Liberia: Ellen Woos More Indian Investments

Continuing her five-day state visit to India, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told business leaders that in that country that Liberia is an environment that is conducive, investor-friendly and transparent and one that is open for business.

"We think we've made tremendous progress; we think we have an attractive investment for the development of our natural and other resources," an Executive Mansion dispatch quotes the President as saying Wednesday in Delhi, India.

It said President Sirleaf made the statement when she delivered the Keynote Address at a Business Luncheon Meeting hosted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry at the Oberoi on Wednesday, September 11.

Setting the scene, President Sirleaf informed the audience of business leaders that Indians form the second largest expatriate community in Liberia. She named the two multi-billion-dollar investments of ArcelorMittal and Sesa Goa in the mining sector, as evidence of the openness of the Liberian economy, and at the same time highlighted the younger more adventurous corps of Indian businessmen dominating the building material and pharmaceutical sectors.

She emphasized the country's Vision 2030 Development Strategy which envisages making Liberia a middle-income country by then; but quickly noted that the first slice of that Vision, the Agenda for Transformation, has identified the priority areas of infrastructure, power, ports and roads to put the country on a sustained development path.

President Sirleaf described Liberia's potential as one rich in natural resources though agriculture remains the country's key area of strength, with rubber being the traditional export and now becoming a major oil palm producer, with recent investments from two Asian countries, Malaysia and Indonesia. She also indicated coffee and cocoa as traditional endowments.

The Liberian leader informed the Indian business leaders that with forest resources accounting for 43 percent of the biodiversity of West Africa, there is great potential for the production of wood and related products; but warned that the country no longer seek timber exporting agreements, but investments that add value for exports of wood products, including furniture.

But she quickly pointed out: "In recognition of this potential of ours, ongoing reforms aim at making this sector transparent, investor-friendly, and beneficial to the nation, particularly local communities." President Sirleaf added that this objective aims at making the sector responsive to the needs of the Liberian people, ensuring that the rights of investors are protected, and that forest resources are used in a sustainable and responsible manner. "Our new forest laws stress the integration of community, conservation, and commercial forest management while a Community Rights Law empowers communities to fully engage in the management of forest resources," she stressed.

Liberia, with a coastline of 360 miles, and a marine country with tremendous fishing potential in revenue and exports, the President welcomed Indian investors to the sector, particularly in establishing fish cluster sites, which could include facilities for cold storage, drying, packaging for export and local consumption.

She also highlighted Liberia's mineral-rich potential, with significant deposits of iron ore, diamond and gold. However, she reminded the Indian investors that the country has made significant progress in ensuring that the exploitation of these resources are done in an appropriate governance framework, and that the ongoing reforms in all other sectors will protect the national interest and continue to create an investment environment to ensure security of tenure and a fair return for investors.

"All of these opportunities we mentioned will ensure that we create an open and transparent environment which guarantees investors a fair return on their investment, while respecting the rights and dignities of our citizens," President Sirleaf emphasized.

She said though Liberia and its population is small, with the endowment and the fact that Liberia forms part of the West African Community that enables it to have business with economies of scale and enables it to increase its purchasing power within the sub-region, provides more opportunities for the business community.

She highlighted Liberia's eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA); the duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union market for exports; and tariff-free entry into ECOWAS as opportunities that gives Liberia a market that's more than 25 time the country's own size.

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