⇓ More from ICTworks

Mapping a Single Version of the Truth: Liberia’s National Concessions Portal

By Guest Writer on June 22, 2016


“The most important reason to manage land is to avoid conflict,” said Amadou Thera, the CIMS Implementation Specialist at USAID-GEMS. “Firstly, you have conflicts between communities that can certainly arise from land issues. Secondly, you have conflicts between communities and concessionaires as well. And lastly, there is conflict between government agencies,” explains Thera.

The inter-agency competition that Thera describes was an early challenge to Liberia’s National Concessions Portal. More than just a plot of ongoing projects, the Portal is a trust-building platform as it is a management tool, with the potential to rebuild confidence between public servants, the private sector and the population.

Raising Awareness on the Potential for Reform

The National Concessions Portal is just one component of the newly launched Concession Information Management System (CIMS) of the Liberian Government to help manage Liberia’s register of natural resource concessions and protected areas.

It is the hope that the transparency and visibility of the Concessions Portal—at one point described as providing “a single version of the truth”— may raise awareness and shed light on the potential for reform in the formerly opaque sector.

The implementation of CIMS faced difficulty in earning the buy-in from the wide range of groups with a stake in the sector. Concessions, after all, include land parcels home to forestry, agriculture, and oil industries, all overseen by their respective agencies – the Forestry Development Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Land, Mines, and Energy. On top of these three, there is the Environmental Protection Agency, which holds the responsibility of ensuring compliance with environmental concerns.

Due in part to competition for land use, and in part to ineffective communication and management, the disbursement of land among the three groups may at times lead to “overlaps” between concessions. By mapping out the boundaries of each concession, this is one challenge the GIS component of the CIMS plans to prevent.

Lessons Learned

The implementation of CIMS, launched Sept. 2015, however, was no easy feat, and took substantive input, coordination, and technical expertise from a wide variety of experts and stakeholders. Thera notes the biggest challenges and the solutions it took to overcome them:

  1. Having a Champion. The National Bureau of Concessions, unlike the other ministries, is not restricted to one particular industry or commodity, but is rather charged with the monitoring and compliance of Liberia’s concessions sector as a whole. In working with USAID-GEMS, the NBC has emerged as the local leader in promoting and instituting the CIMS.

    “We needed a champion. We needed a leader who could manage the implementation of the CIMS,” says Thera, referring to Ciata Bishop, the Director General of the NBC. For the past few years, Ms. Bishop has been a highly vocal proponent of the CIMS, presenting its case to the Cabinet as well as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

  2. Maintaining Collaboration. “We were able to understand during the process that if a specific ministry did not do its job correctly, it would affect all the others,” recalls Thera about the implementation. It was therefore necessary to have ministries “working together for the success of the system,” which greatly depended on the buy-in and input of each respective agency.
  3. Patience & Perseverance. “The main thing is that things here take time,” says Thera, referring to the difficulties of operating in a post-conflict and post-Ebola Liberia, “so you need to be very patient and at the same time you need to persevere.”
  4. Clear Commitment. “Another thing I realized during the implementation process is that we needed clear commitment from senior management,” recalls Thera. “We needed to explain to them what the system could do for them and once they got that, they could then translate it to their technical people.”

    Each concession-related entity – from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Environmental Protection Agency – will now have specialty concessions officers who will be responsible for management of the CIMS from the respective agency’s end, and will also serve as liaison between the agency and the NBC.

Thera expects that with a more transparent system, Liberia will attract more serious investors who are willing to invest money, perform real work, create value, create jobs, and increase revenue.

The National Concessions Portal is part of the USAID Governance & Economic Management Support Project (GEMS), implemented by IBI.

Filed Under: Government
More About: , , , , , , ,

Written by
This Guest Post is an ICTworks community knowledge-sharing effort. We actively solicit original content and search for and re-publish quality ICT-related posts we find online. Please suggest a post (even your own) to add to our collective insight.
Stay Current with ICTworksGet Regular Updates via Email

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.