With bullets flying and mortars exploding nearby, you don’t take life or survival for granted.
Atlanta consultant Sam Divine Jr. grew up during Liberia‘s civil war, which arose out of the tension between ethnic African groups and descendants of the freed American slaves who founded a colony there in the 1820s.
The Divines faced many hardships, but they were among the lucky ones. Living outside the city, they had their own well. Other families were cut off from water and lived in more dangerous areas.
Mr. Divine remembers errant artillery shells crushing houses and soldiers trying to loot his house, even when the family was home. He later learned that this was a diversion so that other soldiers could rape one of the family’s workers behind the house.
In other words, even the lucky ones aren’t so lucky in war.
“It’s really nothing like the movies, and just survival is what comes to mind and you end up being very thankful, each day you see when you live in war, because food’s not guaranteed, water’s not guaranteed. It’s just day to day,” said Mr. Divine, founder and CEO of Cross Atlantic Business Advisors.
Last year, Mr. Divine published his memoir, “Battlegrounds to Boardrooms”. The book highlights life lessons only a war-torn upbringing can instill.
Some were practical, like learning to eat a local plant that no one considered food until times got tough.
Others were deeper, like an ingrained sense of empathy that has become more relevant now that many Americans are suffering more than they ever have.
“I really have a lot of empathy having gone through it. I know what it’s like for someone to be truly starving,” he said.
Luckily, with the help of his parents, Mr. Divine was able to leave Liberia and head to Lowell, Mass., for college. He studied accounting and finance and became a CPA, a job that eventually brought him to Atlanta. He later earned an international business MBA from Georgia State University.
But he itched for a job that would enable him to use his skills working with people and his international business connections, particularly back in his native country. His parents still own land in Liberia, even though they now live in the U.S.
He felt a strong pull toward entrepreneurship and wanted an occupation that would leave more time with his kids, who he said were the intended audience for the life lessons he recounts in the memoir.
Cross Atlantic Advisors was born. Though he has broadened the focus, the firm started by focusing on clients interested in Africa.
In the decade since peace came to the country, Liberia, like many African nations, has become a land of opportunity for those who know how to seize it, Mr. Divine said. He sees potential for Georgia companies across sectors, especially for the many Liberians who are beginning to invest in the land of their forebears.
Delta Air Lines Inc. is a sort of seal of approval for Liberia, having launched a flight from Atlanta to Monrovia, the capital, in 2010.
“That says that there is demand even though the GDP per person in a country like Liberia may seem pretty small,” Mr. Divine said. “Delta has proven that there is enough demand going to Africa and I think other companies can have similar results.”
Visit www.crossatlanticadvisors.com for more information.
For more on the book, visit www.battlegroundstoboardrooms.com.