Resuscitate Liberia’s Economy through Agro-Investment; an approach that benefits all now and in the future.

It is now time to shift agro-investment paradigm in Liberia. Long ago, Liberia agro-investment policy practices have been enshrined into speeches delivered by policy makers; expressing what they think they know even if it does not positively impact majorities of those the policies were made for.

Over the period, it is been observed that agriculture is essential and can serve as a gate to poverty mitigation and wealth creation in Liberia as it accounts for about 55% of total employment ( in both formal and informal employment sectors) and about 25% of GDP. This suggests that agribusiness is strategically placed to drive Liberia’s future economic development. Agribusiness can create important linkages and encourages investment in a way that can have strong multiplier effects on growth and development of a nation and its citizens. Agro-investment take a lead role in fighting food insecurity, not only because it stimulates increased production but due to its potential to create wealth for smallholder farmers’ and rural communities.

However, developing a competitive and sustainable agribusiness sector will require focusing on various components of the agri-food chain. This will include a wide spectrum of initiatives from boosting productivity at farm level, to upgrading value chains by empowering farmers’ organisations and involving them in strategic partnerships.  For example, we need to look at how to respond to local demand by adding value to commodities and to enhance technology and innovation in the agribusiness sector. Facilitating access to capital and credit is also essential for small holder farmers- investments that focus on rural infrastructure also need to be encouraged. We are cognizant that the challenges ahead are significant, but we are also extremely optimistic that if we can collectively engage with a new vision, the challenges ahead can be overcome.

Liberia has an enormous agricultural potential and if harnessed, it could help drive the country’s economic growth, stimulate development and improve national food security. There are considerable opportunities for accelerating the development of agriculture and the related agro-food value chain in Liberia. Nevertheless, Liberia is still net importers of food and many other agro-products. The situation is symptomatic of severe and long-term under-investment in Liberian food and agricultural systems. This is a major concern that needs to be address.

The need to reinvest in agriculture to reverse this neglectful trend has become increasingly evident in Liberia. Creating the right conditions for strengthen agro industry should be seeing as a priority when discussing the future development in Liberia. For the sector to trigger growth and development, it needs to have the right framework to operate which will serve as a sustainable vehicle for poverty alleviation. Improving small producers’ livelihood sustainably and equitably is central to achieving this. Evidence shows that investment in agricultural smallholdings provides the greatest returns in terms of poverty reduction and growth. Providing support to small-scale farmers who want to become more integrated into national agro-food markets is cardinal.

Liberia has one of the most undeveloped fertile lands in the West African sub-region. It is home to about 45% of the Guinea rain forest fertile land but accounts for less than 5 % of the West Africa sub-regional agricultural output.  It also has substantial water resources, but less than 4 % is used.

Demographics and demand

About 55% on average, the Liberian population lives in rural areas and works in small-scale agriculture, indicating the importance and potential of agricultural development as generator of employment. Liberia’s population is growing steadily and will require an increase in food availability. A middle class with higher purchasing power is also emerging. This combination will boost the demand for processed foods and high-value commodities and may lead to a high demand food products.

A competitive and under-productive sector

Liberia’s agro-industry remains primarily small-scale. SMEs are predominantly informal and there are relatively few multinationals compared with other countries in the sub-region.  There is also an increasingly large gap between national demand and supply, and between national supply and regional demand. These factors suggest that the situation is conducive to the development of a nascent Liberian agro-business sector that can deliver significant returns on investment. However, for prosperity to be genuine these gains must be inclusive and it must benefit smallholder farmers.

Shifting the paradigm

There are several issues which in many ways can have an impact on production and output which may subsequently discourage potential investors and damage existing efforts. These we need to critical look at and correct errors if we must get better.

These challenges include:

  • Poor governance of land tenure systems
  • Low productivity in farming and in the entire agribusiness chain.
  • Insufficient financial resources, access to credit and productive assets for smallholders.
  • High post-harvest losses, resulting in higher prices.
  • Lack of market information and market access.
  • Limited availability of, or access to, extension services, research, technology and expertise.
  • Lack of financial safety nets such as agro-insurance.
  • Poor infrastructure for transport, storage and electricity.
  • Weak political institutions and the lack of trusted regulatory frameworks in some instances.

