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Africa

 Jewel of

The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.

Liberia: Where repatriated ex-slaves returned home

Liberia is a country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Officially the Republic of Liberia, the nation covers a total area of 43,000 square miles and a coastline that extends 359.8 miles. Liberia is the 20th smallest country in Africa and has a population of 5.3 million people. Fifty-two percent live within cities with 20 percent residing in the capital of Monrovia, a city of 1.6 million.

Rugged mountains contribute to the country’s geography with Mt. Wuteve reaching to Liberia’s highest elevation at 4,724 feet. The nation is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Sierra Leone to the northwest, Guinea to the north, Ivory Coast to the eastEnglish is the official language, but more than 20 indigenous languages are spoken, reflecting the country's ethnic and cultural diversity.

 

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History in the modern era

 

Liberia emerged in the modern era in the 19th century as a project of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which believed Black people would fare better in terms of freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. Between 1822 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, more than 15,000 freed and free-born Black people who faced social and legal oppression in the US, along with 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to Liberia. Gradually developing an "Americo-Liberian" identity, the settlers carried their culture and tradition with them.

 

The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the US, while its capital was named after ACS supporter and American President James Monroe. Liberia declared independence on July 26, 1847, which the US did not recognize until Feb. 5, 1862. On Jan. 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from Virginia, who settled in Liberia, was elected Liberia's first president after the people proclaimed independence.

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Monrovia is the capital city of Liberia. Founded in 1822, it is located on Cape Mesurado on the Atlantic coast, and is the country's most populous city. Currently home to 1.5 million residents, Monrovia constitutes 29 percent of Liberia’s total population.

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Liberia signified a newfound liberation for the repatriated victims of the Slave Trade. It meant a nostos to the homeland, and a country to govern all of its own.

 

Located just three hours by rumbling bush taxi south out of the capital at Monrovia, the seaside city of Buchanan is a fine introduction to the coastal character of this part of West Africa. The beaches are all undeveloped, retaining their natural allure, with swaying palm trees and local children playing in the shallows. There is also a stretch of beach bars found nestled between the crumb- bamboo shacks along the shore.

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Liberia is a country in West Africa, bordering Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire. On the Atlantic coast, the capital city of Monrovia is home to the Liberia National Museum, with its exhibits on national culture and history. Around Monrovia are palm-lined beaches like Silver and CeCe. Along the coast, beach towns include the port of Buchanan, as well as laid-back Robertsport, known for its strong surf.

 

Peace has now outlasted war in Liberia. But for 14 years, between 1989 and 2003, a brutal civil war ravaged the nation leading to the death of close to 250,000 people. 

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Sapo National Park in Sinoe CountyLiberia is the coun- try's largest protected area of rainforest, and was the first national park in the country, and contains the second-largest area of primary tropical rainforest in West Africa after Taï Nat- ional Park in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire

 

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fishinghuntinghuman settlement, and logging are prohibited in the park. Sapo National Park is located in the Upper Guinean forest forest ecosystem, a biodiv- ersity hotspot that has "the highest mammal species diversity of any region in the world, according to Conservation InternatIonal, and in the Western Guinean lowland forests ecoregion, according to the World ecoregions classification.

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Agriculture, including forestry, is the primary livelihood for more than 60 percent of Liberia’s population and accounted for 31 percent of Liberia’s 2020 real gross domestic product (GDP).  It provides sustenance for many households engaging in cassava, rubber, rice, oil palm, cocoa, or sugarcane production.  Cassava and rice are the primary staple food crops.  More households engage in cassava production than any other food crop.

 

However, overall agricultural productivity is low.  As a result, Liberia imports more than 80 percent of its rice, making the country vulnerable to global food price volatility.  Poorly integrated, the sector lacks basic infrastructure such as machines, farming equipment and tools, farm-to-market roads, fertilizers and pesticides, and food storage capacity.  The main cash crops and foreign exchange earners are rubber, oil palm, cocoa, and timber. Rubber is a dominant revenue generator, accounting for 13.5 percent of total export receipts in 2020. 

