The CEO and President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and head of the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, Elizabeth Littlefield, is in Liberia with a delegation of business executives to meet with Liberian Government officials and business leaders to identify commercially viable investments to bring “leap-ahead” technology to Liberia’s economy.
The OPIC role is to provide long-term loans and risk mitigation to support such investments. According to a statement issued in Monrovia, the institution’s portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown by more than $6 billion in recent years – it feels is still too small, and aims to change.
CEO Elizabeth Littlefield and delegation are here, foremost, to listen and learn, as those who live within an economy invariably have the greatest insight into its needs and potential, and into what needs to be done to attract and keep the private investment that is so essential to job creation.
They are in the country to stand in solidarity with Liberians along with the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Power Africa interagency coalition to underscore that the future of the two nations will continue to be intertwined. The statement said with every step toward further electrification, the foundation for diversifying Liberia’s economy grows stronger – that holds promise for both nations.
According to the statement, they are also here to offer Liberian companies face-to-face access to investors and to provide information about the resources those OPIC and interested investors may be able to share.
“Perhaps most important, we are here to help send a message to other investors around the world: Liberia is open for business. This message is especially critical now, as Liberia is in the midst of transitions on so many fronts: shifting Ebola investments from crisis management to long-term improvements to the nation’s healthcare system, joining the World Trade Organization, drawing down UNMIL and working to ensure a peaceful, democratic presidential election,” the statement quoted the delegation as saying, further noting that after the election, Liberia will have to continue improving the strength of government institutions, though some inherent challenges will persist or be slow to resolve. The statement indicated that other countries will continue to compete for many of the same foreign investors Liberia would want, saying such challenges are part of the Liberia’s story, but they should not obscure the broader case for optimism.
It said the global population grew by some 500 million over the past seven years. Yet prices for a wide swath of commodities actually decreased. According to the statement, this runs against the fundamentals of supply and demand, indicating that as commodity prices rebound, Liberia has the potential to benefit markedly.
“Liberia’s political leadership continues to recognize the importance of diversifying the nation’s economy and improving its investment climate. This recognition and long-term direction alone is critical,” said the statement, noting that far too many African nations have relied on natural resources for too much of their economic activity.
“Liberia can and, I believe, will begin to see progress in sectors such as agro processing, manufacturing and eco-tourism in the years ahead. One of Liberia’s greatest assets, of course, is its human capital—the capital realized, and the capital unrealized,” the statement quoted the head of the delegation as saying.
“Women have achieved progress in government, the judiciary and other positions of political authority. Yet their economic participation has lagged. Liberia is now finding ways, through vocational and technical instruction, to bring them into sectors such as health care and education. As this happens with small businesses and entrepreneurship, Liberia will thrive all the more.
None of these factors alone will assure Liberia’s economic renaissance,” she is further quoted as indicating. However, the statement said, aligned together they create a powerful economic ecosystem – of particular importance being infrastructure ranging from power and transportation to water and telecommunications.