Lessons from foreign investments in Liberia


  1. Acquisition by Liberians of more skill and experience

One of the objectives having high priority and which should be included in any Plan of Action is the acquisition by Liberians of more skill and experience in the administration and exploitation of the country’s natural resources and, more generally, the efficient use of its economic potential. Indeed, the realization of this goal represents a situation which is long overdue. After more than fifty years of large-scale commercial rubber cultivation in their country, Liberians, in general, still have a modest level of experience in this respect. Research to improve the quality of the rubber produced, to test new varieties or to introduce new production techniques is an exclusive affair of the foreign investors. Related to this, productivity on Liberian owned rubber farms and plantations is substantially lower than that on the foreign owned plantations. Processing of rubber by Liberians is virtually non-existent. The Liberian Rubber Processing Corporation (LPRC) and LIRAMCO form the only examples of rubber processing industries which are owned by Liberians (the Government). The former was only created in 1975 whereas the latter succeeded the West African Shoe and Rubber Industries Ltd., which had not proved successful, in 1976.
In the area of iron ore mining the picture is not very different. Although the first foreign mining engineers and managers of Liberia’s first iron ore mining company entered the country more than a generation ago. (The Liberia Mining Company started its operations in the late 1940s.) Liberians, today, in general still cannot be considered to have reached a level which permits them to operate and manage a large scale iron ore mining venture. Concerning the local processing of the raw material, the UN Economic Commission for Africa  recommended, as early as 1964, that a steel plant be established in Buchanan which would serve the whole of the West African region. In spite of its efforts, the Liberian Government has never been able to find investors who were interested in financing the project.

Without a consistently applied long-term policy which aims at the development of a timber processing industry, the forestry sector may share this fate. The economic consequences are the more important since, of these two products, iron ore is a non-renewable product whereas the renewal of tropical timber, though possible, may take as many as 40 years.







Lessons from
foreign investments
in Liberia



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