Youth Group Rollup Sleeves to Promote Accountability in Liberia

(First published in Front Page Africa)

Monrovia (November 27, 2019) – Youth Leadership, Accountability and Education (Youth LEAD), an organization in pursuit of accountability in Liberia has stressed the need for the openness of how government spends money and allocates resources in the country.

“Accountability matter greatly to us as young people,” Patience S. Koteah, the Founder of Youth LEAD said.

Youth LEAD is a program designed to mode the minds of emerging young leaders on the importance of understanding fiscal transparency, taxation, budget accountability as well as social accountability.

This is part of Accountability Lab Incubator program that runs globally every year with different thematic areas but focus on Accountability. This program is set up for young civil society leaders to build sustainable, effective tools to foster accountability, as well as to participate and make social impact in their societies. 

Like the 2019 ‘Acountapreneur’ Koteah, selected ‘Accountaprenuers’ undergo an accelerated one-year program with hands-on, comprehensive support for their ideas and initiatives. 

At the ICAMPUS on Ashman Street over the weekend; the organization through consultative dialogue was able to enlighten several young people including students about taxation, corruption and accountability. Also, at the event, an art performance by the Liberia Poet Society amplifies the message of accountability through spoken words. 

According to Koteah, accountability is the hallmark of good governance.

“We will enhance government’s effort through tax awareness in schools and also constructively engage national government through consultative dialogues on issues of accountability especially regarding youth developments,” Koteah said. 

“Accountability will put us in a better position to judge the appropriateness of our government’s expenditure and the decisions it makes on our behalf,” Koteah, the founder of Youth LEAD said.

More than 60 percent of Liberia’s population is youth. Serving as launcher, the Ambassador of Sweden Ingrid Wetterqvist cautions young people in the country to make the change for the next generation. 

Africa has over forty ICT innovation hubs that have emerged over the last decade. Some of the continent's leading innovations are located in Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Cape Town (South Africa), Nairobi, Uganda, and Ghana. A common characteristic of African hubs is that they collectively seek to foster innovation across countries by sharing ICT resources and providing context-based approach to social change and economic growth.

About the same time the "Colab tech and innovation hub of Nigeria was established, Liberia's coworking and innovation hub, known as the "Innovation Campus (iCampus) was born. The establishment of iCampus was fostered by Accountability Lab Liberia and iLab Liberia as part of a USAID Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative program that tends to inform decisions around policy reform through advocacy.

As a clone of the influential "Open Gov Hub" of Washington D.C., iCampus was established in 2016 as a shared innovation, coworking and community space for organizations focusing on the intersection of technology, accountability and social change in Liberia. Besides being a networking and innovation hub as well as a focal point for elections and open governance work, iCampus operates as a physical and virtual space for youth-focused ICT and governance training.

Following the emergence of iCampus and tech institutions like the BlueCrest University College and Starz College of Science and Technology, Liberia's tech scene seems to be on an upswing.

Considering the professional lacks such as training resources and facilities, internet services and supply, all of which hinder development organizations from growing their ideas, the iCampus innovative community presents an opportunity for local professionals to incubate knowledge and build a creative ecosystem that institutionalizes collaboration. iCampus aspires to serve as a gathering point for networking, collaboration, learning and innovation for change makers, helping them to be more effective and have (collective) impact. Thus, some of Liberia's best tech professionals and social innovators have in some ways been impacted by iCampus.

However, re-engineering creative change is not the only impact of the iCampus in Liberia. The innovation Hub is also change the way professionals learn to create the change they hope to see. iCampus' modern facility in Liberia's capital Monrovia is a home to over ten organizations that are key players in Liberia's development, such as the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC). Its affordable workspaces allow organizations including start-ups to run smoothly on low budgets, as well as attend free-skill building trainings and networking events.

The Space broadly provides an avenue where professionals can build a connection by sharing workplaces, attending public events, creating spaces to smartly experiment, learn and improve together. Moreover, the community is noted for building partnership by opening networking avenues through events, including panel events, ted talks, workshops, conferences, hackathons, book/report launches, brown bag launches, and other social launches.

Since 2016, the community has achieved great impact across its works. It has influenced a new generation of engaged youths, working together for the change they want to see and enhanced new initiatives led by youths pushing for change. Also, it has promoted new ways of learning and teaching the kind of skills young Liberians need.

As Liberia strives to its place in the global community of information communication technology, iCampus remains an essential catalyst required to speed up the nation's march towards the global innovation hall of fame.

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