Authored By Julius T. Jaesen II
Publisher & Owner
Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, not excluding Liberia, sit on a dangerous precipice of unemployment crisis. It can’t be overemphasized that youth unemployment, in any country the world over, adds to the strains on government budgets, increases the rate of crimes, and threatens social stability. To exacerbate this, the Covid-19 pandemic adds to the headwinds.
Therefore, our government must find ways to address this ravaging menace by also working with AML to narrow the unemployment and poverty gap. Any apparent lack of a plan on the part of the Liberian government to tackle poverty, unemployment, and inequality by enabling a vibrant private sector, attracting more foreign investments, and encouraging the stay of existing investment partners, including ArcelorMittal, our largest investment partner since post-war reconstruction drive, could see our country relapse to its ugly past that was occasioned by 14 years of brutal civil wars.
One way for Liberia to address this unemployment pandemic that is hovering over many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing economies in other parts of the world is to embrace and welcome the move on the part of AML to invest heavily in our country as they are set to embark on their phase two expansion project.
AML’s phase two expansion seeks to invest over 1 billion in our economy in addition to the already 1.7 billion so far the company has invested over the past years since its operations in Liberia.
When we started to mind iron ore during our country’s heyday when iron ore was a premium source of our economy contributing approximately 60 percent of export earnings and roughly 25 percent of GDP – placing Liberia on the global pedestal as the largest exporter of iron ore in Africa and third in the world, the country never constructed or built concentrator as AML intents to build to refine the ores that they will mine – from low grade to high grade. This effort, during its construction and after completion, will create massive job opportunities for the youthful population of Liberia that summed up the bulk of the country’s population.
The AML expansion project encompasses processing, rail, and port facilities. This project will be one of the largest in the West African region when our government does the needful to ensure the agreement with AML is ratified by the Legislature of Liberia.
Our young people need to be gainfully employed and like many top government officials, deserve a decent life too. They need to grow responsible families and take responsibility for the future development of our society. But how can they do that when they aren’t given a decent future?
A development practitioner was right went he stated bluntly: “Young people with poor employment prospects delay forming stable families”.
A globally reputed scholar, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pretoria, Sandy Africa, made it profoundly clear also when she said: “Young people with limited opportunities for work and gaining skills often fall into drugs or alcohol abuse, petty crime, or worse”. So, to not make our youth to be susceptible to abuse by politicians by carrying placards and demonstrating in the streets almost every day – sometimes causes that are for the personal benefit of politicians and not the overall good of the country or as well indulging in drug and alcohol intake and abuse, we need to find ways through policies to get youth employed.
It can not be contested that the number of work-seekers is growing significantly faster than the number of jobs we have been over to provide over the years. And if we can’t find the means to address this problem, we risk returning to our years of horrendous conflict.
With so much at stake, policies to tackle the rising youth unemployment and multidimensional poverty are of vital importance to our people as they are losing hope in politicians whilst we’re preparing to go to the electoral polls in October of 2023.
According to the United Nations, Liberia’s demographic profile reveals a staggering 85 percent of our country’s 5.3 million people are under 45 years. This number places a lot of responsibilities on the part of our government to create the avenue for our youth and young adults to be absorbed in the job market.
Whilst we hope to attract more foreign direct investments to ease the unemployment and poverty constraints and lower the gap significantly, we must look with good eyes at the third amendment of the mineral development agreement we signed on September 10, 2021, with AML that has so far suffered a setback as it has the potential of creating over 2,000 direct new jobs and over 4,000 indirect new jobs.
AML has been a good corporate partner that has contributed to our economic development more than any foreign direct investment company in Liberia. They have created over 3,500 jobs since their advent in our economy and provided more in royalties and other taxes than any company. With the passage of the new agreement with AML, they are set to provide more employment prospects and invest in other areas of our economy.
Hence, I hereby urge very strongly the government of Liberia to see the need to ratify the AML’s agreement.