By Philip N. Wesseh
Normally, after leaving the squirrel’s cage at the University of Liberia, I always make it my duty to read all of the mail that my office received on my behalf during my absence. On Monday of this week, while perusing these communications, I saw an invitation from the Broad of Directors headed by Ambassador (Prof) Dew Tuah Wleh Mayson of the newly established United Bank of Africa UBA, which of course, though new, is making an impact on the market.
The invitation was like a military command as though I was invited to join members of the board to a dinner at a local hotel at 8 p.m. Initially, I was concerned about the time of the dinner, but what came to my mind was that the organizers clearly set the time because by that time, invitees might have gone home to return or be given ample time to complete their work for the day. For me, because I believe in the Boys Scout motto, which says, “be prepared”, I am always on the move to honor such invitation because as a student of Mass Communication, I am aware that interactions and exchanges of pleasantries which usually characterize such gatherings are always useful and I arrived on time for the occasion.
Just upon arrival, I saw Mr. Harry Greaves and Natty O. Davies also waiting on the arrival of others. As I sat down, I saw my mentor, Kenneth Yarkpawolo Best, affectionately known as “KYB” also arriving. I sat and looked among the other guests who were arriving and surprisingly I saw former Interim President Amos Sawyer, now head of the Governance Commission. I then said to myself that the forum was not an easy one, considering the galaxy of men I saw arriving for the occasion. As we entered the venue of the program, I saw more professional Liberians including Dr. Foday Kromah (former Maritime Commissioner), Benoni Urey (Lands, Mines & Energy Minister), Dr. Eugene Shannon, Dr. Richard Tolbert (Chairman of the National Investment Commission), and Augustine Nguafuah (Minister of Finance) among the guests. Those from the bank included Ambassador (Prof) Mayson (Chairman of its Board), who ably conducted the affairs of the occasion with his eulogies of guests, and sometimes interspersed introductions with jokes. Others included Rasheed Olaoluwa (Chief Executive Officer, UBA International), Nnamdi Okonkwo (Regional CEO WAMZ/CEO UBA Ghana) and Ebele Ogbue (Managing Director, UBA Liberia).
As it is normal at such an occasion, the guests upon entering the dinner hall began discussions in small groups. Just as the interactions were continuing His Excellency Ebenezer A. Adigun (Nigerian Ambassador to Liberia), arrived and was accorded the usual courtesy and respect befitting such individual of such title or status. As the discussions or interactions continued, the dominate issues were land ownership, the role of the media and the plans of UBA to contribute to the country’s reconstruction program.
As I reflected on that evening of not only dining, intellectual exchanges and interactions, one thing that impressed me was the desire and plans of this new bank to expand its operation. It said its headquarters would soon be dedicated in Monrovia and intends to expand. It was also gathered that the market needs to be tapped, meaning that there are still potentials out there which should be encouraged to utilize the services of the banking sector.
Considering the desire of the bank, one thing that matters most, is for Liberians to keep the peace. As I discussed with one of the officials of the bank, he said once there is peace, development will come to the country. Indeed, it is an undeniable fact that once this country continues to enjoy peace, it stands to benefit from investment. Owing to this, Liberians have the responsibility to ensure that peace and stability continue to exist because no investor would want to put his or her money in an unsafe or potentially-violence prone environment. It is not a hyperbole that this country after many years of war, which has adversely and greatly affected its economy, it is only through investment that a great strive would be achieved.
Today, it is an incontrovertible fact that unemployment is unimaginable. Considering the dependency ratio of 1 to 10 or 1 to 20, the absence of major economic activities such as investment which will provide many opportunities in terms of employment, the poverty reduction program being pursued by this government would be unachievable or unattainable. This is why every Liberian should jealously guide this peace for economic growth and development. Economic growth, means sustained rise in national income, which creates condition for income to be used for the welfare and the well being of the people. Simplistically, economic development is people-centered, meaning whatever income received, must tackle the issue of the people’s welfare and well-being. This is why sometimes when people say ‘economic growth without development’, it simply means that the country generated much financial resources, but such income did not make any perceptible impact on the lives of the people.
Howbeit, this article is not intended to deal with the issue of development and growth, but to put a challenge to Liberians to encourage investment. To do this, the only thing that is required of Liberians and the nation is to keep the peace. With peace, there will be more investment, more incentives and more jobs. With this, people’s welfare and well-being would improve from their disposal income (take income pay).
Again let me say that I was impressed by the desire of this company or business entity to do business here. As a bank with branches, not only in Africa, but beyond the continent, its presence will serve as public relations or bait for this country by attracting others. But again, it depends on how we will keep the peace and maintain law and order. We should not forget that law and order are crucial in magnetizing investment. No where can a lawless society attract. What it does is that it drives away or discourages potential investors because where there is no justice; no one should expect any serious business entity to venture in such terrain.
So again, as there are goodwill and commitments out there, we, as a people ad nation should ensure that there is peace, stability as well as rule of law which are sine quo non to attract huge investment into our economy.