However, if the space is provided, Liberian can make the most of the opportunities in the agro-business sector. Therefore, there is a structural need for transformation in the agricultural sector.

This would involve a sustainable shift from subsistence agriculture to a productive agricultural industry that allows farmers to take part in the market economy. To achieve this, productivity must be increased in an environmentally and socially sustainable way. This can be done by increasing access to sustainable agricultural methods that are suitable for smallholders. It also requires technical training, facilitating access to extension services, investment in agricultural research, and improving technology transfer and access to credit. It is also crucial for addressing production factors such as the distribution of seeds, fertilisers and crop protection products. In addition to productivity, value chains must be upgraded to produce high value agro-food products. This will significantly boost national competitiveness and will help to match domestic, regional and international demand. There is also a need to improve logistics and transport services, as well as access to energy and water. Moreover, an enabling regulatory and legal framework that gives investors security while reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks is also necessary.  Additionally, engaging the private sector, smallholder farmers, producer organisations and cooperatives will help to accelerate this transformation.

 

 

 

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Why democracy is not working in Africa?: Liberia as a case study

 

francis-portraitUnder the principles of democracy, government everywhere has an inherent responsibility to provide an enhancement for its citizens to have access to basic services such as health care, education, shelter, food among others and to communicate important information to its citizens in a timely and consistent manner. But in Africa, the measure of democracy is only based on elections. My friend, election is not the end none the beginning of democracy. In-fact frequent elections have caused more problem in building the state than we think. Democracy is not guaranteed once nations’ social and economic institutions are not strengthen to the point that the citizens approach to issues of governance is coherence to developmental agenda of the country especially the involvement of the young people from the genesis of policy planning and implementation. Additionally, when these policies do not relate to the day-to-day economic wellbeing of the majorities of the citizens who have surrounded their rights for the purpose of maintaining peace, order and economic viability of their society, the revise might be brutish.

Even though election is one of the pillars upon which democracy is built, but if care is not giving in analysing elections related events, the nation will be in terror. We would argue that collective participation of people in structuring of power is at the core of all human rights- it is impossible to  uphold democracy, support and protect human rights without an understanding of tools to support citizens participation and commitments to those rights. In this way, democracy is foundational- to all rights ranging from the right to vote, to the right to health and education, to the right to free speech and the right to information. Timely access to information is one of the determinant factors to all of these and it has to be done through mature and independent media.

It’s globally known  that one who has power determined who get what and as such everyone want to be in the position of authority. Hence, people who want to be in this positions’ of trust will do anything within their reach to get to power and to remain in said authority. Therefore, the will craft a slogan that will resonate with the poor who are in majority and without better understanding of what the slogan is about, the poor majority will make sure that the progenitors of the slogan ascend to power.

But the irony is that these poor majorities when the power has already been given to someone or group of people who really do not understand how to adequately administer the affairs of the state can get frustrated and become violence at the end. Additionally, these people are always living in a visual circle of hope with less or no confidence in the government and their welfare and the future of their children keep retrogressing. In Liberia, for example, the same promise made by William V.S.Tubman in 1944 about improving the lives of the people of Liberia is the same platform many of our politicians are still moving on today. But the reality is that the lives of the people truly remain the same. Then how will democracy really work when the government keep crying of poor economics yet government officials lived in a very expensive and well-furnished compound; drive a car worth US$60000, send their children are in foreign countries for schooling; seek medical attention in developed countries such as the United States of America; take home for themselves a monthly salary of US$13000 plus other benefits. Whereas the electorates lived on less than US$1.00 per-day; died of common illness because of lack of quality medical services; their children are attending schools that lacked quality educational services and they walked for about 2 hours every day to access school; go to school on empty stomach; lived in shanty building and possessed only a pair of shoe and wear one suit for at least four days.

