With the emergence of ICTs as a staple of program design, electronic platforms have been used by development practitioners for mapping conflict, crises, election violence, and a number of advocacy initiatives drawing on stakeholder input and participation. In Liberia, the practice continues in opening up a struggling concessions sector for more efficient and transparent natural resource management between the Government of Liberia’s (GOL) concession-granting entities, local communities, and international investors. Liberia’s National Concessions Portal, however, is more than just a plot of ongoing projects. The public Portal is as much a trust-building platform as it is a management tool, with the potential to rebuild confidence between public servants and the population.
We sat down with Amadou Thera, who’s been at the helm of implementing the larger Concessions Information Management System (CIMS) since 2014, of which the Portal is the public component. Thera began his role with IBI as a Business Process Analyst for USAID’s Governance & Economic Management Support (GEMS) Program in Liberia, continued to a role as the Implementation Specialist for the CIMS, and in addition provided GIS training to fellows in the President’s Young Professionals Program, three of whom are already working as Concessions Officers in various GOL offices.
Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us, Amadou. Seeing as how you’ve been with USAID-GEMS since the start of the CIMS component, I thought we’d begin with the basic concepts behind CIMS and the FlexiCadastre Portal. Can you briefly define ‘concessions’ and why natural resource and land management are such important issues to address in Liberia?
Amadou Thera: Concessions – specifically natural resource concessions – are large land parcels that the government leases to investors, or “concessionaires” for, first of all, exploration for a specific natural resource on specific terms and conditions. Then after that, for exploitation of this natural resource. So you have mining, forest, oil and gas, and agriculture concessions. For each concession, you have a land parcel with a known area, a start date for the concession, different terms and conditions. Then you have the end date and the obligations that come with it. So that’s briefly, a general definition for concessions, especially in the context of Liberia.
As for land management, the most important reason to manage land is to avoid conflict. As you probably know, many of the conflicts in Africa are related somehow to land issues. Firstly, you have conflicts between communities that can certainly arise from land issues. Secondly, you have conflicts between communities and concessionaries as well. Many times when a concessionaire is granted land, they go to the local communities without them being informed beforehand. You see a lot of conflicts arise like this. Lastly, there is conflict between government agencies. For instance, the mining and environmental entities compete for protected areas. The primary point is to avoid conflict and bring stability – I think that’s the major thing.
For more on the CIMS, please check out the rest of our interview with Amadou Thera at IBI's Newsroom.