Liberia became the first independent nation in Africa after its formation in 1822 by the American Colonization Society (ACS), a group that sought to resettle former slaves. A strip of land along the coastline called Cape Mesurado was purchased from the local African Chiefs and there Monrovia, Liberia’s capital was formed. The Republic of Liberia formally claimed its independence in 1847 after it became a financial burden for the ACS (Roucek, 2008).
Location and Geography
Liberia is situated along the western coast of Africa, located between Sierra Leone and Cited Ivoire and bordered by its eastern neighbor Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
From the coast to about 25 miles inland, Liberia has lowland consisting of lagoons and mangrove swamps. Continuing inland are straps of low-lying hills which consist of sandy soils and alluvial soils suitable for agriculture. In total, Liberia contains nearly 43,000 sq. miles of rainforest. Liberia’s highest elevation, Mount Wuteve, is nearly 1500 meters above sea level (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018).
Liberia’s economy is primarily agrarian with over half of its land suitable for traditional cultivation of crops such as rice, cassava, and vegetables. Cash crops like coffee, cacao, sugar cane, and palm oil have also been on the rise. Additionally, the country’s most lucrative export, rubber, comes from the rubber trees which thrive on otherwise unsuitable soil. Within Liberia’s rainforests are over 200 species of market-worthy exotic hardwoods. In addition to its agricultural potential, Liberia is rich in many other natural resources, including iron ore, gold, and diamonds (Jones, Holsoe, & Petterson, 2018).
Agriculture takes up Liberia’s largest sector of its GDP followed by service, then manufacturing. Because of this Liberia relies heavily on importation of raw materials, machinery, and consumer goods. Most manufacturing operations within the country are foreign-owned and range from shoe manufacturing, to paint and explosives. The Liberian economy relies primarily on the U.S. and European Union markets for its exports, while much of its imports come from South Korea, China, and Japan (Jones, Holsoe, & Petterson, 2018).
Liberia has experienced varied political turmoil in the last 40 years but the most notable were the two civil wars which plagued it from 1989-2003. In addition to economic impacts like the destruction of infrastructure and overall depravation during these wars are societal ones that still linger, dealing with the many children fighters that were recruited by warlords. Some estimates say nearly 70% of the fighting forces were youths, with 15% of those being under 18 years of age. The children that survived the fighting are today dealing with the aftermath of the mental trauma and have become addicted to heroin and other mind-altering substances (Petruzzi, 2018)
The nation made great strides economically after the war, but once again in 2014 experienced devastating loss from the Ebola epidemic. In a survey conducted during this crisis, it was shown that most citizens did not trust their government. It is widely believed that many of those who mistrust their government do not take heed from the necessary advisements for preventative measures. It is assumed that this lack in governmental integrity fueled the Ebola epidemic to an even greater degree (Blair, Morse, & Tsai, 2017)
Liberia is rich in natural resources and has a climate suited for agriculture, but due to political irresponsibility and corruption it has been unable to sustain growth for an extended period. Revitalization of the nation should come from sustainable development on multiple fronts. This revitalization effort will surely require resources and aid from nations around the globe but would pay off in the long-term by providing an example of a strong and just government in the West African region.
Liberia needs to begin by establishing stronger political institutions: one which their constituents can rely upon. One way this can happen is with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The EITI aims to provide revenue transparency, while providing citizens with information transparency, all while fighting corruption within the industry. Though this may not be a directly political initiative, most corruption within the government is driven by wealth derived from within the mining/ resource industries (Epremium & Brun, 2018). When examined further one can see that corruption in Liberia, like many other nations is due to an abundance of natural resources and the greediness of elected officials. This in turn causes conflicts where the elite ruling-class are pitted against the unhappy and unfairly treated citizens.
Coinciding with the need for strong and just institutions is the need for a strong infrastructure, renewed industry, and innovation across the board. It has been proven before, that Liberia is capable of strong and consistent growth, as seen during President William Tubman’s administration. During Tubman’s administration, Liberia’s exports increased by over 400% and Liberia’s government revenues rose by 115%. Unfortunately, this growth was not reinvested, and Liberia’s economy ultimately stagnated, going from one of the fastest-growing economies to one of the poorest (Reeves, 2012). Through strong leadership, a sound economic plan, and initial support from its neighbors. Liberia can once again thrive and become a model nation.
From a moral standpoint, Liberia should be lifted-up by the world community. The importance lies in the fact that in a nation of nearly 5 billion people, 43% of its citizens are under the age of 14. With a mortality rate of 7.4% and a maternal death rate among the worst in the world, this is quite literally a nation of orphans. In 2015 the youth dependency ratio was 77.6 percent, meaning roughly 77 out of every 100 people are under the age of 14. These children need aid with housing, schooling, and other youth-oriented services if they are to grow into capable adults who will one day run their country (Central Intelligence Agency, 2018).
From an economic standpoint, Liberia is not only rich in natural resources, but has recently been gaining ground in the energy sector. In 2012, oil fields were located off Liberia’s coast by Africa Petroleum, an energy exploration firm. Countries around the world have since taken notice; both PetroChina and ExxonMobil have purchased rights to oil blocks off Liberia’s coast. It is no mystery that oil not only lubricates machines, but also lubricates the pockets of those after it. Perhaps this is the kickstart the Liberian economy needs to get back on track (Daily Observer, 2013).
- Blair, R., Morse, B. S., & Tsai, L. L. (2017). Public health and public trust: Survey evidence from the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic in Liberia. Social Science and Medicine, 89-97.
- Central Intelligence Agency. (2018). World Factbook.
- Daily Observer. (2013, December 6). Liberian Observer.
- Epremium, L., & Brun, C. (2018). Bringers of light: Performing resource revenue transparency in Liberia. Geoforum, 198-208.
- Jones, A. B., Holsoe, S., & Petterson, D. R. (2018). Liberia. Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Petruzzi, L. J. (2018). Contributing Risk Factors for Substance Use Among Youth in Postconflict Liberia. Qualitative Health Research, 1827-1838.
- Reeves, W. A. (2012, November 24). Economy Watch.
- Roucek, J. S. (2008). Liberia. Journal of Geography, 407-413.
Cite this essay
Liberia’s Economics, Geography, and Location. (2019, Dec 17). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/liberia-essay