Sustainable Peace Depends on Viable Private Sector Ambassador Charles Minor
Ambassador Minor spoke in Minneapolis at an investment symposium organized by the National Investment Commission of Liberia on Sept. 9 a follow up to the Feb. 15 investment forum held in Washington, D.C. to attract private investors to explore business opportunities in Liberia.
Ambassador Minor said Liberia was on a road to economic recovery after 20 years of political and economic stagnation due to civil war and corruption. He said Liberians were tired of war and been used as agent of destruction. “Liberians are no longer prepared to be used as agents of destruction,” Ambassador Minor said.
Minor said to further Liberia’s economic growth and development jobs must be created in the private sector. To do this, Ambassador Minor said Liberia needed a big push from Liberians in the Diaspora and foreign investors.
Ambassador Minor said while Liberia has many opportunities and great endowments, it lacks the entrepreneurial skills, experience, financial capital and technical know-how. He said the tasks of managing and expanding the Liberian economy were the tasks of the private individuals and entities and not the government. “It is the private sector that is to create wealth and when the wealth the private sector creates is appropriately taxed, the government gets the resources it needs to protect the citizens and the state,” Ambassador Minor said.
Mr. Richard V. Tolbert, Liberia’s top investment economist and head of the National Investment Commission urged Liberian professionals to return home and take advantage of the emerging investment opportunities in new Liberia. Tolbert said the Government of Liberia and international partners were working together to help qualified Liberian entrepreneurs with viable economic ideas and proposals launch their own businesses. Tolbert said while the challenges facing Liberia are many, the opportunities are greater.
Liberia, Tolbert said, has the resources it needs to rebuild its infrastructure but Liberians must work hard to develop those resources. He urged Liberians in the Diaspora to return home and help President Sirleaf administration make Liberia a better place for all. “We are taking are economic destiny in our own hands,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert said the government through his commission has $30 million available from the African Development Foundation for qualified Liberians to access to start and develop their own businesses. Tolbert said one said main challenge facing investors is the inability to document their business concepts and ideas into marketable business proposals to engage financial institutions.
Like the African Development Foundation, U. S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is looking to support U.S. businesses interested in partnering with Liberians to build affordable housing. OPIC fosters economic development in new and emerging markets. But to benefit from these financial institutions, Tolbert said one must go through an organized process that involves feasibility studies and well thought-out proposal development. “You cannot just walk into these institutions with a verbal idea. It is important that you develop a proposal or seek a professional consultation,” Tolbert said
Through its finance unit, OPIC provides financing through direct loans and loan guarantees for medium and long term private investment ranging from $100,000 to $250 million.
Tolbert said Liberians with land, collaterals, and viable economic business ideas in proposals form can access the African Development Foundation funds and services through the National Investment Commission. Tolbert who is also an economic adviser to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said areas that need immediate investment include hotel, tourism, transportation, construction and housing industries. For example, Tolbert said, as of now the country has only one five-star hotel located in the capital Monrovia.
Gayah Fahnbulleh from the Transworld International Consortium said middle income housing was an urgent need because according to him Liberia has only class of citizens, the poor and the rich. “We do not have a middle class. Only the poor and the rich,” Fahnbulleh said.
On transportation, Mr. Ben Mortimer of Air Mcphillips said there can be no effective development in Liberia without good roads and well-developed transport system including air, sea and roads. Mcphillips is a new British investment with weekly services between London and Monrovia. Mortimer said Liberia needed urgent investment in all three sectors if reconstruction and development of the country must occur. Transportation is a key area for the development of development,” Mortimer said.
Mr. Kerper Dwanyen, a Liberian businessman and local chairman of the committee that organized the event said Liberians in the United States were proud to be a part of rebuilding process through investment initiatives. He thanked the Liberia Government for selecting Minnesota. Dwanyen said the symposium was a big success because according to him, participants expressed happiness with the content of each speaker’s message.
Other speakers included Dr. Eugene Shannon, Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy and Christopher Neyor, Presidential Advisor on Energy. Minister Shannon said Liberia exported its first diamonds worth over $1 million this month. Liberia, he said, was blessed with huge deposits of iron ore, diamonds and bauxite all of which are areas of great opportunities for investment.