Monrovia — If you're a first-time visitor to Liberia, all you need is a maximum of three days or less to realize that politics runs almost everything in the country - the churches and mosque, the schools, the market, the economy, the street - you name it, even the restaurants and bars. Liberia is a politically-charged country.
The youth dominate the population and their role in the country's body politic can never be underestimated or overemphasized. They decide who holds what elected position. The youth are always involved - very actively - and so was Menipake Dumoe.
Dumoe was a voice of fire and reason in the political seasons in 2011, 2014 and 2017, switching between political parties, probably in search of a matching ideology and true worthiness for his exposure to such is a risky venture.
Menipake was introduced to politics back in primary school in Ghana when he decided to back a friend for the boys' prefect post. He later joined the school's debate team where he started learning how to form thoughts and arguments. School debate also thought Menikpake about science and philosophical values of society that would gradually land him into politics.
"The impact of politics on our wellbeing - mind you I was in Ghana because I was a refugee because the political system had broken down, because the state could no longer protect us, so as a five-year-old or six, running with members of my family, I couldn't understand all those chaos that we experienced. My entry into politics was about finding out why I was a refugee and I found that it all balls down to politics - a system who gets what, when and how," he told FrontPageAfrica.
He entered politics to query the system and pick bones with the people who he believed wrecked the system and have caused the stagnation of the country's progress and development. "I wanted to ask them 'What are you doing in Monrovia that is leading to so much suffering that we had to run away from our home"
His style was indeed fiery and many would tune in on the radio each time he took up a debate. Menipake eventually became a talkshow host - a political one of course.
"I saw myself as an outsider who wanted to fix what was broken, whether it was Liberia's inequality, its faulty democracy that allowed for very few people to capture too much power and skew the distribution of the proceeds of natural resources in such a way that it doesn't support poverty alleviation and inclusive development," he said.
Diversifying from Politics
But after saying all he could say in politics, build alliances, broke alliances, stormed out of negotiations, built coalition that went on to win the 2017 election, parted because of issues with the quality of leadership in an attempt to find a better approach to addressing the key issues affecting the Liberian society, Manipake thought it would be better to diversify - entrepreneurship.
Menipake is setting a record-breaking example for the youth of Liberia. It is an example that teaches that the country cannot and would not move forward when politics is void of entrepreneurship.
"I thought I had to find a way to contribute in tangible terms and because I have a very critical mind, I was able to assess the transportation sector and found a gap - a gap for innovative network that would be able to link passengers to drivers in an efficient and cost-effective way," he explained.
Taking a break from active politics, Menikpake now runs a TAFI, an Uber styled transportation system in Liberia. The inclusion of tricycle (kehkeh) in his fleet makes his style unique and obviously very affordable.
Menipake deduced that transportation affects the lives of every Liberian and room for improvement in the sector is very large.
He is passionate about transportation. He told FrontPageAfrica, "Transportation is one aspect of our lives that produce lot of frustration and it's also very crucial to people's wellbeing."
TAFI adds value to transportation and eliminates the frustration passengers have to go through picking the wrong vehicle. You don't have to worry about the cop pulling the vehicle you're riding over for inspecting of car documents and driver's license. In most cases, the passengers are victimized - alight and find another vehicle. Of course, it's frustrating in most cases.
So, TAFI does the background checks on vehicles in its fleet, on drivers and sets operating standards that drivers who sign up are to adhere to in order to ensure that they serve with professionalism and uphold quality customer service at all times.
How TAFI Operates
With a small but effective and efficient staff, TAFI has a call center ever ready to attend to a potential client in whatever part of Montserrado County. So, TAFI recruits scrutinized taxis, kehkeh and even private cars, gives them trips and get a 20 percent commission in return.
"When we tell you a kehkeh is coming to get you, you know the name of the kehkeh operator, you know that we have done some background check, you know that the kehkeh is registered and that it's insured and so there is so many accountability issues that we are addressing on behalf of both the kehkeh operator and the passenger," he said.
For Menikpake, transportation should not come with only convenience but also with a sense of security knowing that someone has done background checks.
TAFI has also given a lot of young people opportunities to develop crucial skills for employment, he says.
A Lot Opportunities
Innovation is key to business and the CEO of TAFI knows that. "My staff are constantly laughing at me about how I will start a new thing in a week and then we'll tear it down because we're constantly adapting to the market and people's understanding of different products that we have to offer."
He says soon TAFI will roll out its mobile application that would link the driver directly to the client on a monitored platform. This would reduce the stress of calling the service center which would then have to call and driver and link the driver to the passenger.
He says transportation in Liberia is a business that offers a lot opportunities and very bright. "Looking at the response given that we've only been in existence for only six months is phenomenal," he quipped.
Politics - the Hole in the Roof
Menipake does not blame young people for solely relying on politics in Liberia. He believes politics has become the focus of the day because that's where Liberia's problems lie.
"The reason why everyone is focused on politics, it's because politics is the hole in the roof, it's the only thing that's not working... If you have fire coming from one room in your house, everyone is going to focus on that because that's where the problem is. Politics is where the problem is, it needs to fundamentally be fixed because it's constantly in the way of everything. Even entrepreneurs have to deal with regulations, have to deal with government, has to deal with the general state of the economy because that affects people's movement. Politics has a sacred duty and those in charge have to make sure they're doing their job. The better they do their job, fewer people would be interested in politics because it won't be an area of crisis."