Liberia – The Path to Light

Liberia was perceived as an example of Africa’s ability at self-rule and self-determination and due to this known as the Black Zion. After overcoming two civil wars, the country still has an interesting historical, cultural and landmarks to flaunt. Few people knew that the country was found by freed slaves from the Americas hence the deep connections between the U.S. and Liberia. Its capital, Monrovia, is named after the fifth U.S. president, James Monroe, who served in the White House from 1817 to 1825. More interestingly the connection runs in billionaire media producer Oprah Winfrey NDA, who traced her ancestry to the Kpelle Tribe of Liberia. Speaking of female dominance, it is the only African country that had a female president in office, Lady Ellen Johnson Sirleaf known as Africa’s Iron Lady. Liberia in the current day is run by the “people’s president” George Weah, a footballing icon.

Better known as the Republic of Liberia is an African country located on the west coast of the African continent and one of the world’s oldest democracies having attained independence from the United States of America in 1847. According to the CIA World Factbook, the country has one of the youngest population with an average age of 17.9 years which can be correlated with the fact that women can get married at the age of 18, and men aged 21. Geographically Liberia is surrounded by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire on three sides, while the south coast borders the Atlantic Ocean and It serves as one of the biggest exporters of iron ore in Africa. The longest river in Liberia is named after a fish which is derived from the cavalla horse mackerel found at its mouth and the country is home to the endangered and mysterious pygmy hippopotamus. So, with these few marvels mentioned why are not many people visiting? Interestingly neither the World Bank nor the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), have figures for foreign arrivals. The country’s old infrastructure can be attributed to the civil war which lasted from 1989 to 1997 and the influence of the Cannibal Warlords. Power shortages in the country are common, facilities at tourist attractions rudimentary, the only proper hotels (in the Western sense) are clustered in Monrovia (the capital), and roads often little more than dirt tracks. Business and economy are constrained by a small domestic market, high transportation costs and poor trade links with neighbouring countries. To add to this, the country is struggling to recover fully from the effects of multiple shocks in recent years; namely, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak, the collapse of commodity prices, UNMIL withdrawal and the perception of risk associated with the political transition in January 2018.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost L$150 Liberian dollar (R 5,96) and the price of a litre petrol is L$1.12 Liberian dollar (R 0,94). Liberia’s economy is projected to contract by 1.4% in 2019, following the modest growth of 1.2% in 2018. Inflation reached 31.3% by August 2019, up from 26.1% the previous year (World Bank, 2019).

Despite all the issues covered, President Weah has made necessary efforts to diversify the economy by investing more in public infrastructure, agriculture and supporting small and micro enterprises with capital, but it will be sometime before these yield results. The government intends to build a highway along Liberia’s 350-mile coast as well as connecting roads into the interior. He also maintains popular support in the legislature. Both will be crucial as he attempts to implement reforms and pro-poor development programmes. With five years left to go, hope in the president remains high.