President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has told investors in India that opportunity here for oil discovery in commercial quantities off the coast of Liberia represents multiple prospects for investment and growth.
She said Liberia being in the preparatory phase of oil exploration allows, the country to plan correctly so that when production hopefully commences, it will be conducted in a manner that recognizes and addresses some of the challenges which other West African countries in a similar situation have experienced.
President Sirleaf made the assertion on Wednesday, September 1, while addressing the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi, India on investment opportunities in Liberia.
The Liberian leader said a reform process nearing completion will ensure that oil policies and legislation comply with international best practices as well as partnership with the world's best operators, such as Chevron and ExxonMobil, who have the technical and financial capacity to undertake the high risk and high cost of exploring and developing offshore oil prospects here.
"All of these opportunities we mentioned will ensure that we create an open and transparent environment which guarantees investors a fair return on their investment, while respecting the rights and dignities of our citizens", she stressed.
President Sirleaf, currently paying a state visit to India, told members of the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry that Liberia looks forward to a partnership with them.
"Although our country is small, our population small also, with our endowment and with the fact that we do form part of the West African Community that enables us to have businesses with economies of scale that enable us to increase our purchasing power within our sub-region, providing more opportunities for you."
The President said Liberia has already become eligible for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), including duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union market for exports, tariff-free entry into ECOWAS, which gives the country a market that's more than twenty-five times her size.
However, she told Indian investors that Liberia no longer seeks timber exporting agreements, but investments that add value for exports of wood products, including furniture.
"In recognition of this potential of ours, ongoing reforms aim at making this sector transparent, investor-friendly, and beneficial to the nation, particularly local communities. The goal is to make the sector responsive to the needs of the Liberian people, ensuring that the rights of investors are protected, and that forest resources are used in a sustainable and responsible manner."
"Our new forest laws stress the integration of community, conservation, and commercial forest management. A Community Rights Law empowers communities to fully engage in the management of forest resources."
She said Liberia, with a coastline of 360 miles, is a marine country with tremendous fishing potential in revenue and exports, and that with World Bank support, her government has initiated measures for the sustainable and effective governance of the fisheries sector, but reforms are under way to eradicate instances of illegal fishing, and make the sector attractive to investors.
"We welcome Indian investors to our marine sector, particularly in establishing fish cluster sites, which could include facilities for cold storage, drying, packaging for export and local consumption", President Sirleaf said.
An Indian company has expressed interest in investing in the country's only remaining virgin mountain Wologisi, in Lofa County.
President Sirleaf recalled that two years ago, the world's largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, whose major shareholder comes from India, made the first iron ore export, in 20 years, under a Phase 1 program that has increased annual exports to 5 million tons, and that Phase 2 will increase exports even more, to over 15 million tons annually, while an Indian corporate entity, Sesa Goa, is poised to start operations here by the end of the year.
Lack of power remains a serious hindrance to major investment here, but the President told the Indian audience that major progress is being made to restore the Mt. Coffee Hydroelectric Dam that was damaged during the period of conflict.
"When operationalized at the end of 2015, the hydro will supply much of the needs in the Capital City but will still fall far short of the requirements of major mining and agriculture operations. Several heavy fuel oil plants (HFOs) will fill in the gap, and power under a West Africa regional plan will be an additional source."
"We are also pleased that negotiations are well advanced with the Jindal Group of Companies, who will be installing a major plant in our country, to increase the source of power for industry", she concluded.