Chid Liberty

Ashoka Fellow
chid_headshot.jpg
Nigeria
Fellow Since 2018
This description of Chid Liberty's work was prepared when Chid Liberty was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2018 .

Introduction

Chid Liberty is changing the paradigm in the African manufacturing industry, by pioneering ethical manufacturing in Africa earning the continent’s first Fair Trade Certification by Fair Trade USA. He has built a system where workers are treated fairly, social services are provided, and their health care is prioritised.

The New Idea

Chid Liberty is changing the paradigm in the African manufacturing industry, by pioneering ethical manufacturing in Africa earning the continent’s first Fair Trade Certification by Fair Trade USA. He has built a system where workers are treated fairly, social services are provided, and their health care is prioritised. He hires local women at the base of the pyramid in Liberia to produce fair trade clothing for American retailers, the women own 49 percent equity of the company while he channels his 51 percent share into community development programs. He established Justice Liberty with the employees in mind connecting fair employment practices and financial reward. This model positions the women as shareholders and incentivises them to be proactive and find their own ways to make production more efficient making the company internationally competitive and productive. The women receive living wages, free health care, 100% savings matching, and literacy classes.
Starting with the apparel industry Chid has built a system that is aimed at solving the problem of unemployment in Liberia at the micro and macro level. In direct response to requests from the local community, he provided jobs that empowers them to provide for themselves and their families. In 2004 Chid created 2,500 jobs in Liberia and thousands more in other parts of Africa. He has spread to 7 countries in Africa.
After the Ebola crisis in Liberia Chid’s factory was shut down for nine months making him lose a lot of orders for his clothes, at this time he realized that Liberia has one of the of the lowest primary education enrolment rates in Africa; 6 out of 10 children of primary school-age are out of school. He also discovered that the cost of uniforms is a huge obstacle for Liberian families, especially given that 50% of working adults lost their jobs during the Ebola crisis posing a huge obstacle to Liberian children attending school. Chid started UNIFORM which sells T-shirts in the US and for every t-shirt sold a child in Liberia gets a school uniform and writing materials in Liberia. So far Chid has donated 8,000 uniforms since 2015, and is working towards the overall goal of 50,000 uniforms donated by the end of 2017.
Chid started the Made in Africa brand which is a brand that companies can go to and get their goods manufactured in Africa. Starting with apparel industries, the company provides the answer to the problem of access to markets, management as well as human and material capital, solving the enduring problem that has hindered African manufacturers from producing goods and products that meet the international standard. Through ‘’Made in Africa’’ he has interlocked the African value chain and wants to turn Africa into a manufacturing base for the rest of the world.

The Problem

For the last 30 years, worldwide absolute poverty has sharply reduced (from about 40% to under 20%). But in African countries the percentage has barely fallen. Today over 40% of people living in sub-Saharan Africa live in absolute poverty
An estimated 64 percent of Liberians live below the poverty line and 1.3 million live in extreme poverty, out of a population of 4.6 million, according to World Food Programme. The country depends on imports, which does not help its markets already being integrated poorly.
Historically light manufacturing is a vital source of growth and productive employment in economies abundantly endowed with less-skilled labour and a comparative advantage in labour-intensive sectors.
In almost every country the transformation from traditional agriculture toward a modern economy started with light manufacturing—cotton and silk textiles in Japan; textiles, food processing, and a host of labour-intensive consumer products in Taiwan and China—because of its potential to absorb a large pool of less-skilled workers rapidly from agriculture into new occupations that substantially increased their productivity without imposing high capital requirements.
The rapid cost hike now facing China’s export-oriented light manufacturing sector creates opportunities that could jump-start Sub-Saharan Africa’s structural transformation in the near future because it is well endowed with inexpensive, low-skilled labour, a key ingredient in the initial industrialization of a long list of Asian economies.
For Liberia and many other nations of Sub-Saharan Africa, the light manufacturing sector offers an attractive choice for making optimal use of its abundant labour and natural resources to create better-paying jobs fairly rapidly for its vast pool of less-skilled labour in the informal sector. This is also evident in East Asian and South Asian countries, where light industries continue to employ vast numbers of unskilled workers, especially in India.

The Strategy

By transforming the apparel supply chain from worker exploitation and environmental degradation to partnership and sustainability. He hires local women at the base of the pyramid in Liberia to produce fair trade clothing for American retailers, the women own 49 percent equity of the company while he channels his 51 percent share into community development programs. He established Justice Liberty with the employees in mind connecting fair employment practices and financial reward. This model positions the women as shareholders and incentivises them to be proactive and find their own ways to make production more efficient making the company internationally competitive and productive. The women receive living wages, free health care, 100% savings matching, and literacy classes.
Beyond providing jobs and ensuring workers are fairly treated Chid is fighting low enrolment school rates of children by providing uniforms and writing materials for every t-shirt sold in the United States, giving children the opportunity to go to school. After the Ebola crisis in Liberia Chid’s factory was shut down for nine months making him lose a lot of orders for his clothes, at this time he realized that Liberia has one of the of the lowest primary education enrolment rates in Africa; 6 out of 10 children of primary school-age are out of school. He also discovered that the cost of uniforms is a huge obstacle for Liberian families, especially given that 50% of working adults lost their jobs during the Ebola crisis posing a huge obstacle to Liberian children attending school. Chid started UNIFORM which sells T-shirts in the US and for every t-shirt sold a child in Liberia gets a school uniform and writing materials in Liberia. So far Chid has donated 8,000 uniforms since 2015, and is working towards the overall goal of 50,000 uniforms donated by the end of 2017.
Chid is dealing with the problems in the manufacturing industry by employing workers as well as empowering the system to handle a huge labour capacity. He does this through Made in Africa.com. Chid started the Made in Africa brand which is a brand that companies can go to and get their goods manufactured in Africa. Starting with apparel industries, the company provides the answer to the problem of access to markets, management as well as human and material capital, solving the enduring problem that has hindered African manufacturers from producing goods and products that meet the international standard. Through ‘’Made in Africa’’ he has interlocked the African value chain and wants to turn Africa into a manufacturing base for the rest of the world

The Person

Chid was born in Liberia, but the political upheaval in Liberia made his family leave for the United States where he spent the next 28 years of his life. As a student in the University Chid became involved in the music industry as a manager, he was able to attract a lot of funding for the musicians that he managed at the time.
After the death of his father, Chid decided to go back to Liberia and figure out ways that he can contribute to the rebuilding of the country after the war. Inspired by the Nobel Peace Prize winning Liberian Women’s Peace Movement, Chid co-founded Africa’s first Fair Trade Certified apparel factory to provide economic opportunities for internally displaced women, who on balance, were vulnerable to rampant unemployment and economic exclusion. He is currently leading the rapid expansion in Liberia and throughout Africa.