Palm oil is another significant cash crop.  Traditionally it is a domestically con- sumed product but there has been some export development with smallholders and large investors expressing interest in expanding cash crop production. Never- theless, the CBL’s 2020 report showed a slight decline in palm oil production (from 22,465 metric tons to 22,200 metric tons) due to limited labor mobility because of COVID-19 related restrictions. 

 

Stakeholders in the palm oil sector include smallholder farmer cooperatives, individual farmers, large multinational-owned corporations, and concession- aires such as Golden Veroleum Limited.  The Ministry of Agriculture is the govern- ment ministry responsible for gover- nance, management, and promotion of the agriculture sector in Liberia.

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Sapo National Park is located in the Upper Guinean forest forest ecosystem, a biodiversity hotspot that has "the highest mammal species diversity of any region in the world. Bush cow, forest elephant, chimpanzee, and pigmy hippopotamus are found here.

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Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence and is Africa's first and oldest modern republic. It was among the few countries to maintain its sovereignty during the colonial Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia supported the US war effort against Germany, and the Axis powers, and in turn received consid- erable American investment in infrastructure, which aided the country's wealth and development. President William Tubman encouraged economic and political changes that heightened the country's prosperity and inter- national profile; Liberia was a founding member of the League of NationsUnited Nations, and the Organ- ization of African Unity. In 1980 under the rule of  Tolbert, political tensions resulted in a military coup during which Tolbert was killed, marking the end of Americo-Liberian rule in the country and beginning over two decades of political instability.

Five years of military rule by the People's Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars, resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people—nearly 8 percent of the population, and the displacement of tens of thousands, with Liberia's economy declining by 90 percent.

peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected president, making history as the first female president on the African continent. National infrastructure and basic social services were severely affected by the conflicts and by the 2013-2016 outbreak of Ebola virus. At the time, 83 percent of the population languished below the international poverty line.

Latent history

The ACS, supported by prominent American politicians such as Abraham LincolnHenry Clay, and James Mon- roe, believed "repatriation" was preferable to having emancipated slaves remain in the US. Similar state-based organizations established colonies in Mississippi-in-AfricaKentucky in Africa, and the Republic of Maryland, which Liberia later annexed. However, Lincoln in 1862 described Liberia as only "in a certain sense...a success," and proposed instead that free people of color be assisted to emigrate to Chiriquí, a part of Panama in 2021. 

 

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in the isolated "bush." The Liberian colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo, from their inland chief- doms. Encounters with tribal Africans in the bush were fueled by the Americo-Liberian belief that they were different culturally and educationally superior to their indigenous brethren, Thus, the Americo-Liberians developed a superiority complex that energized a new political power base in Liberia.

In a conscious effort to emulate the American South, the Americo-Liberian settlers adopted clothing such as hoop skirts and tailcoats, and excluded natives from economic opportunities, including creating plantations on which natives were forced to work as slaves. Indigenous tribesmen did not enjoy birthright citizenship in their own land until 1904. Americo-Liberians encouraged religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.

Political formation

On July 26, 1847, the settlers issued a Declaration of Independence and promulgated a constitution based on the political principles of the US, establishing the independent Republic of Liberia. The United Kingdom was the first country to recognize Liberia's independence, which the US did not until 1862 after the southern states, which had strong political power in America, declared their secession and formation of the Confederacy

 

The leadership of the new nation consisted largely of the Americo-Liberians, who initially established political and economic dominance in the coastal areas that the ACS had purchased; they maintained relations with US contacts in developing these areas and the resulting trade. Their passage of the 1865 Ports of Entry Act prohib- ited foreign commerce with the inland tribes, ostensibly to "encourage the growth of civilized values" before trade was permitted in the region. The ACS sent its last emigrants to Liberia in 1904.

By 1877, the True Whig Party was the country's most powerful political entity. It was primarily comprised of Americo-Liberians, who maintained social, economic and political dominance well into the 20th century, repeating patterns of European colonists in other nations in Africa. Competition for office was usually contained within the party—a party nomination virtually ensured election.

Pressure from the United Kingdom, which controlled Sierra Leone to the northwest, and France, with its interests in the north and east, led to a loss of Liberia's claims to extensive territories. Both Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast annexed territories. Liberia struggled to attract investment to develop infrastructure and a larger, industrial economy.

