Despite the past challenges facing the war-torn state, the impact of lower commodity pr i ces a nd t he l oss of development gains by the deadly Ebola outbreak, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf describes Liberia as a well-endowed country.
Speaking at t he Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 11 June, Sirleaf, who became the f i rst female democratically elected head of state on the continent in 2006, promoted Liberia’s natural resources as investment opportunities. The mining, agriculture, forestry and marine sectors all have potential for growth, she says. “We’ve been tr ying to build on the strength of our natural resources… and that endowment is still there.”
Liberia’s geography supports its attractiveness for investment. The f low of goods across international markets is made easy via seaports along its 579km shoreline, explains George Wisner, executive director of the National Investment Commission ( NIC). Opportunities to develop infrastructure of airport facilities gives Liberia a comparative advantage over neighbouring countries as it is in close proximity to Latin and North America, and Europe and the Middle East, says Wisner.
The long-term Vision 2030 plan for transformation will see Liberia become a middle-income country. This would include addressing its long-standing infrastructural problems, says Sirleaf. In the past, the country did not have the diversity to withstand economic shocks and the largest constraint to achieving diversity has been the lack of infrastructural development, she says. One of the issues that will be addressed within the next 18 to 22 months is the need for energy resources including renewable energy such as solar and hydroelectricity.
“We believe that we are now on the road to recovery and we can use the experience of the past to achieve the diversity and transformation goals,” says Sirleaf. Through the effective use of
resources and partnerships for financing, the country can address poverty and ensure sustainable economic growth, she adds.
If investors take advantage of the “huge potential” that exists in Liberia, it will benefit job creation, says the country’s f i nance minister Amara Konneh.
Liberia has incentivised investors by making the environment conducive for business, he says. The efficiency of the environment ensures that it takes 10 days to register a business, he explains. “We also have an attractive percentage in our revenue growth for investors,” he adds. The NIC allows easy repatriation of profit, making it easy for investment to grow, says Wisner. “Investors find it easy to invest and find it easy to get profits.
“The biggest guarantee we have is the stability in the country, which we have demonstrated in the past two election cycles. Our country is on an irreversible path to sustain growth and development,” says Konneh.
It will be ideal if investors “set up shop” in Liberia, adds Konneh. “We want to make our economy a three-ship economy. Right now we are only one ship.”
Liberia’s major trade partners are Europe and China. There is a trade def icit between Liberia and South Africa. Past efforts to establish trade partnerships between the two countries failed, but there are still hopes to establish business partnerships with South African entities, says Sirleaf. MTN is the bestknown local company with operations in Liberia.
A woman stands in front of her market stall selling various grains in the Liberian capital Monrovia.