WASHINGTON, DC –The importance of private sector jobs growth in Liberia and private sector jobs development in Africa at large cannot be over-emphasized. Liberia, a West African nation where the average Liberian, according to the World Bank and several international institutions estimate, lives on less than $1 dollar a day faces serious unemployment crisis, especially in the private sector. Youth unemployment is estimated at 85 percent according to the United Nations World Food Programme and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
Simeon Freeman, a prominent Liberian businessman and one of the country’s respected and best-known political leaders, wants to change that. Freeman whose vast business empire already employed dozens of Liberians said he wants to assist and work with the current Liberian administration, the Liberian business community and international partners in putting thousands of Liberians back to work in the private sector.
The private sector is Africa’s primary engine of growth. It generates an estimated 70 percent of Africa’s output, approximately two-thirds of its investment and 90 percent of employment on the continent, according to data provided by the African Union (AU). Based on these stats, Freeman said “the creation and development of private sector jobs in Liberia should be one of the most effective and sustainable strategies for elevating more Liberians out of poverty and in improving the quality of life for all Liberians and residents of the country.
Freeman wants to also focus on working with the Liberian government, various businesses and communities in increasing investments in small business establishment support to enable ordinary Liberians become a part of owning and sharing in the Liberian economy.
Starting a small or medium size business in Liberia and most African nations remains very difficult due to numerous variables.
According to a 2012 Africa Development Bank study, the average cost of starting a business in Africa fell dramatically from $217 in 2006 to $77 in 2011, while the average time for business start-up declined from 58 to 35 days. In Liberia as in other African states, costly red tape and draconian processes continues to be a widespread concern, encouraging businesses to remain in the informal sector.
Freeman said the Liberian government may have good intent and policies, but it would need a serious public—private partnership and the involvement of the business community through a regular roundtable process.
Freeman who is the owner of several Liberian businesses and CEO of a range of them said he also hopes to work with other Liberian stakeholders and the government in dealing with the issue of workforce shortages, workforce development, infrastructure
Traditionally, Liberia’s private sector development has been held back by a range of other factors, including inadequate infrastructure and education systems poorly suited to the needs of the labor market.
Freeman wants to work with various Liberian agencies and international organizations engaged in development and community service to increase job creation efforts in Liberia’s leeward counties.
Freeman urged all Liberians to unite and promote mutual dialogue and understanding in advancing the country’s development and private sector job creation agenda. He promised to use his vast business experience and international contacts in the global investment market to attract business partners to Liberia that would work with Liberian business owners and innovtors.