There was a decline in production of Liberian goods in the late 19th century, and the government struggled financially, resulting in indebtedness on a series of international loans. On July 16, 1892, Martha Ann Erskine Ricks met Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and presented her a handmade quilt, Liberia's first diplomatic gift. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Ricks said, "I had heard it often, from the time I was a child, how good the Queen had been to my people—to slaves—and how she wanted us to be free."

Following the 2017 Liberian general election, former professional football striker George Weah, one of the greatest African players of all time, was sworn in as president on 22 January 2018, succeeding President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, becoming the fourth youngest serving president in Africa. The inauguration marked Liberia's first fully democratic transition in 74 years. Weah cited fighting corruption, reforming the economy, combating illiteracy and improving life conditions as the main targets of his presidency.

Geography

Liberia is situated in West Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean to the country's southwest. The landscape is characterized by mostly flat to rolling coastal plains that contain mangroves and swamps, which rise to a rolling plateau and low mountains in the northeast. Tropical rainforests cover the hills, while elephant grass and semi-deciduous forests make up the dominant vegetation in the northern sections. The equatorial climate in the south of the country is hot year-round with heavy rainfall from May to October with a short interlude in mid-July to August. During the winter months of November to March, dry dust-laden harmattan winds blow inland, causing many problems for residents.

Liberia's watershed tends to move in a southwestern pattern towards the sea as new rains move down the fores- ted plateau off the inland mountain range of Guinée Forestière, in GuineaCape Mount near the border with Sierra Leone receives the most precipitation in the nation. Liberia's main northwestern boundary is traversed by the Mano River while its southeast limits are bounded by the Cavalla River. Liberia's three largest rivers are St. Paul exiting near Monrovia, the river St. John at Buchanan, and the Cestos River, all of which flow into the Atlantic. The Cavalla is the longest river in the nation extending 320 miles.

The highest point in Liberia proper is Mt. Wuteve at 4,724 feet above sea level in the northwestern Liberia range of the West Africa Mountains and the Guinea Highlands. However, Mt. Nimba near Yekepa, which shares a border with Guinea and Ivory Coast, is the tallest mountain in the region at 5,748 feet.

Forests

Forests on the coastline are comprised mostly of salt-tolerant mangrove trees, while the more sparsely populated inland showcase forests opening onto a plateau of drier grasslands. The climate is equatorial, with significant rainfall during the May-October rainy season and harsh harmattan winds the remainder of the year. Liberia possesses about 40 percent of the remaining Upper Guinean rainforest. It was an important producer of rubber in the early 20th century. Four terrestrial eco-regions lie within Liberia's borders: Guinean montane forestsWestern Guinean lowland forestsGuinean forest-savanna mosaic, and Guinean mangroves.

Administrative divisions

Liberia is divided into 15 counties, which, in turn, are subdivided into a total of 90 districts and further subdivided into clans. The oldest counties are Grand Bassa and Montserrado, both founded in 1839 prior to Liberian indepen- dence. Gbarpolu is the newest county, created in 2001. Nimba is the largest of the counties in size at 4,460 square miles, while Montserrado is the smallest at 737 square miles. Montserrado is the most populous county with 1.1 million residents, 25 percent of the total population of Liberia. The next most populous county is Nimba County with approximately 500,000 residents.

The 15 counties are administered by superintendents appointed by the president. The Constitution calls for the election of various chiefs at the county and local level, but these elections have not taken place since 1985 due to war and financial constraints. Parallel to the administrative divisions of the country are the local and municipal divisions. Liberia currently does not have any constitutional framework or uniform statutes which deal with the creation or revocation of local governments. All existing local governments—cities, townships, and a borough— were created by specific acts of the Liberian government, and thus the structure and duties/responsibilities of each local government varies greatly from one to the other.

Sustenance

Endangered species are hunted for human consumption as bush meat in Liberia. Species hunted for food in Liberia include elephantspygmy hippopotamuschimpanzeesleopardsduikers, and other monkeys. Bush meat is often exported to neighboring Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, despite a ban on the cross-border sale of wild animals. Bush meat is widely eaten in Liberia, and is considered a delicacy. A 2004 public opinion survey found that bush meat ranked second behind fish amongst residents of the capital Monrovia as a preferred source of protein. Of households where bush meat was served, 80 percent of residents said they cooked it "once in a while," while 13 percent cooked it once a week and 7 cooked bush meat daily. The survey was conducted during the last civil war, and bush meat consumption is now believed to be far higher.

