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Liberia

Liberia

Liberia officially the Republic of Liberia is a country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Background History

Settlement of freed slaves from the US in what is today Liberia began in 1822; by 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic. William Tubman, president from 1944-71, did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendents of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior. In 1980, a military coup led by Samuel Doe ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles Taylor launched a rebellion against Doe's regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which Doe himself was killed. A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for elections that brought Taylor to power, but major fighting resumed in 2000. An August 2003 peace agreement ended the war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles Taylor, who faces war crimes charges in The Hague related to his involvement in Sierra Leone's civil war. After two years of rule by a transitional government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to power. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) maintains a strong presence throughout the country, but the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country continues.

Government

Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Liberia
  • conventional short form: Liberia

Capital:

  • name: Monrovia
  • population: 882,000
  • geographic coordinates: 6 18 N, 10 48 W
  • time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Independence:

  • 26 July 1847

Government Type:

  • Republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (since 16 January 2006)
  • head of government: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (since 16 January 2006)
  • cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); elections last held on 11 October and 8 November 2011 (next to be held in 2017)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court

People & Society

Population:

  • 3,887,886 (global rank: 129)
  • growth rate: 2.609% (global rank: 23)

Nationality:

  • noun: Liberian(s)
  • adjective: Liberian

Major Cities:

  • Monrovia (capital): 882,000 million

Ethnic Groups:

  • Kpelle 20.3%, Bassa 13.4%, Grebo 10%, Gio 8%, Mano 7.9%, Kru 6%, Lorma 5.1%, Kissi 4.8%, Gola 4.4%, other 20.1%

Religions:

  • Christian 85.6%, Muslim 12.2%, Traditional 0.6%, other 0.2%, none 1.4%

Languages:

  • English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages few of which can be written or used in correspondence

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 57.41 years (global rank: 193)
  • male: 55.82 years
  • female: 59.04 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 72.71 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 18)
  • male: 77.08 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 68.2 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS:

  • adult prevalence rate: 1.5% (2009 est.) (global rank: 36)
  • people living with AIDS: 37,000 (2009 est.) (global rank: 63)

Literacy:

  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 57.5%
  • male: 73.3%
  • female: 41.6%

Economy

Overview: Liberia is a low income country heavily reliant on foreign assistance for revenue. Civil war and government mismanagement destroyed much of Liberia's economy, especially the infrastructure in and around the capital, Monrovia. Many businesses fled the country, taking capital and expertise with them, but with the conclusion of fighting and the installation of a democratically-elected government in 2006, several have returned. Liberia has the distinction of having the highest ratio of direct foreign investment to GDP in the world. Richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products, primarily raw timber and rubber and is reviving those sectors. Local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, had been small in scope. President Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained banker and administrator, has taken steps to reduce corruption, build support from international donors, and encourage private investment. Embargos on timber and diamond exports have been lifted, opening new sources of revenue for the government and Liberia shipped its first major timber exports to Europe in 2010. The country reached its Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative completion point in 2010 and nearly $5 billion of international debt was permanently eliminated. This new status will enable Liberia to establish a sovereign credit rating and issue bonds. Liberia's Paris Club creditors agreed to cancel Liberia's debt as well. The IMF has completed the sixth review of Liberia's extended credit facility, bringing total disbursements to over $379 million. The African Development Bank approved a grant of $48 million in 2011 to finance economic governance and competitiveness support. Rebuilding infrastructure and raising incomes will depend on generous financial and technical assistance from donor countries and foreign investment in key sectors, such as infrastructure and power generation.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $1.836 billion (global rank: 190)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $400 (global rank: 223)
  • real growth rate: 6.9% (global rank: 25)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 76.9%, industry: 5.4%, services: 17.7%

Currency:

  • currency: Liberian Dollar (LRD)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 74.2

Poverty:

  • population below poverty line: 80%
  • unemployment rate: 80%

Agricultural Products:

  • rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), palm oil, sugarcane, bananas; sheep, goats; timber

Industries:

  • rubber processing, palm oil processing, timber, diamonds

Exports Commodities:

  • rubber, timber, iron, diamonds, cocoa, coffee

Imports Commodities:

  • fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods; foodstuffs

Geography

Location:

  • Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone

Area:

  • total: 111,369 sq km (global rank: 104)
  • land: 96,320 sq km
  • water: 15,049 sq km
  • comparative: slightly larger than Tennessee

Climate:

  • tropical; hot, humid; dry winters with hot days and cool to cold nights; wet, cloudy summers with frequent heavy showers

Land Use:

  • arable land: 3.43%
  • permanent crops: 1.98%
  • other: 94.59%

Natural Resources:

  • iron ore, timber, diamonds, gold, hydropower

Current Environmental Issues:

  • tropical rain forest deforestation; soil erosion; loss of biodiversity; pollution of coastal waters from oil residue and raw sewage

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: although civil unrest continues to abate with the assistance of 18,000 UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) peacekeepers, as of January 2007, Liberian refugees still remain in Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Ghana; Liberia, in turn, shelters refugees fleeing turmoil in Cote d'Ivoire; despite the presence of over 9,000 UN forces (UNOCI) in Cote d'Ivoire since 2004, ethnic conflict continues to spread into neighboring states who can no longer send their migrant workers to Ivorian cocoa plantations; UN sanctions ban Liberia from exporting diamonds and timber
  • refugees (country of origin): 12,600 (Cote d'Ivoire)
  • internally displaced peoples: 13,000 (civil war from 1990-2004; IDP resettlement began in November 2004)
  • human traficking: Liberia is a source, transit, and destination country, principally for young women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; most trafficking victims originate from within the country's borders and are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, forced labor in street vending, on rubber plantations, and alluvial diamond sites, or sex trafficking; victims of cross-border trafficking come to Liberia from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Nigeria and are subjected to the same types of exploitation as internally trafficked victims
  • illicit drugs: transshipment point for Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin and South American cocaine for the European and US markets; corruption, criminal activity, arms-dealing, and diamond trade provide significant potential for money laundering, but the lack of well-developed financial system limits the country's utility as a major money-laundering center

For more info please contact:
African Studies
(310) 825-3686
africa@international.ucla.edu

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