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|Pitching Liberia’s Potential: Sirleaf Highlight Investment to Major French Businesses||| Print ||
|Written by FPA Staff Report|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2012 22:08|
Paris – Visiting Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has extended an invitation to several major French companies to tap into Liberia’s resources reserve and post-war investment climate.
In a meeting with several companies in Paris Wednesday Sirleaf said she hoped that companies in France whom she met Wednesday will eye Liberia for investment.
“We are a natural resource country and we hope forge good public, private partnership and we hope we will be able to improve trade and business relations with France.”
The president said Liberia is looking to promote relationship through diplomatic work and through countries in the West African region, whether they come from Francophone or Anglophone countries, making sure that the private sector takes advantage of some of our projects in Africa, increasing trade together in the United Nations and other regional institutions to promote integration and promote trade among all of our countries.”
Liberia fits same mode
The Liberian President said Africa is a land of opportunity which is looking to be explored. “If you look around Africa, so many things are happening with the discovery of natural resources, whether we’re dealing with Tanzania, Rwanda all of those countries, DRC Congo, we are seeing all of this happening in Africa."
"Coming down to the West, whether it is Ghana or Sierra Leone, Liberia, La Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, we represent the last frontier, the one in which the potential has not been reached and today the potential is now being discovered and exploited.”
Said Sirleaf: “Liberia fits the same mode, Liberia is a relatively small country, small in terms of population, about four million but rich in natural resources by many of the countries in our sub-region and our neighboring countries.”
The President told potential investors that Liberia is traditionally an agriculture company with rubber. “We are still involved in the rubber business and there is a lot of replanting going on whether it is Firestone who has been with us since 1946, there has been some successes there and other major institutions. We are also a major oil palm company.”
Today, the President said, Liberia has attracted investments from Malaysia and French companies like SIFCA currently tapping into Liberia’s palm oil reserves.
The president said Liberia is also a mineral country with iron ore being one of the most basic mineral although it has been lucky in recent months to to discover gold in substantial quantity as well as diamonds.
To date, the president said, Liberia has signed signed four major iron ore concession agreements.
“Arcelor Mittal made the first export in 20 years about a year ago and they are now moving into phase two of their operations which will expand the operations, three other mining companies will be starting their operations sometime next year.”
‘Those are all potentials’
The President told potential French investors that the current investment climate presents opportunities for French companies to explore.
“Whether you will be supplying mining equipment and other things, whether you’re bidding on some of the civil works, those are all potentials.”
The President said Liberia is also greatly involved in forestry, representing 43 percent of diversity in the West African region, giving the country the potential to do a lot of wood products.
“Of course we have some very strong conservation laws as we want to be a part of ensuring that our forests are not all taken away and of course there are a lot of scope in that sector, then we are a marine country with fishing which some of you around the table there is fishing operations already and we hope that we can continue to work with you and of course more recently the chances of oil discovery there."
"We think the prospects are very good, sometimes we’re not so sure because sometimes when you begin to talk about oil it brings all kinds of problems for us but never mind the potential exceeds the problems. So we continue.”
The president admitted that Liberia still faces challenges in fulfilling its pledge to restore electricity to all parts of Liberia. “We have a major deficit, we are trying to restore our hydro power and discover other kinds of hydro power. We are also working on many hydro potential because Liberia has a lot of waterways. Aside from the hydro we are trying to get some interim programs, we are trying to get into the hydro.”
The president admitted that even the regional facility of the hydro which will be completed in about two to three years will not give Liberia sufficient power. Thus, there is a strong need to build an upstream storage to expand.
“The potential that brings us into the West Africa power pool will easily take us to 1000 megawatts if we can develop that, the need for power by our major mining operations is intense. If we do not get the power to provide them they will have to do it on their own then we would have these enclave operations not all integrated into a national grid and that’s what we’re trying to work on.”
Housing major need
The President said road construction was also a key factor in the post-war reconstruction because much of the infrastructures were destroyed after many years of conflict.
“Road building is a major facility for us now. Not only our national road system but also the connection to our neighboring states in our Mano River Union which includes Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.”
The president also noted that housing is a major need for the post-war government and such an investment will go along way to opening avenues for potential investors.
“Middle income housing for some of our professionals who are already there; even for housing for the major concessions, they are going to have to have housing for the workers and what not and I’m sure that they would like to outsource some of those."
"We too would like to see some of it so that they do not operated in a very close environment but linkages with other companies in the community.”
The president also pitched to French companies while acknowledging the challenge facing her administration’s ability to find employment for the youths.
“We have challenges too. I will not tell you everything is rosy, we have a large young population 25 and under. A lot of them are uneducated and unemployed. Our challenge is how do we put them into productive endeavors, how do we make them see the future as theirs so that they do not become vulnerable to some of the malpractices that have taken place in the past.”
Mr. Gerard Wolf, Vice President of the African Group of Ambassadors in France said French companies are never in a one shot structure, but rather, are always looking for the long-term relationships.
“This country is also involved in training and exchanging of young managers and are and are committed to social responsibility.
“All the companies around have a social responsibility policy, not the same because each one has its own policy but in the DNA of the French companies, it is something that is completely in the DNA of French companies because they do not know any other way. So for us, this is very important. We appreciate what is going on in Liberia. and countries we do business with, which means being able to work with the local people”