About the author:

Francis Egu Lansana studied Sociology and Political Science at the University of Liberia and he has over 10 years working experience with Non-Governmental Organization, Private Sector and Government. For further information, Francis can be reach through E-mail:fraela79@gmail.com and Phone #: +231886156316

 

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The Importance of Culture from the perspective of Poro Socieety

francis-portraitCulture and tradition is practiced in every region of the world, of which Africa is no exception. But what is amazing is that the belief pattern varies according to ethnicity and region. African tradition and religion-culture is an integral component of the African gradation school system that is been taught based on ethnicity and regional believe. Although there are variations in the practice, the core objective is that it serves as a basis for early childhood development and sets the standard for administrative and governing structures, especially for determining ascendency to power and enforcement of laws.  Although culture in every region of the world served as a core that ignite a value of unity and humanity in its members; however, the practice are not the same based on ethnic and region and Africa is a continent with over 33 countries with more than 350 different tribes each with  its own culture. With this in mind, this work will be more focused on the poro society cultural practice in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Poro is a male culture widely practiced among the Mende, Kissi, Lorma, Gola, Vai, Kpelle and Gbandi ethnic group in the West African sub-region. It’s an African traditional gradation school system that primarily focuses on training young men with the skill of administration, farming, hunting, fishing, caring and love. The teachers in this school don’t teach from a written manuscript instead, they orally present their lessons and the new initiates are expected to memorize.  All teachers of this school are very retentive and new initiates are graded based on their oral presentation and retentiveness. It’s a culture that teaches it members to be brave, truthful and secretive but to remain respectful to authorities and caring for humanity. The practice of poro society doesn’t involve in anyway a ritual of sacrificing human life.

But like all other cultural practices in the world, the practice of poro society has both advantages and disadvantages.  This has over the past 75-100 years kept the poro society intact and admirable among its members.

  1. Advantages of the practice of poro society include:
    • Build social network among members
    • Skill development in the area of domestic management
    • Submission to authorities and respect for each other
    • Fast thinking and retentiveness
    • Security mindedness-curious to know about who is around and what is happening around
    • Members are mostly active listeners and less talkers
    • Speaking the truth is a matter of must
    • Makes decision making easy and timely
    • Confidentiality and early self-actualization; taking on of early responsibilities
  2. Disadvantages of the practice of poro include:
    • Segregation-non initiates are in most cases not consulted and invited for meetings
    • Culture of secrecy-don’t want to discuss any issues with people who don’t have any major role to play in the planning  and execution processes of the issues
    • Reduction of one’s power-submissiveness to authorities

The combination of both the advantages and disadvantages has over the years kept the poro society sacred and has also helped to keep laws and order and stability in the society. Continue reading

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Education and thinking; A gateway to building a stronger nation

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I know someone is out there asking; “what is about education and thinking”?  My friend here I come to you with the answer that might not be the perfect one but it entails some details answers to your question. Education is the practice of sustaining learning, gaining of knowledge, talents, values, principles, and tradition and acquiring it involved different methods which include storytelling, dialogue, coaching, exercise, and fixed investigation. Education often takes place under the management of instructors, however, apprentices may also acquire it by themselves. Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any knowledge that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational.

Thinking can be considered as the act of generating thoughts. Proving that thought is an ultimate human activity accustomed to everyone, therefore, there is no commonly known covenant to details as to what thought is or how it can be generated.

The fact is that thought triggers many human activities and collaborations, ranging from its fleshly and abstract heritages, methods, and effects has remained an enduring objective for numerous disciplines.

Thinking provides the humans with the ability to sort logic of, construe, characterize, perfect the ecosphere and make forecasts about what they experience. Hence, it’s indeed helpful to  human as a guiding tool for setting up needs, goals, wishes and as tool for  making the agenda  in the pursue of accomplishing every dreams.

In every region of the world and with every human, development starts with thinking and education. When the citizens of a country become positively thoughtful, they will become patriotic and educated and will be adequately informed about their government. Thus, their ability to monitor, investigate and make the government functions adequately and more pro-actively will become easy and the affairs of the citizenry will be considered as a priority by the government. Adequate information sharing and quality education are very much cardinal to the growth of any country.

