Development has always been a key issue among developing countries in Africa. All countries in Africa are termed as developing countries, meaning that they are still grappling in poverty issues such as food insecurity. These countries are well endowed with vast natural resources which if used wisely would ensure that many of the problems that such countries face would be solved. The problem that makes these countries lag behind when it comes to development is the lack of proper institutions to propagate the needed changes that need to be made (Kumo, 2009).
Many institutions that are currently present are being faced with a myriad issues that greatly hinder development such as corruption and mismanagement of public funds. Because of this, many of the countries are still underdeveloped and their progress continues to worsen as time goes by. A number of countries such as South Africa, Uganda, and Botswana are showing much promise when it comes to development by trying to strengthen their institutions which are key in development. The main focus of this essay is Liberia and how poor institutions have greatly contributed to its underdevelopment.
Current Situation of the Country
Liberia, a small country in the coast of West Africa is among the poorest countries in the world that have been greatly plagued by underdevelopment due to weak institutions that tend to mismanage public funds meant for development. The country heavily depends on foreign aid in order to sustain its population. The problem is that, it is even difficult to distribute the foreign aid to the citizens because of the poor institutions in place. Corruption is at its core in the country with public officials at the forefront in stealing public funds meant to help the citizens. The institutions are not transparent and accountable in their dealings and this is not a good thing for development.
When it comes to natural resources, Liberia is among the well-endowed countries in West Africa. It is estimated that the country has iron ore reserves that are of about 3 to 5 billion metric tonnes, it also has other minerals like gold and diamonds which when exploited and well managed can be a good source of national wealth. The country also has oil reserves that can greatly help in boosting its economy. Being home to the largest rainforest in West Africa, it means that the climate in the country is good for farming and therefore the country should have food security. The forest also serves as a huge source of timber for commercial purposes. With all this natural endowments and a population of about 3.2 million people as of 2005 (Levy et al, 2010), the country ought to have a stable economy which is not the case.
Nearly all the institutions in Liberia are weak institutions starting from the government itself. Most importantly, financial institutions like the Central Bank of Liberia are among the weak institutions that have resulted to the underdevelopment of the country. When the country receives foreign aid from developed nations, the aid is distributed through the central bank. Since the country is still recovering from civil war and political turmoil, the institutions present cannot be termed as strong (Kieh, 2008). In the distribution of the foreign aid, many of it goes into the pockets of individuals who have been appointed to run the institutions. Corruption has been the key factor to underdevelopment in the country. The weak institutions lack adequate planning for development thus endangering the future of the nation (Kragbe, 2003).
Also, government institutions like the police are very weak in Liberia. This is because public service employees receive meagre salaries that are a great source of demotivation. They thus tend to participate in fraudulent dealings like taking bribes and being corrupt. For example, there is a lot of corruption within Liberia’s oil industry; big oil companies like the National Oil Company of Liberia have faced accusations of bribery to the Liberian legislature in order for their various oils contracts to be ratified (Kumo, 2009). More so, the society itself in Liberia does not trust the rule of law and many people have resorted to informal justice systems. This has greatly undermined the private sector of the country from developing. Such has been a great cause of underdevelopment in Liberia.
Under the rule of president Tylor, the situation in Liberia was getting worse with the passage of time. The political conflicts in Liberia occurred as a result of the control and the distribution of resources and power. As the conflicts ensued, the national economies, which are the institutions that nurture the available resources were destroyed during the conflicts. The very fabrics that sustained the well-being of the country were looted by the very people who greatly need them and therefore development could not be achieved.
Actions to Alleviate the Issue
With a new regime in Liberia under the rule of president Sirleaf, Liberia has slowly transformed from a country in need of emergency humanitarian assistance to a country with a sovereign government that fully owns the development process (Falola, 2013). To strengthen their institutions, the government is implementing decentralization among other reforms. Instead of over burdening the central government, other institutions are vested with power to undertake development policies. This way, the government of Liberia has been able to oversee the activities in a transparent and accountable way.
When it comes to the management of aid, the government of Liberia has to ensure that it well manages the aid that it gets in order to support its long-term development objectives. To do this, the Government of Liberia is partnering with ACET to get assistance in formulating and implementing the national aid policy. The government of Liberia has also formulated an audit body known as the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) that is aimed at improving the public sector performance. This body is mandated to undertake an internal audit in all the arms of the government and all the public entities in order to ensure transparency and accountability (Kumo, 2009). This way, the government is starting to strengthen all the development institutions in the country and at last, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for Liberia.
Falola, T., & Achberger, J. (2013). The political economy of development and underdevelopment in Africa. New York: Routledge.
Kieh, G. K. (2008). The first Liberian civil war: The crises of underdevelopment. New York: Peter Lang.
Kragbe, B. (2003). The causes of underdevelopment in Liberia. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI.
Kumo, W. L. (2009). Root Causes of African Underdevelopment and Opportunities for Revival.
Levy, P., & Spilling, M. (2010). Liberia. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.