Biodiversity threat

Liberia is a global biodiversity hotspot—a significant reservoir of biodiversity under threat from human encroach- ment. Slash-and-burn agriculture is one of the human activities eroding Liberia's natural forests. A 2004 UN report estimated that 99 percent of Liberians burned charcoal and fuel wood for cooking and heating, resulting in deforestation. Illegal logging also has increased in Liberia since the end of the Second Civil War in 2003. In 2012, President Sirleaf granted licenses to companies to cut down 58 percent of all the primary rainforest left in Liberia. However, after international protests, many of those logging permits were canceled. In September 2014, Liberia and Norway co-signed an agreement to halt all Liberian logging in exchange for $150 million in development aid.

Another significant issue in Liberia is pollution in the capital of Monrovia. Since 2006, the international community has paid for all garbage collection and disposal in Monrovia via the World Bank.

Politics

The government of Liberia, modeled on the government of the US, is a unitary constitutional republic and repre- sentative democracy as established by the Constitution. The government has three co-equal branches of gov- ernment: the executive, headed by the president; the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Legislature of Liberia; and the judicial, composed of the Supreme Court and several lower courts.

The president serves as head of governmenthead of state, and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Liberia. Among the president's other duties are to sign or veto legislative bills, grant pardons, and appoint Cabinet members, judges, and other public officials. Together with the vice president, the president is elected to a six-year term by majority vote in a two-round system that permits two consecutive terms in office.

The Legislature is comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House, led by a speaker, has 73 members apportioned among the 15 counties on the basis of the national census, with each county receiving a minimum of two members. Each House member represents an electoral district within a county as drawn by the National Elections Commission and is elected by a plurality of the vote of their district into a six-year term.

The Senate is made up of two senators from each county for a total of 30 senators. Senators serve nine-year terms and are elected at-large by a plurality of the popular vote. The vice president serves as the president of the Senate, with a president pro tempore serving in their absence.

Liberia's highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, made up of five members and headed by the Chief Justice of Liberia. Members are nominated to the court by the president and are confirmed by the Senate, serving until the age of 70. The judiciary is further divided into circuit and specialty courtsmagistrate courts and justices of the peace. The judicial system is a blend of common law, based on Anglo-American law, and customary law. An informal system of traditional courts still exists within the rural areas of the country, with trial by ordeal remaining common despite being officially outlawed.

From 1877 to 1980 the government was dominated by the True Whig Party. Today more than 20 political parties are registered in the country, based largely around personalities and ethnic groups. But most parties suffer from poor organizational capacity. The 2005 elections marked the first time that the president's party did not gain a majority of seats in the Legislature.

Military

The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are the country's armed forces. Founded as the Liberian Frontier Force in 1908, the military was renamed in 1956. For virtually all of its history, the AFL has received considerable material and training assistance from the US. For most of the 1941-89 period, training was largely provided by US advisors, with combat experience in the World War II also playing a role in training. After UN Security Council Resolution 1509 in September 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia was to referee the ceasefire with units from Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, and China assisting the National Transitional Government of Liberia in forming the new Liberian military.

Foreign relations, national police

After the turmoil following the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars, Liberia's internal stabilization in the 21st century brought a return to cordial relations with neighboring countries and much of the Western world. As with other African countries, China is an important part of the post-conflict reconstruction of the nation. The Liberian National Police is the country's official law enforcement body. It maintains a force of 844 officers in 33 stations in Montserrado County, which contains Monrovia. The National Police Training Academy is in Paynesville City.

 

Economy

A proportional representation of Liberian exports. The shipping related categories reflect Liberia's status as an international flag of convenience—there are 3,500 vessels registered under Liberia's flag accounting for 11 percent of ships worldwide. The Central Bank of Liberia is responsible for printing and maintaining the Liberian dollar, Liberia's primary currency. Liberia has a formal employment rate of 15 percent GDP per capita, which peaked in 1980 at US$496, when it was comparable to Egypt's (at the time). Historically the Liberian economy has depended heavily on foreign aidforeign direct investment, and exports of natural resources such as iron ore, rubber, and timber. In 2011 the country's nominal GDP was US$1.154 billion though a strengthening agricultural sector led by rubber and timber exports. The GDP increased growth to 7.3 percent in 2011, making the economy one of the 20 fastest-growing in the world.