However, this need to be put into a context so that its fits into the cultural dimension of a region or country in-order that the people who are perceived to be the ultimate beneficiaries can easily understand the methodological approach. Once you connect a new idea to what someone previously know, learning will become easy.

When a leader of any country provides quality education and build policies that are developmental friendly, transformation and growth will force its way into that country. The way you think influences your behavior and the way you behavior helps to direct your destiny. One of the core reasons for Liberia’ 14 years war was triggered by our thought patterns.

To the citizens in general, self-esteem, integrity and personal accountability should be the core guide in the quest for quality education. Building a social capital is vital in actualizing development. More coordination and networking among different kinds of professionals and sector is the bed rock and the road map through which ideas can easily be cross pollinated and solution can be found to those problems that existed before.

About the Author:

Francis Egu Lansana is a civil society leader in Liberia. He works for Accountability Lab Liberia. His passion for community participation, governance and development is inspired by humanitarian groups and the world leaders who strive for global stability. He studied Sociology and Political Science at the University of Liberia. He has written several articles including his recent article on “Media for Change Makers” published by Peace Journalist Magazine in the USA and other media institutions like the bush chicken and  heritage news paper.

Contacts:

 

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Democracy is not a system that can be transferred  or imported. It can manifest only if it germinates and takes root. In order to have a thorough democratic function, each country needs to absorb democracy into its traditions, politics and its socio-economic situation. Democracy cannot be reduced only to a legal framework measuring only civil and political rights. The purpose of democracy is to empower every citizen to have a better living through the full improvement of economic, social and cultural rights.

Therefore for democracy to take effect, the citizens of the country must be knowledgeable of the laws governing them and they must have access to it and there must be an independent and mature judiciary system. There must also be freedom of expression through a mature and responsible press. The citizens must have the right to cautiously express themselves if they feel ambiguous of a situation; this means you have the right to say what you want to say but you will be responsible for any outcome of your action. Democracy is a system of government in which decision making is reached with the consent of the majority of the citizens but respecting the views of the minorities.

Elections are not the start nor the end to a democratic system of governance. Elections are just one of the systems through which citizens decide to change the leadership of a state.  And in order to reach to the peak of a democratic state, citizens need to build up the sense of nationalism, sense of belonging, social cohesion, and strong and independent political party system. Political parties need to be institutionalized, managed and controlled by people with vision.

Though election is very cardinal to building democratic institution but the outcome of an election does not guaranteed democracy instead legitimacy after election is one of the core pillar to measuring democracy. Legitimacy is the medium through which elected officials make sure that citizens are harness and willing to drive their leadership project.

A successful government is responsive and accessible to its citizens. Democracy is a very big  tree that provides a huge protection which encompasses; regular elections, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, access to quality education, access to quality and affordable health care system, equal security for all, equal justice for all, etc. And in-order for this tree to continue flourishing, the following chemical must be mixed and put into use simultaneously.

The chemicals include but not limited to:

  • Responsibility-people must always take charge of what they do under the practice and principles of democracy and good governance. Democracy doesn’t feed on speculation; if you have no proof, don’t make it public as the principles of democracy will force you to provide convincing evidence.
  • Transparency-the doctrine of democracy says “for the people and by the people” hence the people must be aware of what you do for them.
  • Accountability-give to the people what is for the people
  • Respecting the rule of laws-this served as light to guide our path in the exercise of democratic doctrine and as such should be observed
  • Answerability-you must be ready to answer for what you do. Telling the people the reasons for doing what you do is one of the major pillars that helps to do away with doubt.
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A Nation in Transition.

Innovation for change

Since the start of Liberia civil war in 1989 till now, the security sector of Liberia has been in the hands of foreign nationals thereby leaving the citizens without trust in the national security. Many persons during this time were exposed to active participation into war-fare given them an insight of military and gorilla tactic, increase human right abuse ranging from rape, child right abuse, force labor, gender based violence, murder, drugs abuse, etc.

