I Dream To Contribute To The New Liberia


By Gbe Sneh


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 10, 2006


Shortly after she won the presidency, President Sirleaf was implicated in a you-say-I-say that she told LIFE (Liberians For Ellen) members who were jockeying for government positions to “go jump into the sea.” Em, actually the quoted phrase is just a connotation of what was purportedly said, “look to the private sector.”, an uncharted territory for most Liberians. While the source may be you-say-I-say, there is a very good point alluded to here.

Liberians tend to shy away from entrepreneurial ventures. Self-made millionaire is foreign to our vocabulary, perhaps, because we are accustomed to Other-People’s-Money (OPM) millionaires, the kind attained with “No Sweat”. We would not hesitate to give every doomsday excuse to self-discourage. We are fond of taking the no-risk ground of keeping potential capital in bank accounts. Little do we know that what we call savings is, in reality, lending capital to the banking institutions. So, whether you like it or not, your money is going to be used as capital, and the distribution of the return on that capital (investment) is always adversely skewed against you. Does it make sense then, to invest your money, yourself, and reap the full reward of what it would return?

Ok, so you have aspirations to do business, but you are scared to bear the full load of the risk. Then, share the risk. Find people with similar interests. These could very well be the friends around you. Sharing a calculated risk and dividing a bountiful reward, that’s one of the reasons for forming partnerships, corporations. Take Jobo and Fatu with you, if you are afraid to fall ‘by yourself’.

UN development experts have expressed that Liberians who venture into the private sector, especially those who are willing to take their chances in agriculture, are going to get very rich. Who would disagree? Do we eat beef in Liberia? Yes. But, do we have cattle ranches in Liberia? No. Do we wait for Mali herdsmen to truck in cattle? Yes. Do we like chicken in Liberia? Yes. But how many chicken farms do we have in Liberia? Not enough for an attempt to impersonate KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) . For those not familiar with KFC, learn here, today, that the owner of this US business made billions by selling fried chicken! Somebody had to raise the chickens he fried, right? That’s just a thin slice of the national pie; the opportunities in Liberia are numerous.

Uncle Sam just reinstated his nephew’s Duty-Free Status. China has also extended a similar preferred status for most of Liberia’s agricultural products. We are talking about, perhaps, the two largest markets on our planet. Just think of specializing in one product, let’s say ketele, for the Chinese market. The target is over a billion potential consumers of your product. Do some research to see what these markets are willing to take in. Global information is a simple click away on the INTERNET! Go to your nearest local INTERNET Café; we hear of these cafes popping up like mushroom on the ground. Better yet, let’s challenge the Sirleaf Administration to move to bring down the astronomical cost to surf the NET.

Mr. Songtian, the Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, just revealed that his government has plans to help Liberia with the construction of a Coastal Roads Network extending from Cape Mount County to Cape Palmas in Maryland County. This is the Cape to Cape Coastal Highway that I once proposed, see Roads To Development. The national development implications of this proposed project are enormous. The money-making potential linked to this infrastructure is limitless.

Against the foregoing background, even though you may not be a member of LIFE, heed the President’s directive - “Go jump into the sea.” I can assure you that, with careful and serious team planning, you will not drown. Look beyond government positions (there are only a few to go around), get out of Monrovia (it is too congested). Head home and find your niche; the millionaires are not going to be made inside Monrovia, but outside it!

I am working my way to Gbetah, Grand Kru County, about 250 miles away from the congestion that is Monrovia. This is the place the dream leads me. There, I will hang my Bsc Degree In Accounting and my CPA Certificate on a mud-brick wall, and wipe them occasionally when they collect dust. Talking to a friend about business opportunities at home, this is what she told me, “Sasstown, Here I Come.” Now, this is a lady with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting talking. Knowing the trail this friend has blazed in the line of business, there is no doubt she is serious. I am so thrilled about this friend’s enthusiasm, I am tempted to write a book about it.

Another friend and business partner, a successful Retailer, told me he would rather be the Superintendent of Grand Cape Mount, to run the county like a business, instead of living in congested Monrovia. I said to him, ’if you do that’, I will run for the Mayor of Gbetah and also run it like a business. Listen to the sound of the title: “Mayor Sneh.” I like that.

When I was a little boy growing up in Gbetah, there lived an old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Delaney. A stroke of good luck, several thousand miles away from Gbetah, brought their nephew, Prince Delaney, and me together as friends, until Prince’s death just a year and a half ago. They were one of the only two merchant families working and living in Gbetah. The other was a Lebanese family, the Sirlifs. A Lebanese living in the village? Start thinking!

Thanks to my childish frailty, I would wonder why educated people, like the Delaneys, would choose to live so far away from “civilization”. But, as a man, today, I certainly now know why. The Delaneys and the Sirlifs were onto something very worthy. Their ventures were only dampened by the absence of a viable infrastructure that would have kept them in touch with the civilization they once knew, and also turned them into the millionaire they dreamt to be. It’s a new day; we have the chance now to keep their dreams alive.

The only way, of course, to achieve my dream, and that of many other citizens with similar minds, and to turn those dreams into contributions to national development, is for the government to follow through with providing the proposed necessary infrastructure - building the Cape To Cape Coastal Highway and its connecting network of Farm-Market roads.

The intent here is to get many of us thinking about what to do in Liberia, steer many away from Minister Positions, get many to contribute by working outside the government, stop “humbugging” Ma Sirleaf for government jobs.

I close by appealing to Madam President and her government to nurture these dreams, for they have a potential multiplying effect to create employment for many, to relieve the congestion in Monrovia, by making it a priority to build the roads. Yes, we are willing to look to the private sector for employment. Yes, we are committed. IT IS YOUR TURN, Madam President. Break ground for the new frontier.