Liberia offers opportunities for investment, especially in natural resources such as mining, agriculture, fishing, and forestry, but also in more specialized sectors such as energy, telecommunications, tourism, and financial services. The economy, which was severely damaged by more than a decade of civil wars that ended in 2003, has been slowly recovering, but Liberia has yet to attain pre-war levels of development. Liberia’s largely commodities-based economy relies heavily on imports even for most basic needs like fuel, clothing, and rice – Liberia’s most important staple food. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many sectors of the economy, which contracted in 2019 and 2020. However, the World Bank and IMF expect per capita GDP to return to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2023. Growth will be driven mainly by the mining sector, although structural reforms are also expected to increase activity in agriculture and construction.
Low human development indicators, expensive and unreliable electricity, poor roads, a lack of reliable internet access (especially outside urban areas), and pervasive government corruption constrain investment and development. Most of Liberia lacks reliable power, although efforts to expand access to the electricity grid are ongoing through an extension from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, connection to the West Africa Power Pool, and other internationally supported energy projects. Public perception of corruption in the public sector is high, as indicated by Liberia’s poor showing in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, where Liberia ranked 136 out of 180 countries. Low public trust in the banking sector and seasonal currency shortages result in most cash being held outside of banks. To remedy this, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in 2021 initiated a plan to print and circulate additional currency. The new printing and minting will provide 48 billion Liberian dollars through 2024. The CBL and commercial banks have also successfully pushed the adoption of mobile money, which Liberians access through their mobile phones to make everyday purchases and pay bills. However, the government has yet to activate the “national switch,” meaning banking instruments like ATMs and mobile money accounts remain unintegrated and are not interoperable.
The government-backed Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) works with public and private sector stakeholders to explore how to create a friendlier business environment. International donors also work with the government to improve the investment climate, which ranks toward the global bottom by most global measures. Despite these numerous challenges, Liberia is rich in natural resources. It has large expanses of potentially productive agricultural land and abundant rainfall to sustain agribusinesses. Its rich mineral resources offer significant potential to investors in extractive industries. Several large international concessionaires have invested successfully in agriculture and mining, though negotiating these agreements with the government often proves to be a lengthy and byzantine struggle. The fishing industry, long dormant compared to pre-war levels, is making improvements that should make it more attractive for investment.