 Though the United Nation and other internationals bodies contributed to bring the state of Liberia to where it’s today, yet there still remain many challenges. These challenges encompasses, reintegration of ex-combatant, re-orientation of children associated with fighting forces re-building trust between the ordinary citizens of Liberia and the national security sector, etc. Today, there are 1000s of disbanded arm forces of Liberia along with members of warring faction that exited who are unpleased with the…

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A Nation in Transition.

Since the start of Liberia civil war in 1989 till now, the security sector of Liberia has been in the hands of foreign nationals thereby leaving the citizens without trust in the national security. Many persons during this time were exposed to active participation into war-fare given them an insight of military and gorilla tactic, increase human right abuse ranging from rape, child right abuse, force labor, gender based violence, murder, drugs abuse, etc.

 Though the United Nation and other internationals bodies contributed to bring the state of Liberia to where it’s today, yet there still remain many challenges. These challenges encompasses, reintegration of ex-combatant, re-orientation of children associated with fighting forces re-building trust between the ordinary citizens of Liberia and the national security sector, etc. Today, there are 1000s of disbanded arm forces of Liberia along with members of warring faction that exited who are unpleased with the current political, socioeconomic and administrative occurrence within the country. Now that UNMIL who has been in control of the security sector mandate is coming to end and there will be a political transition in 2017 if nothing is done  to address these challenges the nation Liberia and its citizens remain in serious threat and the likelihood of the out-break of uncontrollable violence remains eminent.

 

Insecurity is a primary development challenge of our time and a significant barrier to the achievement of the development agenda especially the upholding of democracy.  These challenges are further complicated by the changing nature of conflict that involves multi-level, intra-state conflicts of extended duration and marked by recurring cycles of violent conflict. The fourteen-year civil conflict in Liberia has led to the increase of human rights abuse and introduced many Liberians into deviant behavior. During the war, most of Liberians experienced the worst situation of violence ranging from rape, sexual abuse, economic exploitation, torture, etc.  Women and children rights were abused on a daily basis without concrete actions taken as a deterrent to this inhumane act.

 

Though the Liberian civil conflict is over, yet the use of violence by many citizens of Liberia is still on the increase.  This is because of the weakness of the Liberian laws and the corruption that has engulfed the judicial system thereby leaving the citizens without trust in the government especially the judiciary and the security sector. It also can be attributed to the lack of proper security civic education outreach.

Besides, inadequate financing of long term programs that will address a comprehensive judiciary and security sector and improve judiciary/security citizen’s positive relationship, there has existed   the situation where violation has been considered to be acceptable practice in the minds of the people. Children are being denied their fundamental rights to education, participation in community social issues, healthcare, etc as most parents and community leaders are with the view that children are people without rights. Up to now, children are still been grossly abused most especially girls children who have been frequently rape and killed.

Since the end of the Liberia civil war in 2003, the security sector has been in the hands of foreign security personnel especially United Nation Mission In Liberia (UNMIL). This has created many weaknesses for the national security sectors thereby making the citizens of Liberia to not  have confidence in the national security.

The issue of crime is on the increase and the life of citizens is threatened. When you visit the principal streets of Monrovia today especially around central Monrovia, you will see many young Liberians considered as (car loaders) chasing taxi with the hope of snitching people valuables such as lap-top computer, smart phone, etc. Of recent, there was clash between the Liberia National Police and the commercial motor cyclists which resulted into burning of police station in Redlight community in the city of Paynesville. Many of similar violence has been occurring and it continue to occur in other parts of the country. During the out-break of Ebola in Liberia, when West Point one of the communities considered to be hardly hit by Ebola was quarantined, the residence of this  community has clash with the national security and it resulted into the loose of life and leaving several others injured and also led to damaging of properties.

