Bowier Trust
Foundation from Switzerland

Bowier Trust Foundation Switzerland

Bowier Trust Foundation Switzerland

Republik Liberia West Africa needs attention too… a personal view

Reflections on World Affairs / Degradation of the Global South?

Perspectives from my Swiss perspective: In a time when we are bombarded with disturbing news on a daily basis, there is growing concern about the future. Fears are growing about what will happen to our standard of living. Social and health costs are rising and rising – uncertainty about the electricity supply, even though the Swiss Federal Council is proposing sensible solutions to the sovereign, adapted to the situation. Individual interests and a lack of willingness to compromise probably play a major role in making the most important prerequisites for securing basic needs possible. What is nice to have and what is important to have? Many debates (e.g. the number of hospitals) are based on the hitherto and still current prosperity of Switzerland. Now even the renowned ETH Zurich is forced to pull the plug on research and education, which I find completely irresponsible and wrong.

In times of crisis and uncertainty – as history shows – it is wise to invest in innovation, research, curiosity and new ways. To do this, it is necessary to accept one’s own comfort zone as less comfortable and to focus on effect and functionality rather than on aesthetics and expensive „sugar-coating“.

Change of perspective to the world south, West Africa with one of the most important and poorest republics: Liberia – about two and a half times the size of Switzerland, with a population of about 5.2 million, where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world (6th/186th in the world rankings / Switzerland 154th / Germany 175th) and where living conditions are and remain fragile.

While the world is captivated by the sad war-scenes and the effects are also felt in Switzerland in the socio-ecological and economic fields, important humanitarian work in Africa is fading. This has probably always been the case, if you have even a rudimentary knowledge of Africa’s history. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Americans, among others, realized that tropical West Africa had one of the world’s largest resources of rubber trees (Firestone plantations), as well as many mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, manganese, cobalt, ores, coffee, valuable wood and much more. Western powers moved into the country and the indigenous cultures were systematically used and exploited. The expropriation of land and the destruction of the rainforest, along with unfulfilled promises, have not yet closed the gap between the Western hemisphere and African powers. It was not for nothing that Charles Darwin saw his theory of evolution confirmed in 1871 that Africa was the cradle of humanity, giving the world something that has been marginalized by Western dominance to this day. Africa is more important than we may think.

After slavery ended at the end of the 19th century, rumors spread between returning „settlers“ and indigenous people about the management and exploitation of their natural habitats. This later gave rise to the so-called warlords with their warlike businesses, such as the lust, craving for the infamous „blood“ diamonds. This was followed by a brutal 14-year civil war that took a heavy toll. In 2003, the war ended and a lasting peace was achieved in Liberia. The UN, through its UNMIL mission, played a central role in the disarmament and rehabilitation process in Liberia until 2016. The slow and hesitant reconstruction of the Republic of Liberia suffered setbacks with Ebola (2014-2015) and later with the Covid crisis. This was accompanied by insidious corrupt machinations in government structures, along with infrastructure that was never restored for the population living in poverty. Electricity, waste, water, disease, education, transportation – everything either doesn’t work, isn’t available, or is broken.

Even today, thousands of former „child soldiers“ (many of them members of motorcycle gangs) are still part of the everyday system of West African life – uneducated, without prospects, and „surviving“ from one day to the next.

My work as a UN expert for several years with the Liberian police led me to young people whose stories I couldn’t let go of. Meanwhile, the presidents have changed from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2006-2018) to George Manneh Weah (2018-2024) and now to Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr. who, with his background as an experienced manager, is trying to give the country a new way out of corrupt machinations with his partly new government.

I have positive memories of my two meetings with Boakai during my tenure as a UN expert. I’m convinced that what makes him special is not his advanced age, but his structured, intelligent thinking.

What can we do about the world situation? Do we want to do something?

Since the BTFS Foundation ( was established in 2016, numerous young students from the Republic of Liberia have received targeted training in the areas of health, water and solar technology and the environment. What they have learned is being monitored and, as their experience grows, the local BTFS employees in Liberia are taking on increasing responsibility.

At the same time, several students from Switzerland have taken the opportunity to carry out research projects as part of their Bachelor’s and Master’s theses, which are now being put into practice on the ground. These include studies on how the local, indigenous population can be brought out of the lethargy of existence, out of the daily „hand-to-mouth“ ritual. Sustainability requires the establishment of simple operating concepts that take cultural conditions into account. Support is provided by BTFS employees and experienced knowledge carriers from this network of volunteers. These are Rotarian club members, CEO’s, a psychologist, medical-doctors, retired experts in geophysics, engineering, institute directors, managers, professors, a lawyer – all using simple, lean methods. Training, patience and control are the keys to successful work in a developing country like Liberia.

One of the very passionate, talented students from Liberia was admitted to persue a Master’s degree program (MAS) at ETH Zurich a year ago, which is a great inspiration for other young people in West Africa.  Just a few days ago, a young female engineer from Gossweiler Ingenieure Dübendorf returned from Liberia after introducing the local BTFS team to surveying work for a drinking water project in a rural area of Margibi County. The team was supported in the planning and execution of the field work from Switzerland by the engineering company Geoinfra AG, Pfäffikon SZ. These applied know-how transfers enable local BTFS employees to improve the standard of living in Liberia through their work.

The Rotary Foundation with its clubs in Switzerland, in particular the Upper Lake Zurich Club with its successful book store in Rapperswil, as well as the dental team Dr. Schulte from Lucerne, and companies and individuals from the area around the upper Lake Zurich support these educational projects. A partnership was formed with the Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences – OST in Rapperswil and later the United Methodist University in Monrovia was added. This association is based on voluntary work, a vision and the willingness to share knowledge and promote scientific and social projects that bring people together.

It is clear that we cannot save the world or Africa. Africa has to save itself. To do this, we have to take a look and, together with like-minded people with intellectual and material resources, set good and pleasant accents on a small scale. The world needs this in order to maintain hope in the search for the meaning of existence and not to close its eyes and lose sight of Africa out of fear for its own well-being.

Felix F. Walz BTFS Chairman, Liberia/Switzerland