Liberia – a Virgin Land with Enormous Investment Opportunities under Weah’s Administration
MONROVIA – Investment opportunities in Liberia are enormous. It ranges from the hospitality industry, tourism, transportation, construction, you name it; 171 years of independence, but the country still presents untapped opportunities.
Not only is the country still virgin for investment, it has over the years since the end of the civil war, been relatively peaceful with an affordable labor market.
Liberia’s President, George Manneh Weah, has repeatedly expressed that the country, under his regime, is ready for business and open for investment. He has continued to encourage investors to take advantage of the many investment opportunities in the country – promising to continue to work to make the investment climate more investor-friendly.
The tourism and hospitality industry remain largely untapped. This industry is still virgin in Liberia.
Primary sector to investment in tourism include eco-tourism lodging in the forest, rainforest and explorer safari’s on horseback or SUVs, cultural village tours, beach club development, hotels and lodging, marina harbor development, sea excursion, etc.
In recent time, the Liberian government through the National Investment Commission (NIC) put out a bid for the infrastructure development that could boost tourism in the country. The government looks forward to rehabilitation of the Hotel Africa, a formerly outstanding five-star hotel built in 1979 to host the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Summit in Monrovia. This structure is situated on a 159 acre of land with a long stretch of beach view, villas, a large conference facility, a golf course, etc.
The rehabilitation of Ducor Hotel presents another golden opportunity for investment. The once five-star hotel sits on the cliff overlooking the entire Monrovia and the Atlantic Ocean. The Liberian Government has expressed open a bid for public private partnership for the rehabilitation of his hotel which sits on a 10-acre land in the heart of Monrovia. The estimated cost of this project is US$42 million, according t the National Investment Commission (NIC).
A historic multipurpose building with a theatre – E. J. Roye Building – can serve up to 2,0000 guests if renovated. Feasibility study puts the cost of renovation at US$18 million.
The Liberian Government has also been encouraging investors to venture real estate development in the country, especially for low and middle income earners. Liberia has a large diaspora population and an emerging middle class within the country which is thereby increasing the demand for these housing units and apartment complexes.
The foremost priority of the Weah-led administration is road connectivity. This is one sector where the government has keen interest and would embrace any well-meaning investor.
Outstanding road projects include:
- 15km bridge linking Gardnerville to Sinkor (possible toll road project with the projection of high traffic). The cost of construction stands at US$80 million.
- Coastal highway covering the long coastal line of Liberia
- Construction and management of road links (toll road system) as reform progresses for fair payment for road users
- Long term road maintenance initiatives
- ELWA (Monrovia) to Robertsfield International Airport road and lighting system.
The James Spriggs Airfield located in Central Monrovia is also out for PPP. Potential for domestic and regional flights. The objective of rehabilitating this airport is to improve functionality and safety; provide standardized equipment that will meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and thereby guarantee the efficient delivery of quality service to users.
You’ll be starting a very enterprising business if you venture PPP in provision of mass transport services, public parking facilities or construction of bus stations and bus services.
Commercial trucking transportation service is a viable business in Liberia because it is readily in demand, which means the benefits from its operations surpass its cost. The number of ships docking and disembarking from the Freeport of Monrovia is growing. According to official statistics, more than 6,500 containers were delivered a the port in January 2015. With few trucking companies in Liberia, this is a very huge market that must be taken advantage of. About a year ago, vessels were unloading between 4,500 to 5,000 containers monthly.
Equipment Leasing is also an alternative means of financing agriculture, road construction and others.
Still in the agriculture sector, one could look at investment in oil palm production and processing, cocoa which has a cultivation with yield of 200kg/ha; and a potential to increase to 1,000kg/ha.
Marine fisheries: Liberia has 20,000 sq, km of fishing ground; only 7,300 mt of marine fish is produced locally, consuming 23,800 mt p.a. inputs. Processing, cold storage facilities, Aquaculture, etc. are avenues for rewarding investments.
Other areas to look at under agriculture include rice production, cassava production, poultry and animal husbandry, maize, cashew, financing, among others.
- Providence Island – Located in Monrovia, is the inlanding site for freed emancipated slaves that settled in what would become Africa’s first republic. This island presents a unique opportunity for investment for an amusement park.