Considering  UMIL draw down and the 2017 political transition, there is a need to closely work with chiefs, youth and other local authorities to identify those potential threat that are related to this transition and work with them in-order to avoid to re-occurrence of what the country went through during the 14 years civil war. Causes which led to the 14 years’ war such corruption, nepotism, etc are still perceived to be on the increase in the country. During 2005 general and presidential elections second round between Unity Party of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Congress for Democratic Change of Georgw M. Weah, there was an election violence that resulted into damaging of properties and leaving many people injured. In 2011, the same act was repeated between the same parties. Understanding that Liberia is a post war country, many people were exposed to military knowledge and Liberia also lies between two post war countries; Cote D’voire and Sierra Leone which has placed Liberia in a highly risky security zone especially when UNMIL shall have pull out in conjunction with the 2017 political transition.

 

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Jugbeh Kekula, a nurse from Grand Bassa, wins Liberia’s First “Integrity Idol” competition

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francis@accountabilitylab.org; 0886-156-316; 0777-726-095

Jugbeh Kekula, a nurse from Grand Bassa, wins Liberia’s First “Integrity Idol” competition

Yesterday marked the end of the first Integrity Idol campaign in Liberia. The Accountability Lab asked citizens all over the country to nominate public servants that they feel embody the values of integrity, transparency and accountability. The team received over 1,400 nominations from every corner of Liberia. With a panel of independent experts, the Lab narrowed down the field to the top 5 nominees (see descriptions below). These nominees were filmed doing their jobs and talking about how they demonstrate integrity.

The videos (at www.integrityidol.org/liberia) were shown on LNTV and SKY TV last week; and audio versions were broadcasted on a number of radio stations including Radio LIB, LIB24, SKY Radio and others. Liberians were encouraged to vote for their “Integrity Idol” by watching the episodes and voting online on the website or by texting their choice to the free shortcode 8355.

The five finalists were:

  • Daniel Gbety Nyenkan – Maryland County; Court Clerk – Ministry of Justice
  • Jugbeh Tarplah Kekula – Grand Bassa County; Nurse -Ministry of Health
  • Seorweh Dlayee Jaycheneh – Maryland County; Prosecuting Attorney – Ministry of Justice
  • Oliver K. Kuson – Maryland County; District Education Officer- Ministry of Education
  • Comfort Nimely – Grand Kru County; Caretaker Ministry of Internal Affairs

Over 5,000 votes came in from all over Liberia and Jugbeh Kekula, a registered nurse at the Government Hospital, Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County, was crowned Liberia’s 2015 Integrity Idol with 51% of the vote.  UNMIL generously provided transport for the finalists from the south east of the country to Monrovia; and Paynesville City Corporation provided the city hall for the ceremony yesterday, December 14th. Upon learning that she was Liberia’s Integrity Idol, Jugbeh notes that she feels “fell very honored.” We should all practice honesty, we should be faithful, we should be sincere, we should do everything to the best of our ability.  We should do the right thing.  You may not be appreciated on the spot but as time goes by you will be rewarded as I have been today.

As grand prize winner, Jugbeh received a robe made from fine country cloth and a rooster.

Another incredible lady, Comfort Nimely, a caretaker at the Grand Kru County Commissioner’s Office came 2nd with 30% of the vote; with Oliver Kuson, a District Education Officer in Maryland finishing third with 8% of the vote.  However, the Lab’s Executive Director, Blair Glencorse, observed that “this is not about who won the most votes- there are many reasons why some finalists may have got more votes than others. The value of Integrity Idol is in the process, not the outcome.  It celebrates individuals, but those that serve the collective good.”

The event attracted representatives from a number of prominent government agencies, civil society organizations and international partners, with representatives from the British Embassy, iLab Liberia, Internews, the Business Start-Up Center, Action Aid and the National Democratic Institute capping each of the finalists with an Integrity Idol sash.

Entertainment was provided by Balawala Cultural Group and the Accountability Lab’s hip co Ambassador, Henry ‘Amaze’ Toe.  President Sirleaf was personally represented by her Minister of Public Works, W. Gyude Moore, who delivered the event’s keynote address.

