8 June 2016

Liberia: 'Israel, a Nation Built'

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed delight in Israeli entrepreneurs whose commitment to innovation has transformed their nation and improved the lives of its people.

According to dispatch from the Liberian delegation in Israel, President Sirleaf made the remarks at the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center where she spoke at an "Entrepreneurship Conference for Developing Countries."

Liberia, she said, falls in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), totaling 48 countries of which 34 are in Africa. The LDCs comprise 12 percent or 932 million people of the global population; while in West Africa (ECOWAS) they comprise 300 million people across 15 member states.

She told entrepreneurs that SMEs drive 90 percent of economic activities; that youth under 25 make up the majority of the population, with many operating in the informal sector in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, as SMEs guarantee two-thirds of all formal jobs.

President Sirleaf, however, said SMEs are proving to be the missing link to inclusive growth accounting for approximately 60-90 percent of the total global employment, 95 percent of all firms and accounting for about 50 percent of GDP.

She said the world must continue to work towards improving the business climate for faster transformation of SMEs that will lead to greater formalization in our economies.

Reflecting on two decades of self-destruction, Liberia, she said, is transforming through investments in trade facilitation and economic and social infrastructure; the power sector with increased electricity on the national grid from zero to 38 megawatts of power.

President Sirleaf noted that these investments have facilitated expansion of electricity coverage in the capital city where one-third of the population resides from 5,000 to 32,000 households and aims to reach a target of 54,000 households by 2017.

She stressed that the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydro plant, which when completed by the end of 2016, will further expand Liberia's power generation and distribution capacity to 88 megawatts, backed by additional power grids being constructed throughout the country, a large part through regional access.

She pointed out that her administration was pleased with the recent passage of the new Electricity Bill that now allows private participation in the sector.

Amid investment in the transport sector, President Sirleaf said her government has invested in the expansion of road networks to improve access to markets for producers and have paved or rehabilitated nearly 698 kilometers of city, inter-county, and neighborhood roads, the highest by any administration in Liberia.

By the end of 2017, she intimated, the number of paved roads will total 960 kilometers; of which 220 kilometers will be newly-paved roads.

President Sirleaf told Israeli entrepreneurs that Liberia continues to solidify investments by improving its seaports and is aggressively pursuing new investment opportunities that will modernize the various port infrastructures.

According to the Liberian leader, in the social services sector, targeted investments have been made to provide better services for the Liberian people.

School enrollment, she indicated, increased to over 1.5 million in 2015, with girls' enrollment constituting nearly 50 percent.

She added that by 2017, the country expects this number to increase to 2.6 million while the administration has trained some 10,000 teachers to support its ambition aimed at looking at new innovations to improve service delivery in the education sector.

She asserted: "In furtherance of this goal, today, special emphasis is placed on small and medium-sized enterprises thus the enactment of a Small Business Empowerment Act, which requires 25 percent public procurement for SMEs with 5 percent for women-owned businesses that make up 40 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's non-agriculture labor force and for nearly 50 percent of the self-employed.

She said many of Liberia's achievements were severely impacted by the Ebola health crisis, which crippled our economy and devastated the lives of many of the citizens - compounding an economy, which suffered devastation with the sharp decline in global prices of two of Liberia's major exports - rubber and iron ore.

She praised the resilience of the Liberian people who were steadfast in their efforts to implement domestic reforms and modernize the systems and procedures; the commitment to economic diversification, through prioritizing agriculture (cocoa, oil palm, fisheries and agro-processing) critical sector with high potential for job-creation for the Liberian people.

Meanwhile, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has described Liberia as a transforming nation whose young entrepreneurs and innovators are critical to national transformation.

She hoped that their talents, and innovations, matched by the Government's commitment to foster the right conditions, the right business climate and the right attitude will lead to a truly transformed Liberia.

This, she said, is possible, indicating her pleasure to lead a nation that is on a trajectory of transformation that will result in the betterment of its people.

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