Profile: Minister Amara Konneh: The Voice of Economic Growth in Liberia
Like many Liberians, Minister Konneh lost several members of his immediate family to the violent conflict, including his father. At the age of 18 years old, he became a refugee in Guinea where he established a school for Liberian refugees. His volunteer leadership led him to a position with the International Rescue Committee as the Education Coordinator for Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugee schools in the Guinea Forest Region where he served from 1991 - 1993. In this capacity, he supervised the development of 18 community schools, including the first high school in the Beyla Prefecture, and facilitated curriculum development, teacher training, and resource mobilization.
Upon emigration to the United States, he enrolled at Drexel University and earned a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Information systems, following which he earned a graduate degree in Management from Penn State University. After more than a decade of working with development foundations and as a policy, financial systems analyst and project manager at the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies in Pennsylvania, Konneh returned to Liberia to serve his country. In his position as Deputy Chief of Staff to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for Policy and Communications, he spearheaded several initiatives including reforming the management practices at the Ministry of State through a performance improvement program, and coordinating the development of policies and communications strategy. In this capacity, he helped to organize Liberia’s first conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) that brought ICT giants such as Microsoft, Cisco, and others to Liberia. He also helped improve the Executive Mansion’s relationship with the Liberian Media by giving them increased access to the Presidency and better working conditions.
After one year and a half of service in that capacity, Minister Konneh enrolled at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in political and economic development.
Upon completion of his studies at Harvard, Minister Konneh returned to Liberia and was appointed by President Sirleaf as the 16th Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs of the Republic of Liberia.
He is a core member of President Sirleaf’s Economic Management Team. In nominating Mr. Konneh, the President made reference to his rural beginnings by stating, “He knows exactly what poverty means because he’s lived it and he understands what it will take to track our PRS implementation through a robust monitoring and evaluation that will help us understand the impact of the interventions on the lives of the Liberian people."
As the coordinator of Liberia’s development strategy, Minister Konneh’s top priorities during his tenure as Minister of Planning included rebuilding the Ministry’s internal capacity that had been weakened as a result of Liberia’s protracted conflict; implementing the 3-Year (2008-2011) Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS); undertaking Liberia’s new long-term development plan, Liberia RISING 2030 National Vision, and a five-year Medium Term Strategy (2012-2017) or PRS 2; strengthening aid coordination mechanisms leading to increased development assistance and budget support; developed a ten year National Human Capacity Development Strategy to reverse Liberia’s brain drain; strengthened relationships with line ministries and the other branches of government, development partners, civil society and all stakeholders to enhance the impact of their concerted development interventions. He chaired the ICT4D Steering Committee whose efforts led to the landing of the Africa Coast to Europe fiber optic high speed Internet cable in November 2011.
Minister Konneh has had several major accomplishments to date including the development of an integrated, web-based monitoring and evaluation system for reporting and tracking PRS implementation nationwide, resulting in a two-thirds completion rate of planned interventions overall. As Alternate Governor to the World Bank, he played a key role in completing the benchmarks for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative resulting in the waiver of $4.6 billion in external debt from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He led the development process for Liberia’s threshold country program for a US$15 million grant from the United States Millennium Challenge Corporation to improve land rights and access; increase girls’ primary education completion rate; and develop a trade policy regime consistent with regional standards.
As National Authorizing Officer (NAO) of the European Development Fund for Liberia, Minister Konneh also worked tirelessly to restore to the Government of Liberia full authority over budget support garnered from the European Union (EU).
A key focus of Minister Konneh’s work has been promoting the principles of aid effectiveness etched in the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action. Under his leadership, in April 2011, Liberia hosted a conference of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding which was geared toward ensuring that the concerns and goals of post-conflict states featured prominently on the agenda of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea in November 2011. At the Busan Conference, Konneh challenged development partners to better support recipient governments in their development efforts by using country systems to deliver aid.
In keeping with this paradigm shift in the area of aid effectiveness, Minister Konneh is leading the charge for the Government of Liberia in reshaping the way aid is administered in Liberia.
In addition to his ministerial portfolio, Mr. Konneh served as a statutory member on the boards of several state-owned enterprises. He also served as Alternate Governor of the African Development Bank and the World Bank, and is the current Chair of the Mano River Union Ministerial Council. As Minister of Planning, he is also the coordinator of all ECOWAS activities for the Government of Liberia.
With his passion for and commitment to service of the Liberian people, as well as his vast professional experience, Minister Konneh spearheaded the transformation of the Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs from a non-functional institution to a robust and results-driven coordinator of the development process. With this same boldness, enthusiasm and a fierce commitment to excellence, Honorable Konneh is poised to assume the helm of a new institution – the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning – that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of all Liberians, and delivers on its core mandates.
Minister Konneh looks forward to continued, close collaboration with his colleagues across government, under the leadership of Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to deepen and widen the impact of development upon the lives of the Liberian people; and will work with all stakeholders to build an alliance to accelerate the implementation of the President’s development agenda. He promises to use fiscal policy to accelerate growth and expand the Liberian economy for the betterment of every Liberian citizen.