The five finalists, who will remain in Monrovia for several days, also partook in a high level, invitation only dialogue with key national and international governance figures, co-sponsored by the National Democratic Institute.

 

 

 

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Paradigm shift about Liberia; New initiative to change social perspective about civil servant in Liberia

Paradigm shift about Liberia; New initiative to change social perspective about civil servant in Liberia

Introduction

Nation building required collective effort mostly especially the citizens  majorities involvement. Much is be done and much is ongoing to help transform Liberia into a society with equal opportunity for all, yet there are still numerous challenges in achieving the transformation goal.It is perceived that there is no honest civil servant in Liberia and as such, corruption is understood to be on the increase day-by-day thereby making a good number of Liberians to live in high poverty. But in the wisdom of Accountability Lab, there are still honest civil servant/government official whom the country can use as an example in the fight against corruption and give a new mind set to the youthful population of Liberia about government. In the quest  to bring in a concept that will help to change this mindset, the Accountability Lab has a developed a program called “ Integrity Idol” is a program that stands to showcase the good work of civil servant in the country. The goal of this program is to help Empower Liberians to promote positive examples of accountable community leaders with the objective of building accountable society in which everyone will have an equal opportunity.

Integrity Idol Liberia

Integrity Idol Liberia is a national movement- on the ground, online and on television- to celebrate and encourage honest Civil Servant across the country. A lack of integrity- which leads to corruption, inequality and insecurity- remains the very heart of the challenges that Liberia faces today and our inability to create positive social change. Ordinary citizens feel helpless to change these dynamics, with little to do except complain about the graft and mismanagement of those in power. This supports a self-reinforcing dynamic that nothing can change.

This program is a four months campaign (from August to November 2015) with the explicit goal of engaging Liberian across the country in a conversation about integrity and accountability. It will generate support for those civil servants within the system who are sacrificing their lives to serve the public good. Highlighting their good work in public allows us to question existing realities, which in turn leads to changes in behavior that can improve our lives.

These five finalists will then be filmed- doing their jobs, talking about why it is important to have integrity and interacting with others who can vouch for their great work. These 20 minute episodes will then be shown on national TV (and syndicated on national and community radio stations) in prime time across Liberia, while being posted on youtube and o social media. Citizens will be made aware through the campaign that they can vote for who they think should be Liberia’s “Integrity Idol” through social media, post, e-mail and phone. After a public voting period of a week- through which we expect tens of thousands of votes- the expert panel will again convene to add their voices to the conversation and to crown the Integrity Idol in a public ceremony in Monrovia.

 

The value of Integrity Idol is the process, not the outcome. It celebrates individuals, but those that serve the collective good. It is a way to create positive conversations locally about what it means to be a public servant, what the role of Civil servant is in a society such as ours, and how we should think about a harmony in society. This is central to our current challenges, but too often the debate is lost in extremist or anti-extremist rhetoric. Integrity Idol provides an outlet for a national conversation in positive terms that can help all of us to think about the role we’d like to play, the life we’d like to live and   the social change we’d like to see in Liberia.

The Integrity Idol campaign will open a nomination process through which any Liberia can nominate an honest Civil Servant by, filling of the nomination form  , through social media, see link here. We have mobilized this process through our extensive youth networks and expect hundreds of nominations from every corner of Liberia- for everyone from a teacher that goes that extra mile in a public school to support quality education; to that district office bureaucrat who always makes sure problems are fixed on time. Our team will then verify submissions and select a respected, expert panel that will narrow the field of submissions to the top five. We will uncover the hidden heroes that embody personal responsibility, moderation and public-mindedness.

About Accountability Lab

The AccountabilityLab is driven by a powerful goal- to empower citizens in Liberia to build creative tools  for integrity and accountability in their communities. The team provides training, mentorship, networks, management support and seed funding for the development of low-cost, high-impact ideas for positive change. By enabling Liberians to use information and knowledge to hold their government responsible, the Lab is finding innovative ways to unlock the rich potential for political and economic development.   

The Lab also strives to live by its principles and set an example for others through radical transparency, oral reporting that fits the context, creative outreach campaigns, and alternative revenue models.

