Using e-clustering to reinvigorate the Mano River Union
Bangura, Abdul Karim
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This essay examines the tenuous state of the Mano River Union (MRU) and suggests how Eclustering can be employed to reinvigorate the association. The MRU is a regional association established between Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1973. Guinea joined the association in 1980. The goal of the Union was to foster economic cooperation among the three neighboring countries. It is named after the Mano River which begins in the Guinea highlands and forms a border between Liberia and Sierra Leone. Due to political instability and conflicts involving the countries, the objectives of the Union have not been achieved. Nonetheless, on May 20, 2004, the Union was reactivated at a summit of the three leaders of the MRU states at the time: recently deceased President Lansana Conté of Guinea, former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, and former Chairman Gyude Bryant of the Transitional Government of Liberia. On April 1, 2008, Cote d’Ivoire agreed to join the association during a state visit by current Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is also the current Chair of the MRU. With the December 23, 2008 military coup d’etat in Guinea led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara immediately after the death of Conté, the fate of the MRU continues to be tenuous. The major question then becomes how the MRU can be reinvigorated in light of these challenges. In this essay, I suggest that E-clustering, which is an innovative approach for economic policy based on the concept known as “cluster-building,” can help. An economic cluster initiates the networking of all participants in a value-added chain. The objective is to bundle the potentials and competences for increasing the innovation power and competitiveness of the partners in a cluster. Given Internet technology, even business and government networking in rural areas can obtain a driving force. Internet technologies such as infrastructure, applications, platforms, and broadband can enable the business processes between companies, academic institutions, research institutes and governments to be networked. E-business and E-government/E-administration cause fundamental structural changes of the private and public sectors. Given this reality, there is a need for economic and technology policy. This need is taken into account in E-clustering. The partner countries in an MRU E-cluster can be networked by processes that are more standardized and so able to be supported by online applications. The Ecluster will require a central infrastructure and services. Knowledge management, E-learning, Emarketplaces, personnel management and E-government will be the main processes and services of an MRU E-cluster.