Liberia: Rubber Planter Association New Leadership Vows to Revamp Sector

Monrovia — The new leadership of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) has unveiled an ambitious plan to resuscitate the 'ailing' rubber sector.

In her induction speech, the new president of RPAL, Wilhemina G. Mulbah-Siaway outlined that her leadership intends to transform the sector from the age-old exportation of raw materials to a manufacturing industry.

"RPAL will lead the way into transforming the Liberian Rubber Industry to an improved vibrant industry between production and manufacturing to garner maximum benefit for Liberia," she vowed.

"We have to revamp the Liberia Rubber industry, which we think will bring it to the level of international standard. We are planning outside of the box and this is where our mission is to play an advocacy role for maximum economic advancement for Liberia rubber farmers throughout the country."

Speaking further, Madam Mulbah-Siaway outlined that her leadership's goal for the next ten years, among other things, is to create manufacturing and rubber processing plants throughout the 15 counties of Liberia to produce tyres, gloves, shoes etc. and to establish an Institute of rubber research station to enhance manufacturing and building the capacity of Liberian rubber farmers.

In addition, Madam Mulbah-Siaway, who is the first female President of RPAL vowed to facilitate the acquisition of loan for small farmers, to provide technical assistance to enhance farmers' growth and development and attract investment partners to Liberia.

In addition, she pledged to build an RPAL Central office in Kakata and integrate RPAL into a full fledged member of the natural rubber producing country in the world.

She called on the Government of Liberia for support; noting that despite rubber playing a major role in the Liberian economy for more than 80 years, the sector is currently affected by the large-scale export of unprocessed rubber.

Also speaking, Liberia's Commerce Minister, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh pledged the government's commitment to working with RPAL in revamping the sector.

Prof. Tarpeh wondered why an organization like RPAL will be existing in a rubber-rich country and continues to be stagnated.

"We believe as a government that to move RPAL in the best position, we must help this organization by providing it with the necessary incentives to make the difference," he said.

He said the government is considering reopening the financial institution that once existed prior to the Liberia civil war to provide access to funding for framers.

For his part, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Mogana Flomo hailed the new leadership for the 'insightful' vision and assured the leadership the ministry's commitment towards achieving their vision.

"This is the direction that Liberia wants to go. This is the way forward for us, but we must be committed to this change that we want. We want to be called to a meeting where we will be discussing ways to process car bumpers and other rubber products in the near future," Minister Flomo averred.

Meanwhile, the event held recently in Monrovia was attended by officials drawn from the private and public sectors as well as major stakeholders in the rubber sector of Liberia.

Making remarks at the occasion, veteran Liberian Journalist and founder of the Daily Observer Newspaper, Kenneth Y. Best described RPAL vision as revolutionary and called on the leadership to be steadfast in their quest to achieve it.

"I am very happy that the new leadership is committed to making a difference. It is unfortunate and a shame that key players chose to boycott a revolutionary program. This tells you that the task you have taken is not an easy one. It is a revolutionary one. Move on and be dynamic and strong and committed until you can achieve your goal," he urged.

Mr. Best, fondly described by officials as a friend of RPAL, frowned at what he called the failure of Liberians who accumulated so much wealth from the rubber sector to invest in the country.

He said, instead of educating their children in Liberian schools to help improve the sector, they chose to send their children abroad at elite educational institutions to the detriment of the country.

He cautioned Liberians to follow a good example of the late former President William R. Tolbert to "value what we have by investing in our country".

Said Mr. Best: "So many people who have made millions of dollars from rubber educated their children abroad. Instead of sending their children to Liberian schools to generate money for libraries and laboratories, they decided to send them abroad. Today we are paying the price for that. Liberia remains a backward country.

"One Person who made a difference was the late President William R. Tolbert who sent his children to high schools and universities in Liberia. Let's appreciate the little we have," he asserted.

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