghana was the first Sub Sahara country to gain independence from Colonization), the country where the African Union (organization of African Unity) was given birth, a country that championed the struggle of the “Black Race”; from Rhodesia, African National Congress (ANC), to the National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP), and the only country; self-rear but did make a case that the black race could lead and ably govern a country.

It is important to reflect before hastily taking actions that could be regrettable. Stephen Covey reminds us that, it is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another not to admit it. He further laments that People will forgive mistakes because mistakes are usually of the mind; mistakes of judgment. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill-intention, the bad motives, the prideful, and justifying covered up of the first mistake.

The recent state-sponsored looting of sixteen billion LD, and the inability to fully account for the application of twenty-five million USD, couple with the undermining of the State justice system and integrity institutions have exacerbated the “Wait & See” postures from partners, donors, and investors. This could amount to self-imposed sanction.

Liberia is in a state of ‘active inertia’ – a phrase used by Harvard professor Don Sull to describe the reaction of a body to an imminent threat. The so-called “Save Liberia” protest is not being organized or staged to remove the current President from office, or because people dislike him, or because the organizers are trouble makers. No. The protest is a manifestation of the current economic and social paralysis of Liberia, and the erosion of the spending power of most ordinary Liberians. The people want their President to listen, admit his mistake of judgement, take corrective actions, and re-set the direction of the country. This means, he must make some sacrifices, take some unpopular actions and make hard calls that might affect his friends and or partisans, and re-focused his agenda on governing. Join the protesters in protesting and order the police to protect them. Do not go after anyone for “Speaking Truth to Power,” be it radio host, political commentators, opposition figures, or ordinary folks.

Moreover, Mr. President taking over or winning the presidency of a country requires assertive leadership, performing roles and duties; including those that are ceremonial, administrative, operational, and making and being proactive. Oh yes, you cannot co-source or out-source your duties, roles, and responsibilities to anyone no matter how much you trust that person. Stop focusing on the ceremonial aspect of your Presidency and lead as expected. As friends, supporters, and well-wishers, of you Mr. President, we cannot pretend that all is well. This will be misleading and deceptive to the highest degree of human imagination. We must call “Spade a Spade”.

As I layout proposals on what needs to be done to help solve the current state of affairs, Mr. President, you might relate to this analogy; on the soccer pitch (Old-timers), no matter how hard I have tried to played my best during practices and games, in the eyes and minds of former Lonestar -National team players (including you Mr. President), I am always overlooked because I am not known to have played soccer at any level in Liberia. But most times you all would consider me “Smart”(Truth or not).

Mr. President, this could also apply to you. Yes, you have gone to school, have obtained a master’s degree, and you have proven that you are not dull by all measures; including smartly defeating all the so-called Book People at the ballot box. However, most people associate you with soccer, as a “Wizard” and Legend of the game. This does not negate the fact that you have worked hard to obtain your degrees. Therefore, you must use this leverage (International Soccer Star Power) to reach out, negotiate wisely, and find common ground with opposition, and other stakeholders. Furthermore, consider the following actions;

  • Appoint people of credibility, exposure, and proven international network (Not just credential. They must demonstrate their ability before you appoint them). These changes need to occur the soonest possible at some ministries and agencies
  • Effect immediate action against those that are culpable for looting the state, and recommit your administration efforts at upholding the separation of functions as espoused by the constitution, and the independence of the integrity institutions
  • Expedite the IMF & World Bank Programs and recommendation immediately, this is for policy validation, guidance, and self-control (Not much money will come for now, however, re-engagement could triggered renewed confidence in your government, the economy, and money plus other resources from thoughtful multilateral development institutions and countries might be made available in the shortest possible time)
  • You cannot throw money at stabilizing the rate of exchange. In order to stabilize the exchange rate, other measures must be implemented in addition to the mopping or auction exercise. Moreover, the Government must endeavor to regain the confidence of the private sector, proponents of Foreign Direct Investment, and proactively & aggressively implement a hybrid PPP (P3) strategy involving energy, seaports, service concessions, and the various mines; not just iron ore (We must take a minimum one-third stake in all concessions; fully vested without any cash call). This can only be achieved if we strategically engage the process, not forcibly. Establish a seed capital aim at developing the feasibility studies (Seaports, energy, housing & CBD, mines, agriculture, etc) then you call the private sector players to the table.
  • You need to reach out to the Trump Administration ASAP (You cannot achieve this through a regular Lobbyist. It must be non-conventional go-between). The BUILD Act will be made operational later this year. USAID Framework for development financing has change radically, from hand-out to direct investment. IFC, and DFID are all aggressively looking for bankable projects through “blended Arrangements. No need for Sovereign Guaranty-of course the issue of good governance would be cardinal.
  • Get back to the basic (Package, structure, and de-risk) projects and programs that are currently on the table involving infrastructure (National Power Grid, Strategic Use of the country seaports, and the development of major roads). Integrate the seaports into the master plan of all minerals development agreements (Using off-take agreements from the concessionaires)
  • Tourism (Implement practical projects meant to make the tourism strategy a reality), place the Special Economic Zone (SEZ ) Act into action . Yes, I see that you have established an oversight board; while this is far removed from the initial configuration, it is a step in the right direction. Look above and see the selling pointers for tourism. Those are just handful of reasons why tourists would be intrigued to visit Liberia as a tourist destination.
  • Designate few areas and sectors as Free Zones under the SEZ; in Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Bomi, Sinoe, etc., and think through making agribusiness development a strategic endeavor (Rethink forestry and sustainable logging).

We are afar, but we have been working behind the scenes to avail capital for bankable projects in Liberia. We remain committed to these endeavors, and if voicing our concerns and cautioning the President, means that these efforts would be thwarted at the detriment of the beneficiary institutions and country, so be it. This is a call for you Mr. President to reflect and exercise assertive leadership. “A Hungry Man, is an Angry Man”

Sunny Nyemah
Sunny Nyemah, © 2019

Sunny is a highly qualified investment professional, He has built a 20 years of international career producing results. A Certified Fund Manager (CFM)a and an Executive Panel Member at McKinsey & Company

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