Dear Liberians Abroad,
Liberia (Africa as a whole) is not waiting for you. I know you want to get that degree or other added credentials so you can come back to “fix” all of Liberia’s problems. Ayyyye Yah, as our people will say.
You are kind hearted and thoughtful, but my dear friend, you are misguided if you think Liberia is waiting for you to be “fixed.” The problems are here. Massive as they might be or impossible as they might seem, they are certainly not waiting on you. Do not make the mistake to think your western education will be the savior for Liberia.
First of all, formal education does not mean you are an expert. I need you to read that one more time before we proceed. The fact that you are fortunate to acquire higher education does not automatically make you an expert for Liberia. Sadly, your western education cannot help you deal with most of the problems in Liberia that begin with “La Liberia here.”
Your western education did not prepare you for Saturdays that begin with “where my Saturday eh” or banking institutions that only have two ATM machines for the entire country. I do not say this to say you will not fit in here. I am saying this to remind you that Liberia is unique and you need to be here to participate in the rebuilding process. By being here, the understanding of the problems and challenges, is the best tool to inform your ability to contribute. The process is not one that needs a quick fix.
Next, when you graduate, you do not have the required experience to work in most industries in corporate America. What makes you think Liberia will take you right away? Do not expect to walk from college right into a high level job because Liberia is waiting for you. You need to keep in mind there are people here equally working hard with the limited resources they have and making an excellent living for themselves.
They are very competitive (educated and experienced). So even with your MA/MSc or Ph.D., you still are no better or worthier of a job than they are. Please come back with the mentality of a service leader. Come back to blend in and work your way to the top like every other Liberian. There is no need to think you are superior and that you hold the master key to Liberia’s bright future.
Speaking of bright future, people here are living, thriving and rebuilding Liberia. Liberia is not broken or helpless. She is not waiting on you to return with the solutions. Liberia wants you to help because Liberia is ours. You are not rendering a favor and it is no burden. You should participate in the rebuilding process, but you should do so humbly.
You should render your service with pride and honor as Liberia is your home. Do not treat her like a non-for-profit project. The people here are real and so are the challenges. The problem is not “fixed” by building one hand-pump or donating old clothing. Liberia deserves a full commitment. Equally so, the problem would not be fixed by condemnations and criticisms, when only visiting for holidays and festive seasons.
All that said, come home with an open mind. We all need to be a part of the reinvention of the African image. Liberia is more than just war and Ebola. You need to be a part of the story we tell the next generation. We must all contribute to the narrative of a place we are fortunate to call home. It is a privilege to call Africa’s first republic your home. When the scramble for Africa occurred and European powers divided countries like plates of fufu, Liberia said, “Not Today, white man.”
You should be proud. You should lift your head as high as the peak of the Nimba Mountains when we talk about Liberia. We are not where we need to be, but we are certainly not who we used to be. Liberia has come a long way. Liberians at home have been carrying the torch for all these years.
Whether you were born in Liberia and fortunate to travel or your parents left because of the war so you now have a new home abroad, Liberia is ours. Come home and find your place in our story. Come and take a chapter and contribute accordingly. Please note, however, whether you come or not, our story will be written. It is up to you to be a contributing writer or be left out.
A Returned Liberian
Featured photo by Roman Barnes-Walker