Thursday, July 8, 2010

Liberia's Debt Relief Party

Congratulations to Liberia for a major milestone: $5 billion debt relief.

From my colleague Ben Leo's blog post on the Center for Global Development's website:

"This week, Liberians celebrated in the streets – faces painted, drums blaring, and dancing with abandon. They’re not rejoicing over some recent triumph by the Liberian soccer team or a local festival. The streets of Monrovia were overflowing because of debt relief. That’s right, debt relief. On Tuesday, Liberia secured nearly $5 billion in irrevocable debt relief from the World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank, and bilateral creditors. It’s a massive sum – the equivalent of roughly $1200 for every man, woman, and child in Liberia. As President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated, “today, ladies and gentlemen, is a day for us, as Liberians, to celebrate.” And celebrate they did. And so should we."

I took Ben's advice already and joined the celebrations at the CGD event last Tuesday. It was great to see so many familiar faces from my Liberia chapter there: Planning Minister (and my former classmate) Amarah Konneh, Steve Radelet, Conor Hartman, and several Ed Scott fellows, to name a few. (Dan Honig, you were with us in spirit!)

Hats off to all who were part of this huge accomplishment.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Made in Liberia

One of the most innovative and exciting programs I've been following in Liberia is the Liberian Women's Sewing Project. A dear friend and classmate of mine, Emily Stanger, has been working tirelessly to help get this program off the ground. Here is her latest update from Monrovia, sent by e-mail this week...

"Over the past few months, I've been assisting with the start up of a new export-oriented fair trade sewing factory in Liberia. A dearfriend of mine, Chid, is a Liberian who grew up in the US and returnedto Liberia to invest in a sustainable, fair trade apparel factory.

After over a year of work, the project is now well on its way with 32 women employees, a parallel nonprofit for reinvesting funds into thewomen's communities, 30 industrial sewing machines, a generator thatruns on biofuel (hurray for green energy!!!), and an order for 100%African organic T-shirts that will be sold in Spring 2011 fashion lines.

Teaching these women economicsin Liberian English (they are now fluent in supply chains, fair trade,supply and demand, shareholders & dividend payouts, and socialenterprise) and helping them develop into a business-minded workforcehas been one of the most rewarding experiences.

Chid's first investors (a great organization called Root Capital) visited last month. They put together a video to share theirexperience of LWSP and I thought I'd pass it along to all of you as anintroduction to my world in Liberia.... lots of chanting, lots ofsinging, lots of clapping, and LOTS of amazing women."

I am very impressed with this project and see a great deal of potential for it to really take off. I am looking forward to tracking it closely. Further updates from Emily to come!