Near the end of 2022, protesters backed by the Coalition of Collaborating Parties and the Alternative National Congress, gathered to express frustration over the worsening economic situation in Liberia. It’s hard to imagine Liberia’s financial and poverty crisis hasn’t bottomed out, yet job opportunities are more dismal than ever, and the cost of food is on the rise – and on the heels of President Weah abandoning his country on a 48-day vacation, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
Until October 2023 that is, when Liberians can vote Weah out of office.
As a nation experiencing an economic downtown that is sending more of us into poverty, we are in need of financial assistance and international support. Weah will claim his trip featured diplomatic and bilateral meetings that addressed these issues, but let’s look at the reality.
During the bilateral meeting between the countries held in Doha, Weah and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani discussed the Second Phase of the pavement of Gbarnga – Mendikorma Highway Project (Lofa Road). Weah described the Lofa Road as a “critical national infrastructure,” and following Weah’s request, the Sheikh committed more funding for the necessary project.
But, when does that funding get deposited? When will those funds be used?
Currently, the damaged road prevents the Lofa community from reliably transporting goods. As a major agricultural hub, the consequences of poor infrastructure are food shortages, and food rot (before making it to our local markets). Therefore, the reparation of the road is crucial to economic development, stability, and food security throughout the country, and especially in Lofa, which is one of the least developed communities in post-conflict Liberia.
The only acceptable answer to these questions is “immediately.” And even then Weah is behind the 8-ball.
The unfortunate truth is that those diplomatic meetings were fluff and more lip service at best, providing no real change. Certainly not with the immediacy Liberians need. But this is a hallmark of Weah’s Presidency for us, isn’t it.
Under the Weah-led administration, Liberia’s account deficit has decayed, widening from 16.3% GDP in 2020 to 17.7% in 2021 as a result of poor trade deficit, which was largely financed by foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, donor loans as well as non-debt-creating project grants. Liberia’s fiscal balances are also much weaker than at any time since the beginning of the post-conflict regime.
Widespread corruption (Liberia ranks 136th out of the 176 countries on Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index) is a major contributor to these poor fiscal showings; and has additionally led to high childhood maltrition rates; low literacy rates and human development; and broken infrastructure impacting our food shortage crisis.
In short, Weah has failed us.
This abdication of sound government is not new to Liberians, however. From the civil war, our people have rallied together, committed to democracy and fairness, and have always overcome these sorts of challenges. We are seeing it in action now in the form of protests under the leadership of Alexander Cummings.
Analysts suggest these rallies will only get larger and more frequent leading up to the election, as support for Cummings becomes more widespread. And with good reason. Afterall, Cummings has the background to create change from day one.
With nearly four decades of experience working at international businesses, highlighted by an almost 19-year career at The Coca-Cola Company, Cummings served as the Regional Manager for Nigeria, where he demonstrated his ability to drive sales and foster significant growth of Coca-Cola’s Nigeria business. Within a short period, he was promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer of the Africa Group, responsible for the Company’s operations in Africa, encompassing a total of 56 countries and territories across the continent. He also currently serves on the boards of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., C.A.R.E. and Clark Atlanta University (CAU), and is a member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC).
In short, a proven track record of leadership. Liberia needs that now more than ever. Let’s resolve to vote Weah out of office and cast our ballots for the leader Liberians deserve.