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The Chains of Tradition - Mikel Jentzsch

Mikel Jentzsch author of Blood Brothers - Our Friendship in Liberia
Below is an essay written by the author of "Blood Brothers - Our Friendship in Liberia," Mikel Jentzsch.  

The Chains of Tradition
  Journalist David Lamb once wrote:“Ten thousand AMERICAN farmers turned loose on AFRICA´s soil could transform the face-and future- of the continent as surely as they did their own land. It seems so easy. Yet farming is still a hoe-and-sickle enterprise…more primitive than any in the world.”
I have often thought about this quote with great frustration. Why couldn´t 10,000 AFRICAN farmers do what other farmers have done to their country? As I grew up in Liberia and have built up a Moringa Farm in Nimba, Liberia, I have gathered enough hands-on experience to dare an assessment.
If you ask yourself and your business associates honestly, they will agree that tribal influences, jealousy, bureaucratic oppression, corruption and traditional thinking will make honest and healthy business success in Africa almost impossible. I want to examine these “chains of tradition” holding Africa back from success-by examining the case of Liberia.
Tribalism: ethnic divisiveness has been pulling Liberia apart since its foundation. It still determines who gets jobs and who gets promoted and by its very definition tribalism is the obligation of taking care of your family members first. Nepotism seems an inherent obligation in Liberia.
Human sacrifice: This barbaric and inhumane practice is still rampant in Liberia. And for every incident that makes it into the papers, a dozen are untold. It´s bad enough when citizens hunt each other down, but it becomes disastrous when heads of state perpetrate this –thus sanctioning it- at the highest level.
Witchcraft beliefs: Ask any child simply stubbing his foot on a stone-it was “witch”. This overt belief in fetishes and superstition can heavily warp reason and clear rational thinking. I tried setting up a chicken farm in a rural Liberian area upcountry and had to abandon it- because the people there believed that witches entered chicken to spy on them and threatened to poison all chicks. No important football game is played without supplicating the local medicine man and one can consult the juju man for almost any endeavor.
Disregard for time: Business does not tolerate disrespect for time. If we don´t respect our customer´s time…we will lose them. Many businesses don´t even touch Liberian soil because they are afraid of “wasting time”. Ask yourselves how many times you were negatively impacted by someone else´s tardiness. “What to does but ate and slept” is a lame excuse and surely no alternative…
Bargaining: Why are there no price tags on products in Liberia? Because then you can cheat the local tourist or naive customer by a distortion of your products value. So our children learn that it is acceptable to get away with anything. The con man´s ideal becomes norm…and then we dare complain about our dishonest youth?
These are but a few of our inflexible “chains of traditions”. I fear if we don´t recognize them, we as Liberians will stay second class world citizens- regardless of how much foreign aid is poured into our beloved Liberia. As Liberia considers herself a Christian country I want to end with a biblical quote.Jesus said we can´t put old wine in new skins...maybe it´s time to question some old traditions.
The author aka GGGG grew up in Liberia, has several businesses in Liberia and has written a bestselling autobiography “Blood Brothers-Our friendship in Liberia”.


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