The head of Belgian trade delegation visiting Liberia, Pieter De Crem, has noted that despite the adverse consequences of Ebola on the Liberian economy it still has the potential for growth.
Mr. De Crem, who serves as Secretary of State for External Trade for Belgium and heading a delegation comprising representatives of seven companies, told Liberian officials and business entrepreneurs yesterday that though the virus devastated the country’s economy and people, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) prediction has shown that there is a high prospect of 4% growth in 2016.
Additionally, the Belgian official also alluded to IMF’s forecast for 2017 of 5% growth; predictions he said are quite encouraging and influential to enhance foreign trade investment in Liberia.
“Many sectors of the Liberian economy offer interesting potential, [be it] the harbors, the agricultural or the energy sector, for example, in which our companies could prove their added value. Our delegation is here to evaluate the best ways to accompany the recovery, which now appears in sight with the end of the Ebola outbreak,” he said.
Assuring officials and local entrepreneurs about Belgium’s consistent and honest desire to make business in the country, Mr. De Crem recalled that throughout the Ebola crisis in the sub-region, Brussels Airlines (operator of SN Brussels) was the only airline that stood by Liberia and the two other affected countries, transporting people from here to Europe and America.
It may be recalled that as the Ebola virus worsened in 2014, many airlines cancelled flights to Liberia due to Ebola and other reasons.
SN Brussels, however, remained in the region throughout and after the crisis, something that sparked up Commerce Minister Axel Addy’s joy at a program marking the arrival of Belgian Honorary Consul, Federic Vloeberghs, in January 2015 to order the audience to applaud for Belgium.
Belgian companies coming in the post-Ebola period for assessment include Tractebel Engineering, Zetes, Jan de Nul and DEME, the Port of Antwerp, TC&T and JD Europe.
All those companies, according to Mr. De Crem, have a long experience in Africa and are ready to offer their know-how in their specific sectors to help the country recover its notable potentials.
“This mission is in many ways unprecedented in our relations with Liberia. We brought together our many dedicated companies with a special interest in Liberia, including flagship companies, and we produce the fine example of cooperation between Liberia and Belgium,” he said.
Also speaking, Herman Carpenter, Vice President of Aero Political Brussels Airlines, said Belgium is ready to invest in Liberia.
Mr. Carpenter recalled that in 2014, during the heat of Ebola in Liberia, SN Brussels stood the test of time in Liberia to transport health workers to Liberia and other parts of the world.
Welcoming the Belgian trade delegation to Liberia, Commerce Minister Axel Addy lauded the team for the visit, adding: “their visit shows a clear commitment that their government is honest to the partnership between the two countries.”
Minister Addy further told them that their being here symbolizes Liberia’s openness to business. “This time around,” Minister Addy said, “is not business as usual but business with mutual benefits.”
George G. Wisner, Executive Director of the National Investment Commission (NIC) appreciated the visit by the delegation and assured them that Liberia is ready to help investors with lots of investment incentives.
Also speaking on behalf of the private sector, Francis A. Dennis, president of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), said, “This mission comes as no surprise because the government and people of Belgium have always demonstrated high values and concern for others, and Liberia in particular, in times of need.”
Mr. Dennis told the delegation that the successful investment portfolio must achieve at least two key objectives, namely: decent and sustainable jobs and linkages to economic base, and natural resources and positioning Liberia at profitable points within the global value chain.