Current impediments to growth include a small domestic market, lack of adequate infrastructure, high transpor- tation costs, poor trade links with neighboring countries and the high dollarization of the economy. Liberia used the US dollar as its currency from 1943-1982 and still uses the US dollar alongside the Liberian dollar.

Following a decrease in inflation beginning in 2003, inflation spiked in 2008 as a result of a global food and energy crises, reaching 17.5 percent before declining to 7.4 percent in 2009. Liberia's external debt was estimated in 2006 at approximately $4.5 billion, 800 percent of GDP. As a result of bilateral, multilateral and commercial debt relief from 2007 to 2010, the country's external debt fell to $222.9 million by 2011.

While official commodity exports declined during the 1990s as many investors fled the civil war, Liberia's wartime economy featured the exploitation of the region's diamond wealth. The country acted as a major trader in Sierra Leonian blood diamonds, exporting over $300 million in diamonds in 1999.This led to a United Nations ban on Liberian diamond exports in 2001, which was lifted in 2007 following Liberia's accession to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

In 2003, additional UN sanctions were placed on Liberian timber exports, which had risen from US$5 million in 1997 to over US$100 million in 2002. These sanctions were lifted in 2006. Due in large part to foreign aid and investment inflow following the end of the war, Liberia maintains a large account deficit, which peaked at nearly 60 percent in 2008. Liberia gained observer status with the World Trade Organization in 2010 and became an official member in 2016.

Liberia has the highest ratio of foreign direct investment to GDP in the world, with US$16 billion in investment since 2006. Following Sirleaf's inauguration in 2006, Liberia signed several multi-billion-dollar concession agreements in the iron ore and palm oil industries with numerous multinational corporations, including Arcelor- MittalBHP and Sime Darby. Since 1926 Firestone has operated the world's largest rubber plantation in Harbel, Margibi County. As of 2015 it had more than 8,000 employees, making it Liberia's largest private employer.

Shipping, industry, agriculture

 

Due to its status as a flag of convenience, Liberia has the second-largest maritime registry in the world behind Panama. It has 3,500 vessels registered under its flag, accounting for 11 percent of ships worldwide. Agriculture,

including forestry, is the primary livelihood for more than 60 percent of Liberia’s population and accounted for 31 percent of Liberia’s 2020 real gross domestic product (GDP). It provides sustenance for many households engaging in cassava, rubber, rice, oil palm, cocoa, or sugarcane production. Cassava and rice are the primary staple food crops. More households engage in cassava production than any other food crop.

 

However, overall agricultural productivity is low. As a result, Liberia imports more than 80 percent of its rice, making the country vulnerable to global food price volatility. Poorly integrated, the sector lacks basic infrastructure such as machines, farming equipment and tools, farm-to-market roads, fertilizers and pesticides, and food storage capacity. The main cash crops and foreign exchange earners are rubber, oil palm, cocoa, and timber.

Rubber is a dominant revenue generator, accounting for 13.5 percent of total export receipts in 2020. Various estimates put the number of people employed by commercial rubber farms at 22,000 and the number of small- holder households involved in growing rubber trees at 38,000. The Firestone Natural Rubber concession, covering almost 200 square miles, is the largest contiguous natural rubber operation in the world and the biggest private sector employer in Liberia.

Palm oil is another significant cash crop.  Traditionally it is a domestically consumed product but there has been some export development with smallholders and large investors expressing interest in expanding cash crop production. Nevertheless, the Central Bank of Liberia’s (CBL) 2020 report showed a slight decline in palm oil production (from 22,465 metric tons to 22,200 metric tons) due to limited labor mobility because of COVID-19 related restrictions. Access to markets is a concern to most smallholder farmers and large concessions alike. 

