Liberia’s Foreign Mission in London Seeks More Investors Support
LONDON – As part of efforts to make successful the vision of the Liberian government and to help bring to reality President Weah’s Pro Poor Agenda implementation, the Liberian Embassy in the United Kingdom (UK) has embarked on a campaign of showcasing Liberia’s potential as a destination for Foreign and Direct Investment opportunities.
The Embassy in the UK recently brought together over 140 delegates from around the globe and gathered in London at a conference for a UK-Liberia High-Level Business Briefing to jump start a process of attracting investors to come to Liberia.
The investment briefing was under the theme, “UK/Liberia Investment Briefing” was organized by the Embassy of Liberia to the Court of St. James in collaboration with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Liberia’s Ambassador accredited to the Court of St. James, H.E. Ambassador Gurly Teta Gibson – Schwarz in welcoming participants said, business climate in Liberia is conducive and the fundamentals of our economy remain promising and dynamic.
She said the Liberian economy is experiencing tremendous growth in the private sector and business activities are sprawling with the construction of modern hotels and urban housing projects, innovation in manufacturing, telecommunications, renewable energy exploration, improvement in the delivery of transportation system, and an upsurge in the importation of machinery and equipment.
She expressed her sincere thanks to participants for their presence and conveyed sincere gratitude from H.E. President George Manneh Weah and the Government and people of Liberia.
The Liberian Envoy stressed that in the manufacturing sector, new industries are surging to meet consumer demands and the size of foreign direct investments has increased signaling a greater participation by foreign investors in economic activities in the country.
She praised the existing bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Liberia and said since taking office her assignment in London has been robust working to continue the friendly relationship at the same time enhancing coordination among bilateral and multilateral donors, individuals who are dedicated to the growth and development of Liberia.
It is pursuant to this endeavor that Liberia is jointly hosted the Investment Briefing with the British Ambassador to Liberia H.E David Belgrove and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Touching on the purpose of the briefing, Ambassador Gibson-Schwarz said it was intended to address strategic initiatives instituted by the Liberian government to develop a vibrant private sector.
She said the government of Liberia has aggressively worked to create an open investment climate that has attracted investors both foreign and Liberians living in Diaspora around the world.
She explained that government of Liberia is encouraging foreign capital investments in agriculture to provide farmers the necessary tools, seeds, and modern processing machines that will mechanize production and add support for large-scale mechanized farming to support the development of a domestic agro processing industry and increase production for crops such as rice, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, and rubber.
She furthered noted that the revitalization of the rubber industry to support the implementation of an aggressive ongoing replanting program by Liberian farmers; in housing, transportation, and infrastructure, to examine the enormous prospect that exists for construction companies, builders and suppliers of building materials to invest in the rise of the construction of modern urban housing units and new resorts and villas.
“In the Transportation sector to satisfy the enormous demand for transportation; in mining, the country has rich deposits of several mineral resources especially iron ore, gold and diamond where foreign investment is needed to tap these rich reserves; and in forestry, timber is a major export product in Liberia and approximately half of the country’s land area is covered by tropical forests which has within it few hundred species of timber that include high amounts of the coveted mahogany species growth in this sector is needed”, she emphasized.
“Liberia would like to thank you for looking at the country as an investment opportunity despite global economic challenges. You can rest assured that your investment dollars in Liberia will be well spent”, the Liberian Ambassador concluded.
Also, in welcome remarks, UK’s Ambassador to Liberia, H. E. David Belgrove lauded the cordial relationship existing between Liberia and the United Kingdom. He thanked the business community for responding positively to the invitation and promised the government’s fullest support in assisting the government of Liberia with its development and investment objectives.
The British Envoy highlighted the exciting opportunities for sustainable development and the benefits for both countries in supporting their business relationships.
Kicking of the presentations, the Minister of Information, Eugene Nagbe thanked all those in attendance on behalf of H.E. President George Manneh Weah. He said upon taking office two years ago, President Weah said Liberia is open and ready for business.
He invited investors to take advantage of Liberia hot climatic conditions for the purpose of tourism and recall recent publications naming Liberia as one of the most tourist friendly destinations in the world.
He said Liberia fishing industry enjoys 200 nautical miles of ocean which could be utilised by any company interested in boosting the fisheries industry.
According the Min. Nagbe, Liberia is naturally beautiful and scenic and boasts of rich and natural resources. Liberians are hospitable, resilient and fun-loving, known for their mouth-watering and delicious cuisine on the African continent.
He recounted the Liberia’s progression in development since the civil and said, since the cessation of hostilities Liberia has had three successive democratic elections, a democratic transition of power from an incumbent political party in January 2019, currently Liberia boasts of WTO accessions and the country has the legal framework in place for smooth business environment.
He explained the government’s developmental objective under the Pro-poor Agenda for prosperity and development and said one of the fundamental priorities of the government is to sustenance of peace and reduction of developmental inequalities so that Liberians can prosper.
The outcomes from the business conference ranged from interests being drawn from entrepreneurs such a German Automobile company interested assembling car parts in Liberia, expression of interest of establishment from international manufacturing companies, telecommunications companies wanting to do large scale the mobile money processes, British Petroleum, British Telecommunications, Gridworks Powered by CDC Group, Moron Metals with interest in mining, Falcon House Properties with interest in housing, PW Mining International, Turkish Business with interest in Tourism and Air Maroc among many others.
