At 170 years, Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic however the country is noted as one of the poorest nation in the world. Electricity supply is noted to be one of the major draw backs as businesses struggle to stay afloat after the country’s hydro power was destroyed in the 14 years of war.
Liberia so far supplies 10 percent electricity for its capital city, Monrovia, while its rural communities get about two percent. This has stampeded the Liberian economy pushing it towards an agrarian one, with very little in the area of manufacturing since the supply stands at less than 230 megawatts.
Businesses call the supply a standby one since it is hardly available. Apart from its lack of availability, businesses cannot tell when it will be available to plan a schedule.
“Close to 200 companies that opened with me about 10 years ago have all closed down. I constantly have to halt production because the cost of production against the profits doesn’t add up again, I will lay off about 12 workers out of the 20 workers I have now,” a water manufacturer laments.
Media houses constantly break transmission to cut down on cost. Many radio and television stations have to close transmission by midday and resume at 4 pm to save revenue since those are not peak hours for them.
Mai Urey the wife of the richest Liberian businessman indicates the impact of the poor supply is affecting employment. “We have laid off over 300 workers on our ranch where tourists come to. The power supply currently is less than 10 percent there is no way we can cope.”
Apart from power supply, manufacturers will have to grapple with standards which are not in place. Plastic supply for sachet water for example which burst during production, has been heaped in bags another cost to production.
Transportation and poor road network makes doing business in Liberia a daunting one that requires other players in the economy.
Francis Toby, a business man in Liberia’s capital recounted how goods given to a driver to deliver in a nearby village he could not access owing to poor roads, ended up being stolen by the driver to the tune of 15,000 US dollars.
The economy of Liberia as they turn 170 will need a lot of involvement from investors but it will require the country to also strengthen its currency even though it also uses the United States dollar as a legal tender.
The Liberian dollar is hardly used in the country as everything is quoted in the US dollar.
The evidence is that the Liberian dollar is displayed on tables in bundles as it is not even attractive for thieves.
The vice president of Liberia in an exclusive interview with JoyBusiness’s Odelia Ntiamoah added that in the midst of the challenges are opportunities. Liberia is reach in agriculture and the energy sector is opened, since we have so much short fall the sector, the economy of Liberia is virgin. More than 50 percent of the lands in Liberia are rich in minerals for agriculture.
JoyBusiness’ Odelia Ntiamoah with the Vice President of Liberia, Joseph Boakai
Vice president Joseph Boakai is standing for the presidency after going through the 11 years of President Johnson Sirleaf.
A former minister for agriculture in the 80’s and deeply involved in the sector, he admits though agriculture could be the backbone of Liberia’s economy it has been relegated.
It rains more than six months in the country, a condition conducive for the planting of rice but importation takes more than 30 percent of the country’s budget – about 200 million dollars a year.