 

Stakeholders in the palm oil sector include smallholder farmer cooperatives, individual farmers, large multi- national-owned corporations, and concessionaires such as Golden Veroleum Limited. The Ministry of Agriculture is the government ministry responsible for the governance, management, and promotion of the agriculture sector in Liberia. Liberia has a favorable climate and fertile soil for cocoa production.  There has been substantial investment in the rehabilitation of cooperative and smallholder cocoa farms.  he country’s international partners, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), continue to invest in cocoa smallholder producers to improve livelihoods and raise incomes by modernizing cocoa farming, increasing production, and developing market access. Small scale cocoa production will likely increase as farmers continue to reclaim and rehabilitate their farms.

 

As with the agriculture sector in general, smallholder cocoa farmers and local cooperatives suffer inadequate farm-to-market roads, lack of familiarity with measurement and quality standards, lack of storage facilities, and limited access to updated price and market information. Rubber production declined in 2020 due to replanting of trees, while production of cocoa, round logs, and sawn timber dropped due to the slowdown in economic activity.

Land rights is a critical issue for concessionaires in Liberia. The Land Rights Act, promulgated in 2018, clarified land tenure as well as land governance, administration, and management. Only the comprehensive implemen- tation of the law, however, will resolve uncertainty around land ownership. Other obstacles to investment in agriculture include the lack of capital and professional expertise to increase farm productivity, and a government approach to the sector that is inconsistent and politically driven rather than strategic.

Mining

The mining industry of Liberia has witnessed a revival after the civil war which ended in 2003. Gold, diamonds, and iron ore form the core minerals of the mining sector with a new Mineral Development Policy and Mining Code being put in place to attract foreign investments. The mining sector is considered the prime mover for the economic growth of the country and its exploitation has to be appropriately balanced with sustainable environ- mental preservation of its rich biodiversity. Apart from iron ore extractions, cement, diamond, gold, and petroleum resources have also been given due importance to enrich the economy of the country.

Telecommunications

There are six major newspapers in Liberia, and 45 percent of the population has a mobile phone service. Much of Liberia's communications infrastructure was destroyed or plundered during the two civil wars (1989-1996 and 1999-2003). With low rates of adult literacy and high poverty rates, television and newspaper use is limited, leaving radio as the predominant means of communicating with the public.

Transportation

Transport in Liberia is comprised of 267 miles of railways, 6,687 miles of highways (408 miles paved), 29 airports (two paved) and four seaports—Freeport of Monrovia, Port of Buchanan, Port of Greenville, and Port of Harper. Monrovia is the largest within the Authority's network. Buses and taxis are the main forms of ground transportation in and around Monrovia. Charter boats are also available.

 

Energy and oil exploration

Public electricity services are provided solely by the state-owned Liberia Electricity Corporation, which operates a small grid almost exclusively in the Greater Monrovia District. The vast majority of electric energy services is provided by small, privately owned generators. At $0.54 per kWh, the cost of electricity in Liberia is among the highest in the world. Total capacity in 2013 was 20 MW, a sharp decline from a peak of 191 MW in 1989 before the wars.

Restoring Mount Coffee was not easy. Built in the 1960s on the Saint Paul River as Liberia’s largest hydropower plant, it had been looted and flooded since its destruction during the 1990s. The reconstruction teams on the ground had to contend with a difficult-to-reach location served by poor roads that became even worse during the wet season, the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and bouts of malaria. During the Ebola epidemic, the plant components were stored in locations around the world, ready to be shipped to Liberia when it was safe to do so. Despite these challenges, the overhaul was completed on time in December 2016, and the plant is now about to be linked to the regional West African grid, strengthening grid reliability in the region.

The redevelopment kept the plant’s 60-year-old structure, reinforcing it and replacing the existing equipment with modern technology. Along with new generators and digital systems, four Voith turbines were installed, increasing pre-war output from 64MW to 88MW. 

Liberia has begun exploration for offshore oil with unproven oil reserves estimated to be in excess of one billion barrels. The government divided its offshore waters into 17 blocks and began auctioning off exploration licenses for the blocks in 2004, with further auctions in 2007 and 2009. An additional 13 ultra-deep offshore blocks were demarcated in 2011. Among the companies winning licenses are Repsol YPFChevron Corporation, and Wood- side Petroleum.

