In Partnership with the
Liberian Council for Economic Progress (LICESS)
Liberia’s 15 years of destructive civil war followed by the frightening ramifications of Ebola has wrecked the Liberian economy in a country that was already considered one of the poorest nations in the world. Thousands have died, schools and businesses shut down, with Liberia’s infrastructure, its basic service systems, roads, transportation, electricity generation and education, being decimated.
Although the scourge of Ebola has now been “officially” declared “over”, the disease is now expected to cost the 3 West African nations most affected, including Liberia, 1.6 billion dollars in lost economic growth in 2015 alone! (Research by Krista Larson and Maria Cheng.) To deal with this devastating situation, Liberia is going to need a considerable amount of help and support and ironically many have argued that foreign aid and charities, “Paradoxically makes it more difficult to rebuild Liberia”. (africasocounry.com-“There is No Ebola; What Liberia teaches us about the Failures of Aid.”)
Even before Ebola shattered Liberia economically and socially, Karin Landgren, head of the UN Mission to Liberia, stated that, “The post war nation (Liberia pre-Ebola) will only progress when its citizens are part of the country’s progress. Ms. Landgren’s warning was, “Due to the growing income inequality in the country…especially the exceedingly high youth unemployment reportedly at more than 85% of the country’s labor force… The 17.5 billion dollars that flowed into the country (since the wars ended in 2004)…should have significantly reduced poverty, but more than half the country’s population still lives on less than one dollar a day. (Reported in an article by Rodney Sieh.)
This financial devastation was BEFORE Ebola struck. Sieh continued that, “Liberia’s economy is largely dominated by foreigners and large corporations, who have shown little sense of corporate responsibility in extending economic opportunities to ordinary Liberians by investments in training, mentorships” and we might add small business opportunities.
Liberia needs to create a class of small business entrepreneurs that can offer real hope to the poorest of Liberian citizens. In doing this we will create a model that will begin to tackle the greater problem of the extreme unequal distribution of wealth so prevalent in Liberia. We are NOT talking about micro-loans that, in most cases, create little but a survival economy and a rationale that allows for and justifies a “business-as-usual” attitude.
LICESS’ first project in Liberia, was to support the development of 2 health clinics, serving rural population centers where citizens would otherwise have little or no access to health care. The clinics are managed by Ellen Jones, who retired from Firestone, as a nurse in the Firestone health care system for 35 years. As well as Ellen has done, she needs training to continue to expand the clinics’ capacity. She manages her clinics without an understanding of business and organization and struggles to maintain them without help from Americans.
The LICESS entrepreneurial model, (first successfully implemented in South Texas, with the Mexican American community in the 1970s), will create small, Liberian owned-incorporated entities, in an environment that will allow owners to prosper and provide jobs that increase labor value. Entrepreneurial training is being used in its broadest sense to include management training for for-profit as well as non-profit entities, many of the skills needed being the same, although initially, we will be screening applicants to identify potential small business entrepreneurs. How will the program be structured?
We will establish a capacity in Liberia, to objectively screen for worthy, educated Liberians that have a good business or non-profit idea but without the requisite resources to finance and or, skills to manage their “dreams”. Jefferson Krua (see below), a Liberian American, born in Liberia, has an established program, YOUNG-Africa, which screens for and identifies capable young Liberians, that will participate in LICESS training. Jefferson will head the selection process.
We will put those chosen through training modules. They have to succeed at meeting standards at the end of each training segment to move on to the next module. Harmon Lisnow (see below), will establish the training. Harmon has many years of experience training and managing similar training programs both in the United States and Liberia. Banks ask for as much as 120% collateral for loans in Liberia so it is very difficult for small businesses to get loans in Liberia. Those that successfully complete all training modules will get financing from LICESS to launch their businesses. Joseph Clayton, (see below), who has years of experience in the banking industry, will administer this phase. LICESS will then provide technical support to those entities for one year.
The Governing Board of LICESS is made up of Liberians and Liberian Americans, with the exception of Harmon Lisnow, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia from 1963-1965. He has remained involved with Liberia continuously since his Peace Corps days. Harmon has many years and extensive experiences in managing businesses, organizations, and training programs. The Board also includes James Mulbah, a professor at the University of Liberia, and a high level employee at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy; Jefferson Krua, a Liberian American, born in Liberia and educated in the United States, who is well versed in high-tech skills and presently runs the Liberian web based news service, the Bush Chicken; and Joseph Clayton, a Liberian American, born in Liberia, and educated in the United States, who has a long connection with banking in the U.S., and presently is commercially farming in Liberia. Harmon, Jefferson and Joseph have served on the Friends of Liberia Governing Board. The principals in LICESS, have many collective years of experience in teaching, training, education, administration and business development.
Click Here to Learn More about LICESS
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