Lessons from foreign investments in Liberia
Conclusion 1b:

Lip-service to the 'Liberianization-policy'
  1. The preference for foreigners in
    private companies owned by Liberians

The wealthy and politically powerful Liberians continued to prefer the employment of foreigners, even at managerial level, in enterprises of their own despite the lip-service publicly paid to 'Liberianization' . Without any difficulty, some twenty 'exceptions' to the official Liberianization policy can be cited. They refer to private enterprises, owned by Liberians as well as public corporations and partially state-owned companies.

The most notable example was the multi-million dollar business empire of the Tolbert family, the Mesurado Group of Companies, with investments in Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, England and the Bahamas. A group of Englishmen had been hired in the 1970s which was responsible for the daily operations of the various companies.

There were other examples of expatriate management of Liberian owned enterprises:

  • President Tolbert’s rice, rubber and palm oil farm in Bellafanai, Bong County, was run by an expatriate from the Philippines;
  • Former president Tubman's 'W.V.S.Tubman Estate' in Maryland County which produced rubber, was managed by a Chinese;
  • Senator Charles D. Sherman’s palm oil plantation in Grand Cape Mount County was headed by an expatriate from Belgium;
  • Libtraco, another fully owned Liberian company, employed Germans in managerial positions.

Despite the critical observations related to the Liberianization policy of the Tolbert Administration, these examples also make clear that there existed a kind of emerging business class in Liberia with very capable, powerful and rich entrepreneurs. President Tolbert, the country’s largest rice producer, and his family and business protégées were involved in an increasing number of business endeavors. Probably the most successful one was Steven Tolbert, the president’s youngest brother. Steven Tolbert was a successful businessman and the founder of the Mesurado Group of Companies. In the early 1970s he was made Minister of Finance by his brother and in that capacity he started the renegotations of concession agreements with foreign companies operating in Liberia, in particular Firestone and the iron ore four: LMC, the National Iron Ore Company, LAMCO JV and the Bong Mines Company. Steven Tolbert died in a mysterious plane accident in 1976 before the renogotations were concluded.








Lessons from Foreign Investments




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