Demographics, ethnic groups, languages

As revealed in the 2008 census, Monrovia is more than four times more populous than all the county capitals combined. Liberia had the highest population growth rate in the world (4.50 percent per annum). In 2010 some 43.5 percent of Liberians were below the age of 15. The current population exceeds five million and includes 16 indigenous ethnic groups and various foreign minorities. Indigenous peoples comprise about 95 percent of the population. The 16 officially recognized ethnic groups include the KpelleBassaManoGio or Dan, Kru, Grebo, KrahnVaiGola, Mandingo or MandinkaMendeKissiGbandiLomaDei or Dewoin, Belleh, and Americo-Liberians or Congo people.

The Kpelle comprise more than 20 percent of the population and are the largest ethnic group in Liberia, residing mostly in Bong County and adjacent areas in central Liberia. Americo-Liberians, descendants of African American and West Indian, mostly Barbadian (Bajan) settlers, make up 2.5 percent. Congo people, descendants of repatriated Congo and Afro-Caribbean slaves who arrived in 1825, make up an estimated 2.5 percent. These latter two groups established political control in the 19th century which they maintained well into the 20th century.

Numerous immigrants have come as merchants and become a major part of the business community, including LebaneseIndians, and other West African nationals.

 

There is a high percentage of interracial marriage between ethnic Liberians and the Lebanese, resulting in a significant mixed-race population especially in and around Monrovia. A small minority of Liberians who are White Africans of European descent reside in the country. The Liberian constitution exercises jus sanguinis, restricting its citizenship to "Negroes or persons of Negro descent.”

English is the official language and serves as the lingua franca of Liberia. Thirty-one indigenous languages are spoken in Liberia, but each is a first language for only a small percentage of the population. Liberians also speak a variety of creolized dialects collectively known as Liberian English.

Religion

According to the 2008 National Census, 85.6 percent of the population practiced Christianity, while Muslims represented a minority of 12.2 percent. A multitude of diverse Protestant confessions such as Lutheran, Baptist, EpiscopalPresbyterianPentecostal, and United MethodistAfrican Methodist Episcopal (AME) and African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) denominations form the bulk of the Christian population, followed by adherents of the Catholic Church and other non-Protestant Christians. Most of these Christian denominations were introduced by African American settlers moving from the US into Liberia via the American Colonization Society, while some are indigenous especially Pentecostal and Protestant.

Protestantism was originally associated with Black American settlers and their Americo-Liberian descendants, while native peoples initially held to their own animist forms of African traditional religion before largely adopting Christianity. While Christian, many Liberians also participate in traditional, gender-based indigenous religious secret societies, such as Poro for men and Sande for women.

Muslims comprised 12.2 percent of the population in 2008, largely represented by the Mandingo and Vai ethnic groups. Liberian Muslims are divided between SunnisShiasAhmadiyyasSufis, and non-denominational Muslims. In 2008, 0.5 percent identified adherence to traditional indigenous religions, while 1.5 percent claimed no religion. A small number of people were BaháʼíHinduSikh and Buddhist.

The Liberian constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right. While separation of church and state is mandated by the Constitution, Liberia is considered a Christian state in practice. Public schools offer biblical studies, though parents may opt their children out. Commerce is prohibited by law on Sunday and major Christian holidays. The government does not require businesses or schools to excuse Muslims for Friday prayers.

Education

In 2010, the literacy rate of Liberia was estimated at 60.8 percent (64.8 percent for males and 56.8 percent for females). In some areas primary and secondary education is free and compulsory from the ages of 6-16, though enforcement of attendance is lax. In other areas children are required to pay a tuition fee to attend school. On average, children attain 10 years of education (11 for boys and 8 for girls). The country's education sector is hampered by inadequate schools and supplies, as well as a lack of qualified teachers.

Higher education is provided by a number of public and private universities. The University of Liberia is the nation's largest and oldest university. Located in Monrovia, the university opened in 1862. Today it has six colleges, including a medical school and the nation's only law school—the Louis Arthur Grimes School of LawIn 2009, Tubman University in HarperMaryland County was established as the second public university in Liberia. Since 2006, the government has also opened community colleges in BuchananSanniquellie, and Voinjama. Due to student protests late in October 2018, newly elected president George M. Weah abolished tuition fees for undergraduate students in the public universities in Liberia.

