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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Liberia: How Boakai Plans to End ‘Rich Country, Poor People’ Curse

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By Festus Poquie

Liberia President Joseph Boakai aims to combat the country’s resource curse by channeling natural resource profits into infrastructure and socio-economic programs to alleviate poverty.

Recent reports from the World Bank revealed that 3 million Liberians out of a population of 5.5 million are living in poverty, highlighting the detrimental impact of the resource curse on the nation. Liberia, abundant in resources such as rubber, timber, iron ore, diamonds, gold, and more, is striving to break free from the cycle of natural wealth leading to poverty.

Geological studies indicate significant potential for metallic mineral deposits in Liberia, yet systematic exploration has been limited mostly to iron ore and gold.

President Boakai wants to leverage domestic resources to improve social services and infrastructure, especially in the wake of conflicts and aid drought.

Addressing multinational corporations at the US-Africa Business Summit, President Boakai urged for responsible investment practices that prioritize shared benefits for all stakeholders.

He highlighted past failed investments that left regions like Yekepa and Bong Mines as deserted “ghost cities,” underscoring the need for sustainable and impactful development initiatives.

This is how he outlined his vision to end the resource curse:

 “Some time I wonder if one were to go to a country and made an investment and it was profitable and they went back a couple of years later and  you look at a country like Liberia … I don’t know what you will think about .. Whether there is a sign of dividend?

“This time when we say Liberia is ready for Business we are saying that Liberia is ready for business in a different way.

“I lived in Liberia and I saw the Mano River Company,  I saw the petroleum steel investment, LMC in Tubmanberg, I saw Yekepa, the Bong Mines in Bong County and today when  you go there they are all ghost cities with absolutely no life , no opportunities for people, nothing to show that some  investments were made there.

“Probably, I will not blame the investors but to a large extent I blame ourselves. But I just want to say that this time investment in Liberia is going to be an investment that will benefit the investors and leave something on the ground that we can remember.

“I want to signal that to potential investors because the resources there can not be  replenished. Those are resources we need for our children’s children. Those are resources we need for the development of our infrastructure. We are saying that we appreciate investment and we look forward for it.”

 

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