For the first two years of its existence implemented most activities with a $2,000 cap.  In the last quarter of 2014, concurrent with the escalating Ebola crisis, the Lab began to significantly expand and scale up its work.

Read more recent news on the Lab and follow the organization on Twitter and Facebook.

Integrity Idol Liberia is a national movement- on the ground, online and on television- to celebrate and encourage honest Civil Servant across the country. A lack of integrity- which leads to corruption, inequality and insecurity- remains the very heart of the challenges that Liberia faces today and our inability to create positive social change. Ordinary citizens feel helpless to change these dynamics, with little to do except complain about the graft and mismanagement of those in power. This supports a self-reinforcing dynamic that nothing can change.

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A Nation Without an Agenda

                                                                       A Nation Without an Agenda

With no real priority given to a developmental agenda in Liberia, achieving the goals of such an agenda is far from our reach. Since Madam Sirleaf became president of Africa’s oldest republic, there have been conferences for everything from putting together a road map for better Liberia, to a Poverty ReductionStrategy (PRS) and a Vision 2030 plan. Despite all the talk, progress towards a new Liberia has been patchy

Bad governance in Liberia has denied the country’s citizens access to reliable basic social services such as transportation. Commuters living in Monrovia’s suburban settlements are finding it very difficult to get to central Monrovia. About 90% of the government ministries and agency offices are located in the city’s center, and getting there for routine business transactions is an exhausting ordeal for many citizens.

Life here seems to be getting more difficult every day.

I have spoken with college graduates who spend their days in coffee shops, not because they are unskilled, but because there is nowhere for them to use what they have learned. They are tired of the government’s empty promises, and their education is wasted because there is no system for placing people into jobs based on their knowledge and experience.

Getting a job in Liberia depends much more on who know you than what you know. If you look around the streets of Monrovia today, you will realize that many young people in the streets are either selling cheap wares or riding motorcycle taxies. This is because they are not seeing changes in the lives of their peers who have gone through the walls of academic institutions. As a result, the enthusiasm for quality education is dropping in Liberia.

The University of Liberia, the oldest institution of higher learning in West Africa and the only state-run tertiary institution in Liberia is not among the first 100 ranked universities in West Africa. Madam Sirleaf, has rightfully indicated that “the educational system of Liberia is a mess”. We accept your condemnation Madam president, yet we want to know your role in cleaning up the “mess” you mentioned. A leader should identify problems and then develop ways to move forward. Education has received a systematic lack of attention since the end of the civil war- but there is no way for our country to forge a new vision for the future without people with the skills and knowledge to do it.

Most Liberians today are like refugees in their own country. The streets of Monrovia are filled with petty traders whose income can feed them for only a day. Food is becoming ever more difficult to put on the table; school fees seem to be getting higher every day; and access to quality medical care is financially out of reach for most Liberians.

A judicial system is a central pillar for building a democratic state, yet our country’s justice system is no longer trusted. As a result, we turn to violence to attain a small sense of justice. It seems that the majority of state security personnel are in their line of work for prestige and pay, not to protect citizens.

A member of the legislature prefers to ride in a car worth US$40,000 while his or her constituency goes without a proper clinic or high school- yet they claim to be working in the interest of the masses. Police on the street are without proper uniforms, but the directors of their departments live in nice houses that are clearly way beyond their means. Our country’s borders are without proper security, even though “Border Patrol” vehicles can been seeing driving the streets of Monrovia, leaving border entries without security.

Nationalism and patriotism and patriotism should be the bridge for our leaders to work on if we must have a better Liberia for our younger generation.

To the citizens in general, self-esteem, integrity and personal accountability should be the bench mark if we should hold our leaders to be accountable. Building a social capital is also vital in the recovery process. More coordination among the three branches of government, Ministries and sector agencies are the bed rock and the road map through which making Liberia a better place can become a reality.

It seem that there is less or no coordination among branches of government, Ministries and sector agencies. Evidence by recent education saga in Liberia.Readhere.

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