Private universities in Liberia

· Cuttington University was established by the Episcopal Church of the USA in 1889 in Suakoko, Bong County, as part of its missionary education work among indigenous peoples. It is the nation's oldest private university.

· Stella Maris Polytechnic, a post-secondary, private institution of higher learning. Founded in 1988, the school is owned and operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia. Located on Capitol Hill, the school has approximately 2,000 students.

· Adventist University of West Africa, a post-secondary learning environment that is situated in Margibi County, on the Roberts International Airport.

·  United Methodist University, a private Christian university located in Liberia, West Africa, it is commonly known amongst locals as UMU. As of 2016, it had approximately 9,118 students. This institution was founded in 1998.

· African Methodist Episcopal University, a private higher education institution that was founded in 1995.

 

· St. Clements University College (Liberia), a private higher education institution that was founded in 2008.

 

Health

Hospitals in Liberia include the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia and several others. Life expect- ancy in Liberia is estimated to be 57.4 years in 2012. With a fertility rate of 5.9 births per woman, the maternal mortality rate stood at 990 per 100,000 births in 2010. A number of highly communicable diseases are wide- spread, including tuberculosisdiarrheal diseases, and malaria. In 2007, the HIV infection rates stood at 2 percent of the population aged 15-49, whereas the incidence of tuberculosis was 420 per 100,000 people in 2008. Liberia imports 90 percent of its rice, a staple food, and is extremely vulnerable to food shortages. In 2007, 20.4 percent of children under the age of five were malnourished. In 2008, only 17 percent of the population had access to adequate sanitation facilities, both a result of the civil wars.

Approximately 95 percent of the country's healthcare facilities had been destroyed by the time the conflicts ended in 2003. In 2009, government expenditure on health care per capita was US$22, accounting for 10.6 percent of total GDP. In 2008, Liberia had only one doctor and 27 nurses per 100,000 people.

Culture

The religious practices, social customs and cultural standards of the Americo-Liberians had their roots in the antebellum American South. The settlers wore top hat and tails and modeled their homes on those of Southern slave owners. Most Americo-Liberian men were members of the Masonic Order of Liberia, which became heavily involved in the nation's politics.

Liberia has a rich history in textile arts and quilting, as the settlers brought with them their sewing and quilting skills. Liberia hosted National Fairs in 1857 and 1858 in which prizes were awarded for various needle arts. One of the most well-known Liberian quilters was Martha Ann Ricks, who presented a quilt featuring the famed Liberian coffee tree to Queen Victoria in 1892. When former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf moved into the Executive Mansion, she reportedly had a Liberian-made quilt installed in her presidential office.

A rich literary tradition has existed in Liberia for more than a century. Edward Wilmot BlydenBai T. Moore, Roland T. Dempster, and Wilton G. S. Sankawulo are among Liberia's more prominent authors. Moore's novella Murder in the Cassava Patch is considered Liberia's most celebrated novel.

Cuisine

Liberian cuisine heavily incorporates rice, the country's staple food. Other ingredients include cassava, fish, bananascitrus fruitplantainscoconutokra, and sweet potatoes. Heavy stews spiced with habanero and scotch bonnet chilies are popular and eaten with fufu. Liberia also has a tradition of baking imported from the US that is unique in West Africa.

Sports

The most popular sport in Liberia is soccer, with President George Weah—the only African to be named FIFA World Player of the Year—being the nation's most famous athlete. The Liberia national football team has reached the Africa Cup of Nations finals twice, in 1996 and 2002The second most popular sport in Liberia is basketball. The Liberian national basketball team has reached the Afro Basket twice, in 1983 and 2007In Liberia, the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex serves as a multi-purpose stadium. It hosts FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in addition to international concerts and national political events.

Measurement system

Liberia is one of only three countries that have not yet completely adopted the International System of Units (abbreviated as the SI, also called the metric system), the others being the US and Myanmar. The Liberian government has begun transitioning away from use of US customary units to the metric system. However, this change has been gradual, with government reports concurrently using both US customary and metric units. In 2018, the Liberian Commerce and Industry Minister announced that the Liberian government is committed to adopting the metric system.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License