- Robertsport – This coastal town with elaborate mountains and excellent surfing opportunities, as it is one of the world’s best surfacing locations. It’s also home to Lake Piso, the country’s largest and most serene lake, which enables amazing artisanal fishing.
- Harper – Located in the southeast of the country, Harper is the former capital of Maryland, once Maryland of Africa founded by repatriated black Americans. It is known for its beautiful stretch of beaches, monuments, Africa’s first light house, Lake Shepard, separated from the Atlantic Ocean by miles of coconut trees and the beautiful Hoffman River with beautiful white sandy towns; and less than a 15 minute drive away, fish town has a large beautiful colored boulders that could be listed as one of the world’s most undiscovered marvels.
- Kpatawee Waterfalls – Rated by many visitors as the most dramatic and green waterfalls located in any forest, this waterfall has been tagged as a biodiversity hotspot and a major tourism asset for the Government of Liberia.
- The Nimba Mountain Rage – This is the largest part of the Upper Guinea rainforest and extends from Liberia into neighboring Guinea. Home to the world’s largest butterfly – African Giant Swallowtail – and the nearly extinct Nimba Outter Shrew, a toad found only in Liberia. With a beautiful blue lake in the midst of the mountain and misty dew that covers the entire range at certain hours in the day, this place has major advantages for tourism investors.
- Sapo National Park – is another window of opportunity for investment in this virgin territory. Maintained trails, guided bird walks and a lodge serving jazzed-up versions of local cuisine are but few possibilities. Investment in the SAPO National Park has the potential to generate great returns in the travel and tourism industry, which generated US$7.7 trillion (10% of GDP) in 2015.
Potential investors in this sector have a plethora of choices as Liberia is endowed with a variety of mineral resources, both higher value metals and industrial minerals. Gold, diamonds and iron ore are principal mineral resources occurring in an ancient greenstone belts in many parts of the country, Excellent potentials that are currently untapped are platinum, uranium and base metals such as nickels, cobalt, tin, lead, manganese, etc.
The setting up of the Monrovia Industrial Park with excellent tax breaks and capital repatriation guarantees, as well as its willingness to expand this industry demonstrates the faith the Government of Liberia has in the potential of manufacturing. Manufacturing in Liberia has a wealth of opportunities in plastic and rubber goods such as car tires, shoes, pipes, toys, furniture, as well as bio-fuel, etc. With potential in raw materials, limited competition, abundant and low-cost labor, a strategic coastal location, ports and its role in the regional and sub regional economic groupings of EOCWAS and MRU makes Liberia the perfect staging ground to produce goods for these markets as well.
To access to international markets, there are several platforms facilitate the exportation of manufactured goods from Liberia. They include:
- Everything But Arms (EBA) with the European Union
- Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) with the US Government
- ECOWAS Trade and Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) with EOCWAS member states.
Why Invest in Liberia
There are many reasons for investing in Liberia, here are a few:
- Access to Regional Markets: Liberia has access to over 335 million consumers through ECOWAS. As founding member of the Mano River Union and ECOWAS, Liberia is better positioned with access to these markets.
- Low cost labor: With a very youthful population, Liberia’s labor cost is set at US$5.00 to US$6.00 per day.
- Minimum restriction on the repatriation of profits and no currency exchange restriction: Section 11 of the Investment Act of 2010 strengthen investment protection by ensuring the ability of investors to repatriate capital and profits. These may include profits and dividends (net of taxes), remittance of moneys (net of taxes) in the event of the sale of liquidation of the business, repayments of loans acquired from foreign banks, etc.
- Political stability: Liberia has been politically stable for the past 13 years, holding two free, fair and transparent elections, the later which saw the peaceful transfer of power to an opposition party.
- Supportive Tax Regime: Income tax rate is 25% on profits or 2% of turnover; there are no capital controls, so any capital brought in Liberia can easily be expatriated and Agri-processing and manufacturing investors are fast-tracked through government services and facilitated access to investment promotion.
- International Markets: Liberia receives preferential treatment under the EU’s EBA. The EBA grants duty-free and in most cases quota free, access to the EU market. Liberia also receives preferential treatment under the AGOA which offers the most preferential access to US market available outside the free trade agreements. Liberia also has a Trade and Investment Framework with the United States. The country has access to the Asian and African markets.
- Guarantee against unfair expropriation (Section 7 of the Investment Act of 2010)