The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), a UN agency is warning here that the Liberian economy is still undiversified and vulnerable to external shocks.
Addressing a policy dialogue Thursday, 7 February at Boulevard Palace in Monrovia, ECA Sub regional Office for West Africa Acting Director Mr. Bakary Dosso observed that most of Liberia’s export revenue is mainly generated by iron ore and rubber which alone account for almost 75 per cent of total export revenue.
The ECA has a mandate among other things, to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa’s development.
On the social front, Mr. Dosso notes that the poverty incidence in Liberia is high and estimated at 54.1% in 2014, adding that mainly in rural areas poverty incidence is 70% and 43.3% in urban areas.
“Poverty is also closely related to the level of education with 69.3% of the un-educated individuals are affected by poverty,” he notes.
The ECA used the presence of its network of economic journalists at the meeting in Monrovia to disseminate the 2017 Liberia Country Profile which is a part of the ECA’s knowledge products that was launched during its Conference of Ministers in Addis Ababa in May 2018.
However, Mr. Dosso says the ECA salutes the commitment of the Government of Liberia to provide a sustainable response to this scourge through the effective implementation of its new development plan – the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development 2018-2021.
For the success of this plan, he says the ECA recommends the need for Liberia to develop an agro-industrial value chains for a sustained and inclusive development.
“We also call for integrated interventions to improve the business environment including infrastructures, financial sector, the governance and the human capital,” says Dosso.
According to the ECA, Liberia’s health system remains fragile as experienced with the past Ebola epidemic where nearly 4,000 people died.
The ECA concludes that maternal mortality ratio deteriorated over the years from 260 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1986 to 1,072 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013.
In response, Liberia’s Deputy Agriculture Minister for Planning Mr. Robert Fagans says government is giving priority to the agriculture sector, demonstrated by President George Manneh Weah’s visit to the Ministry on Monday, meeting with partners.
But he brings to the attention of the ECA that Liberia has challenges, lamenting that for rice production, there is a national requirement of 565,000 metric tons on a annual basis, for instance.
According to him, Liberia is instead importing 350,000 metric tons of rice here, with a little over 200,000 domestic productions mainly done by smallholder farmers and some medium entrepreneurs who have just entered the sector.
Mr. Fagans indicates that government is targeting reduction in rice importation in 2019, explaining that a five – year master plan has been developed to move the agriculture sector forward.
“This government is going to place emphasis on the value chain … like rice, cassava, cocoa, we’re going to look at livestock …,” he says.
He notes that government is giving support to the private sector to enable them meet their obligations and help government to reduce the large importation of rice.
Representing the Ministry of Commerce, Mr. Lowell Wesley says government looks forward to seeing Liberia process rubber into finished product, expressing hope that investors take advantage of this.
According to him, Liberia is looking into the 1.2bn market which is a continental market, noting that these are inspiring and wants investors to seize the opportunity to do business here.
By Winston W. Parley