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 descendants 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 was killed. A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for an election 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 was convicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague for 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. She subsequently won reelection in 2011 and remains challenged to rebuild Liberia's economy, particularly following the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic, and to reconcile a nation still recovering from 14 years of fighting. The UN Security Council in September 2015 passed Resolution 2239, which renewed the mandate for the UN Mission in Liberia for another year. In July 2016, the UN handed over peacekeeping responsibility to Liberia and reduced the UN troop presence, which now serves a support role. Liberia is scheduled to hold presidential and legislative elections in October 2017. Constitutional term limits bar
Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone
iron ore, timber, diamonds, gold, hydropower
Population - distribution
more than half of the population lives in urban areas, with approximately one-third living within an 80-km radius of Monrovia
English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages few of which can be written or used in correspondence
MONROVIA (capital) 1.264 million (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Republic of Liberia
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 6 18 N, 10 48 W
- Time difference
- UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Liberia is a low-income country that relies heavily on foreign assistance and remittances from the diaspora. It is richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture. Its principal exports are iron ore, rubber, diamonds, and gold. Palm oil and cocoa are emerging as new export products. The government has attempted to revive raw timber extraction and is encouraging oil exploration.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 836,336,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ -859,626,471
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 2,106,800,000
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 450,000,000
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 721,033,135
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 60,877,940
rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, cassava (manioc, tapioca), palm oil, sugarcane, bananas; sheep, goats; timber
mining (iron ore and gold), rubber processing, palm oil processing, diamonds
- rubber, timber, iron, diamonds, cocoa, coffee
- Poland 32.9%, China 20.7%, India 9.4%, US 5%, Greece 4.6%, France 4.3% (2015)
- fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods; foodstuffs
- Singapore 28.8%, China 16%, South Korea 15.3%, Japan 10.3%, Philippines 6.7% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A high-risk political and economic situation and an often very difficult business environment can have a very significant impact on corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is very high.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is very difficult. Corporate financial information is rarely available and when available usually unreliable. The legal system makes debt collection very unpredictable. The institutional framework has very serious weaknesses. Intercompany transactions can thus be very difficult to manage in the highly risky environments rated D.
- Diversity of natural resources (rubber, wood, iron, gold, diamonds and oil)
- Strong support from the international community
- Increasing investment in the mining sector and infrastructure
- Member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
- Deficient infrastructure
- Dependency on the price of commodity exports, energy, and food products
- High levels of poverty and unemployment
- Recent and fragile democracy
- Difficult business climate
- Recent Ebola epidemic
Liberia was one of the three West African countries most affected by the Ebola virus. The economic losses associated with these health risks, the health expenditure and capital flight continued to hit growth in 2016. They were further exacerbated by weak iron ore and rubber prices, which account for 46% of exports (2015). Commodity exports were disappointing, in particular becuse of lower than expected gold production. In 2017, the macroeconomic environment will remain difficult, with commodity export prices rising slowly. The gradual recovery is expected, nonetheless, to be supported by a revival in gold production and in agricultural output. The completion of major transport and energy infrastructure project, like that of the Mount Coffee hydroelectric plant, and the launch of projects delayed by the epidemic, such as the start of drilling off the Liberian coast by ExxonMobil in late 2016, are expected to help relaunch private investment. Nevertheless, investment will still be considerably hampered by the precarious business environment: the forthcoming 2017 presidential elections, the current scandal involving members of the ruling party and the withdrawal of troops of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in December 2016, which had been deployed since the end of the civil war in 2003 are factors as likely to deter investors, on top of the risk of another Ebola epidemic.
With regard to consumer prices, inflationary pressures will remain in 2017 mainly because of the depreciation of the Liberian dollar and this despite the general fall in food prices.
The budget was significantly affected by the consequences of the Ebola virus. Government revenues were weaker than expected in 2016 and will continue to be limited by low growth. At the same time, spending will remain high, particularly social spending to help the most destitute and the budget dedicated to infrastructure. Moreover, spending on security to make up for the departure of UN troops (UNMIL) and spending on the organisation of elections is also expected to weigh on the fiscal balance. The budgetary restrictions introduced in the 2015/2016 budget have to date not been sufficient to significantly reduce the deficit. In 2017, Liberia will certainly be able to count on help from the IMF which is expected to prolong the Arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility until November 2017 in order to help support the country's macro-economic stability until the October elections. Despite debti relief of USD 36.5 million from the IMF in 2015, the public debt as a percentage of GDP will continue to rise and is nearing a worrying level.
The current account balance is expected to remain very high in 2017. On the one hand, weak prices for export commodities will limit export revenues, which declined by more than 55% in 2015. On the other hand, the constraints limiting agricultural production will require an increase in the procurement of foodstuffs. Imports are also likely to be sustained by investment in infrastructure and the expansion of projects in the mining sector. As a result, the trade balance will again run a deficit. On a positive note, Liberia's accession to the WTO in July 2016 should simplify customs procedures and duties helping eventually to strengthen its commercial competitiveness. Transfers of funds from international donors are expected to help moderate the current account deficit.
At the head of the Liberian State since January 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has contributed to the marked improvement in the political situation since the end of the civil war (2003) and the transition period that followed (2003-2006). The political climate remains fragile nonetheless as the many ministerial reshuffles in recent years testify. Meanwhile the withdrawal of the UNMIL troops after 13 years of presence in a country suffering from major socioeconomic frustrations (unemployment, poverty) is a threat to political stability in the run up to the presdential and parliamentary elections in October 2017. The presidential elections will be a high stakes turning point as the first democratic handover takes place with the stepping down of Ms Sirleaf at the end of her mandate. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, the current president is yielding her place as candidate for the Unity Party to Vice President Joseph Boakai. Standing against him, his main rival is likely to be Benoni Urey, an influential businessman, who could however suffer from the perception that he made his fortune during the civil war and from his possible links with former president Charles Taylor, imprisioned in the United Kingdom for crimes against humanity. The reforms to recognise customary land rights and a new corruption scandal involving the Unity Party representatives are likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. Despite the commitments made and the measures taken by Ms Mme Sirleaf's government, the business climate remains poor (placed 174th out of 190 countries in the Doing Business 2017 rankings). The issues at stake in the transition and in the potential political changeover are substantial in view of the social tensions within the country and the heightened risk of violent clashes with the departure of the UNMIL. Large-scale cross-border movement of firearms and mercenaries will still be a major concern, given the influence of international drug cartels in the sub-region.