Harvard Bestows Award on Former Liberian Finance Minister Konneh

 

Washington – Former Liberian Finance Minister
Amara Konneh has paid homage to the Kennedy School of Government for
molding him as he embarks on his transition to his next assignment:
Manager of the World Bank Global Center for Fragility, Conflict,
Violence and Forced Displacement.

Speaking last Saturday evening when he was awarded the Harvard
University's prestigious 2016 Public Service Award - for outstanding
contribution to Liberia's reconstruction, the former Finance Minister
said he is taking with him a wealth of experience. “

As I
transition from being a Minister of Finance and Development Planning of a
developing country to being the Manager of the World Bank Global Center
for Fragility, Conflict, Violence and Forced Displacement (FCV)
providing support to the Bank operations in 43 countries, I take with me
the wealth of experience that have humbled me, deepened my faith in
God, and strengthened my resolve to do my part to make the world a
better place.”

The award, established in 1997 and formerly known
as the Alumni Achievement Award, recognizes an alumnus/a who has
significantly improved the human condition at the local,
state/provincial, national, or international levels.

Recipients
will have made a substantial difference for people, organizations, or
governments through a single influential act or a series of steps that
produced positive societal change. Nominations come from HKS alumni or
HKS faculty. Self-nominations are discouraged.

At Saturday’s
ceremony, Mr. Konneh said the recognition was a humbling experience.
“This is a humbling experience for anyone. At least, it was for me.

But,
then again, I was used to that, because when I arrived at the Kennedy
School of Government, I thought I knew it all and full of confidence.

But
the privilege of learning from world class professors and with students
from all seven continents afforded me a much needed shift in
perspective and equipped me with the tools I needed to serve my country
and my continent effectively.

I can tell you that, although I
took a lot of quantitative courses to deepen my understanding of
economic and development policies, I still do not have all of the
answers.

I just know which strategies worked for Liberia, which
didn’t, and that my time at KSG prepared me to meet each challenge with
the tools in hand to overcome it.”

Mr. Konneh said he was moved,
not only by the consideration of his Harvard peers to recognize the work
that he has done under the leadership of fellow alumnae, President
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; but by their close attention to their work over
the last eight years.

But the former Minister said he did not do
it alone. “The knowledge that you were watching and rooting for me has
played no small role in my success. It has strengthened and challenged
me to be and to do my very best; to keep asking what I can do; and to
remember why I am here - which is to make a difference.”

While
expressing his indebt to God for guiding him through many perils, the
faith to face every challenge; and the wisdom to sail through turbulent
waters successfully, Mr. Konneh acknowledged that in a highly- political
environment, technical competency can quickly become irrelevant, if not
paired with the acumen to build coalitions, manage egos, and provide
the leadership to turn a vision into reality.

This is where, he said, the leadership courses of Professor Dean Williams and his service in the HKS student government came in.

“It put me through the powerful personal transformation I needed in order to be as effective a leader as I could.”

Describing
his tenure in Liberia as Finance Minister as daunting, Mr. Konneh said
in a chaotic development setting where crisis mode is a comfort zone for
many, it took courage and tenacity to – and again, a great deal of
humility – to turn noes into yeses; to shift perspectives away from
obstacles, toward opportunities; and to usher in a culture of
proactivity and accountability.

Nevertheless, he said the work
is far from over. “All confidence that the team that I have been blessed
to work with over the last ten years is well able to see it through.

To
me, that is the most important part of leadership – the durability of
the impact that we make, which is measured by the quality of the team we
leave behind, and by what happens when we finally leave the stage and
relinquish control.

And that is the power of the Kennedy School –
its ability to impart to its students the spirit of John F. Kennedy so
that, when we leave the splendid campus right up the Charles River on
JFK Street, we walk out into the world asking what we can do and
remembering why we are here.

And we move forward our respective
journeys, procreating in others the same service-oriented spirit that
will eventually gain critical mass and effect the change we want to see
in the world.”

Mr. Konneh paid homage to President Sirleaf, who he describes as his mentor for believing in him when many others doubted.

“To
my colleagues in the Cabinet whose dynamism and commitment to public
service made my time in government productive; the staff at the Ministry
of Finance and Development Planning. We made a good team, and I am
honored to have been a part of their lives and their work.”

Mr.
Konneh was appointed Minister of Finance in February 2012. During his
tenure, Liberia’s post-war economic growth was sustained in 2012 and
2013, with estimated real GDP growth of 8.9% and 8.7, respectively, led
by mining, buoyant construction, and strong performance in services.

Growth
was projected to be impressive in 2014, due in no small measure to
macroeconomic stability but was affected by a twin shock: global
commodity price decline and health crisis - the Ebola Virus Disease
(EVD). Consumer price inflation moderated to 6.9% in 2012.

This
strong performance also reflected higher-than-anticipated acceleration
in non-mining activities boosted by private and public investments in
line with the government’s five year development strategy, the Agenda
for Transformation (AfT) for which he is credited formulating. As
Finance Minister, he has advocated the following priorities for the
government.

Amara M. Konneh is the Manager of the World Bank Group's Global Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) Hub in Nairobi, Kenya.

He
joined the Bank after nearly a decade of service with the Government of
Liberia, most recently as Minister of Finance and Development Planning
and National Coordinator of the Liberia Development Alliance from
February 2012 to April 2016.

Prior to this, he was Minister of
Planning and Economic Affairs and Head of the Presidential Office of the
Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee.

Earlier in
his career, he worked for the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies as
well as the International Rescue Committee in Guinea as Education
Coordinator.

In his new capacity as Manager of the Bank's Global
Fragility, Conflict and Violence Hub, Mr. Konneh’s top three priorities
will be to: (I) implement the Bank's Cross-cutting Solutions Area's
(CCSA) strategic priorities, as part of the GCFDR Management Team, and
in close coordination with GPs, CMUS, IFC, MIGA and development partners
on the ground; (ii) lead the Nairobi-based team of the CCSA to provide
operational and analytical support on FCV issues and to disseminate best
practices and lessons learned; and (iii) represent the Bank and manage
relationships with the donor community in Nairobi.

He most
recently served as Chairman of Africa Group I Constituency of the IMF.
Previously, he served as Chairman of the Mano River Union (MRU)
Ministerial Council and the African Peer Review Mechanism's Ministerial
Council.

He was the coordinator of all the Economic Community of West African States' (ECOWAS) activities in Liberia.

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