More than 150 Businessmen and entrepreneurs were invited to the roadshow to showcase investment prospects.
Making Liberia’s case, Commerce and Industries minister Wilson Tarpeh outlined several areas opened for investment in the Liberian Economy including agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
“Liberia is open for business and every investor from around the world are invited to come and do business in our friendly environment and its people, we thank the Liberian Embassy here in the UK for organizing this all important program,” the Minister noted.
The Liberian Commerce Minister however called for investment in the area of rice production because according to him, “Close to 95 percent is imported and government spends between 250 to 300 million United States dollars in the importation of rice that could be grown in the country and this is where he believes gain by any company could be accomplished,” he disclosed.
Min. Tarpeh also disclosed that the Liberian government wants to switch away from extractive industry, saying, “When extractive industry is depressed, and there isn’t a counter-vailing area of production, for example, Agriculture, the country suffers a major problem,”
He said government therefore wants to be able to diversify the economy towards agriculture and agro-processing.
According to the Minister, “Exports have moved from Asia to Europe substantially because of the mining which export base it also wants to diversify”.
He however told participants that government has decided to protect domestic import but realized if a law is passed just to protect domestic production, without giving the market a free chance to decide.
He said government is therefore reviewing the policy to allow the market to decide or put charges in place to prevent the hurting local production and the existing investors in the area.
He assured investors that Liberia offers stability and predictability. “We have stability in the country, and we offer predictability; the ability of an investor to take a strategic corporate decision and say that if I do this, I expect this to happen,”
He continued: “And if this happens this is the counter step I can take. We provide that. That means you are not going to come into Liberia, invest your money, and then there is a problem and you don’t have recourse. If you have recourse, what’s going to come out of that recourse must be predictable and the ability to predict that means there is a structure, there is a standard operating procedure that must follow consistent with the rules”.
He promised to provide would-be investors with updated Information of what will happen if they went into Liberia and undertook a certain volume of business, how much taxes they will pay and where it will be paid via the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Liberia Business Association and the Liberia Business Registry websites. According to him, provision of such information avoids the possibility of rent seeking, which could also soil the rent environment.
He informed businessmen present that Liberia’s tax regime is friendly. He said depending on the level of investment, government would calve out what regime of taxes should apply. There are reviews to reduce the corporate tax rates because the private sector can better do with savings in taxes than government. Tax breaks are also being reduced from 35 to 20 percent and there currently reviews to reduce that further.
Speaking earlier at the event, the commissioner for the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) with oversight responsibility for Engineering and Technology, Maria G. Harrison invited investments in internet connectivity for the National Fibre Backbone which aims to provide internet connections through Fibre Optic Cable connections throughout Liberia.
Delivering a presentation to the Investment briefing, Commissioner Harrison said, “the National Fibre backbone is what connects the whole country to various services including commerce, E- government, health, businesses, schools and all other various applications that we use on our day to day level. We feel that with the backbone project, it will enable Liberia to reach out to the various portions of the country. Currently we have 20% of reach where most of the reach is within the capital city of Monrovia. And so, the other areas have either none or very little access to the internet.
She informed her audience that, “In 2013, Liberia was successful in getting connect to the A Submarine cable, that is he cable that connects the international countries with Fibre Optic Submarine through the sea. It was received at the end of 2013 and now provides us access to enhanced 3G, 4G capacity.
But within the span of 6 years, as we have had this landing cable, we have only been able to reach the Monrovia areas because we have to take that landing station and run Fibre Optic Networks throughout the country in order to reach other parts of the country. In so doing also reach out to the bordering countries of Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea which makes up the Mano River Union”.
According to Commissioner Harrison, Route 1 will connect the Fibre Optics from the Sierra Leonian side of the border near the Town of Bo and as far as Yekepa in Northern Liberia through the Ivoirian border town of Danane, in the Ivory Coast. That will be considered as a key commercial route.
The Chief Executive Officer of Arcellor Mittal was present at the forum and gave an overview of operations at his company including benefits, contributions to the Liberian Economy and future prospects in working with the government and people of Liberia.
Arcellor Mittal, one of the World’s leading steel and mining company with a diversified portfolio and steel operations in many parts of the world, also operates in Liberia and was present to give its own assessments about the current climate of investment in Liberia.
Arcellor Mittal used the forum to announced that the government of Liberia has made it clear that it has an ambition and a vision of expanding the rail and port to provide opportunity for multi- users, for other companies to use the infrastructure, and the rails not to only be confined to iron ore but to agriculture and for passengers, and for the Liberian port and rail system to be an economic corridor for the region.
The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Mrs Ruth Bush has pledged her unflinching support for the investment and development objectives of Liberia.
The mayor who, despite being invited to lit the Norwegian Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square had only nipped in for a few minutes to grace the program said, in as much as her position as Lord Mayor is limited to what she can do, some of her contacts may prove useful for Liberia. She said, she has already made recommendations about Liberia to the Westminster Business Council and also intends to provide, what she calls, intellectual connections through her contacts with Westminster University and University College London (UCL).
She hoped she would be able to hold discussions with those institutions about Liberia before her tenure expires. She praised the British Government’s endorsement of Liberia’s investment initiatives and had this advice for the Investment Community present, “Investing in Liberia is something that can be encouraged. You got to do your own due diligence, but you can feel confident. And confidence in business matters”.