Yesterday J-Palm’s CEO Mahmud Johnson was announced as one of four recipients (out of 267 applicants under 40 years old) of the inaugural 40 Chances Fellowship. In this blog post, he discusses his (and Liberian entrepreneurs’) “40 Chances” to make a difference in Liberia.
I was barely a teenager when the most recent civil war broke out in Liberia, but I vividly recall the horror and trauma my family and I had to endure to survive the war – from being held hostages at gunpoint, to losing all of our belongings. It is an experience that has undoubtedly scarred me and thousands of other Liberian youth.
Years later, I was privileged to win a scholarship to study at Dartmouth College in the US. At Dartmouth, I took numerous political science classes that sought to unravel the underlying drivers of civil conflict. While I never came across a universally definitive theory, I got to understand the mutually-reinforcing relationship between underdevelopment and perverse political outcomes. I understand, both from a personal and an intellectual standpoint, how socioeconomic inequality, economic injustice, and severe poverty make countries more prone to civil war.
While we have relative stability today, there are still perturbations that threaten the peace. Two of the strongest risk factors are the alarming rate of youth unemployment, and – relatedly – the intergenerational persistence of poverty.