During the period of political unrest and the bloody, 14-year civil war that rocked Liberia, many Liberians left their country. Many moved to the United States, Europe or neighboring countries in West Africa. However, after the country’s political climate stabilized following the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005, they returned to their native country. Many said they had longed for years to return, Others contend that moving back was snap decision. But they all speak of the fertile opportunity that exists in business in Liberia and the warmth of the people in their country as factors in deciding to return. In part two of a seven-part series on going back home, BET.com reporter Jonathan P. Hicks talks to Musa Shannon on his return.
Musa Shannon was a professional soccer player, whose career took him to play in Tampa, Portugal, Sweden and China. Like so many Liberians, his family fled the country during the long civil war. Eventually, after conditions stabilized in Liberia, they moved back after living in exile in the United States and, then, Tunisia. He went to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh and graduated with a degree in business management. While living in Newark, New Jersey. he visited his family in Liberia and, after that trip, he made the decision to move back home permanently.
Today, Shannon is one of the premier leaders in the country’s hospitality industry. He is the owner of Nana’s Lodge, a collection of highly stylized tents and cabins, perched along the beachside of one of West Africa’s most up-and-coming tourism destinations: Robertsport. It is a town in western Liberia, roughly 10 miles from the border of Sierra Leone that has become increasingly well known for its pristine beaches and some of the best surfing conditions in all of Africa. At the same time, he is vice president of the Liberian Football Association.
It is into this terrain – of rolling green hills and shores where fisherman bring in the daily catch of barracuda, grouper and lobster – that Shannon has firmly planted himself and his dreams. In doing so, he is betting his all on a Liberia of the future that, after years of war and civil strife, he hopes will develop its resort and tourism industry into one with worldwide appeal.
Being back in Liberia has been a “great ride,” Shannon said. “It’s been fun to play a role in putting Robertsport on the map. We hire only local people. And it gives me great joy to see how they deal with foreign guests from all over the world. Tourism is an industry that is still considered somewhat our of the box in Liberia. But it’s an important industry here. I wouldn’t mind expanding.”
Part One: Coming Home: Barkue Tubman
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(Photo: Jonathan P. Hicks/BET)