Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Intra-Africa travel and a couple interesting articles

Intra-Africa Travel

I've had a relaxing week in Ghana with family and friends, and I leave for Liberia on Saturday. This is my first trip to another African country by air, and I've been stunned at ticket prices! A 2-hour flight from Accra to Monrovia on Kenya Airways - USD570!!

Two Interesting Articles 

The first article is an AllAfrica interview with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: http://allafrica.com/stories/201005240600.html  Below is a portion of the interview:

AA:"How do you think development can best be achieved?"
President Sirleaf: "The best way to make development work is to ensure that the priorities are established by the people themselves. This is why our poverty reduction strategy came out of a rigorous process of consultation and participation by people across the country."

AA: "Did your efforts to involve people across the country in the poverty reduction strategy result in a buy-in from the Liberian people?"
President Sirleaf: "A definite buy-in. For the first time, people from the villages could say they sat in meetings and were asked "what do you think you want your government to do?" Three priorities came out quite clearly - roads, education and health."

AA: "And that influenced your strategy?"
President Sirleaf: "Absolutely. We were thinking education would be number one. But they convinced us that roads was number one because, as they said, they couldn't take their produce to market, they couldn't take their children to schools or the health centers if there was no mobility, if there was no way to get there. So our strategy has been to respond to what we know the people want."

My two cents:
The question of 'who knows what's best for a community' is a historic struggle with development. I believe what President Sirleaf stated in her response is spot on, ensuring that Liberians are a part of setting the priorities of their development will go a long way in the success of the country's poverty reduction.

It is normal to have debates on what third-world governments feel are the needs of their country versus what international donor agencies feel are the needs of a country, yet at times we forget to challenge how these governments have come to their conclusions and whether they have consulted their citizens. I am not sure how consultations were conducted in Liberia and whether they were representative of the country as a whole, but it is encouraging that President Sirleaf's administration deemed this component as a priority while devising a poverty reduction strategy for Liberia.

This discussion also links directly to my internship given that one of The Secretariat's primary objectives is to: 'Enhance alignment between Liberia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) and philanthropist-supported activities by identifying specific strategic opportunities.' I know I will be writing more on this in subsequent posts.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Returning to my birthplace

I cannot believe this day has finally arrived, it has come too quickly! I will be leaving tomorrow for Ghana, where I will spend a few days before traveling to Liberia. My internship begins June 1st, and as mentioned in my profile I will be working with the Philanthropy Secretariat within the Office of the President of Liberia. For more information on the Secretariat, please visit: http://supportliberia.com/

I am not a complete stranger to Liberia; though I am of Ghanaian heritage, I was born in Liberia. When my family left the country in April 1990, unbeknownst to us, it was merely six weeks before all flights in and out of the country were suspended, and the civil war began. This blog will give me the opportunity to write about the experience of returning to my birthplace, and the experience of working with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's administration.

Here are a couple random (and humorous) things that I have done and experienced in preparation for my trip:
- Buying a headlight (I've got to be prepared when the lights go out, and I thought a headlight was much cooler than a flashlight! Though I did purchase a flashlight as well). 

- Joining the Liberia expats google group, which has become a great resource for all things Liberian. Last week, attention was brought to the group of a safari scam. The trigger: Mr. Steve Irwin (or rather 'Red Hogan') as the last staff member???
Enjoy reading some of the staff profiles: http://simbasafarigroupltd.webs.com/liberiasimbasapo.htm

I apologize for being brief, but I must finish packing! I anticipate a great summer, and I hope to update this blog as much as possible.