President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said that the latest economic and social investment of the ever present Coca-Cola Bottling Company in the country is the first vote of confidence after the eradication of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) from Liberia.
President Sirleaf said the company was just one of the few that operated in the country throughout the crisis.
“Therefore a huge investment of US$5.7 million in economic and social initiatives is a true testament that things are back on track for business and investment. This clearly speaks that the country is ready and safe for investment. This encourages those who left as a result of the virus to return and continue their investment,” she said.
Coca-Cola has made the investment in its PET (plastic) bottling line, a new science and technology school and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation’s five new Water Health Centers aimed at providing safe water access to over 61,000 Liberians.
The President spoke at the official dedication ceremonies of these investments recently at the company’s operation site in Paynesville. According to her, she has always craved for Coca-Cola to make Liberia a hub for its operations in the Mano River and West African region – a move that is gradually coming to reality.
She said it is now time for Liberians and other investors to think outside the box as the country currently undergoes a difficult time in regards to its traditional exports. The country’s economy is truly going through difficult times as many exports, such as rubber and iron ore, face depression globally.
With the decline, President Sirleaf said Liberia must find other initiatives to be able to promote businesses to create these exports and the means whereby the gaps that now exist because of the global economic crisis can be filled by expansion into other areas.
President Sirleaf indicated that though the environment has to be created by government policies and practices, it also has to be created by every Liberian who wants to see jobs, see businesses expand and wants to see where we, like neighboring countries, can export to other places.
“The challenge is to every Liberian to make sure that what they do, how they act, how they support, how they join in creating this environment will enable us to achieve our development objectives,” she said.
She noted that though there have been periods of interruption and contraction in Liberia, the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company, like Firestone Liberia, has remained with Liberia despite these difficulties.
She further urged the Coca-Cola Company to bring in a juice manufacturing plant that will produce juices made in Liberia for domestic consumption and possible export to other countries. “All these years for Liberia not to have a juice producing plant is totally unacceptable,” she said, adding that “now is the time to create a plant for the production of juices for us, too.”
Coca-Cola Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Alex Cummings said, “Liberia may have been fractured by the tragedy of Ebola over the last year, but its spirit of optimism, ambition and progress will never be broken.”
He pointed out that Coca-Cola has been ever-present in Liberia for over 65 years and its commitment to investing in economic and social initiatives remains as strong as ever as they increase their contribution to support sustainable growth of both their business and the communities they serve.
The Coca-Cola Bottling Company’s first PET bottling line begins production at its Monrovia facility this month. It will also serve as a regional export hub for Sierra Leone and Guinea. An estimated 7,500 direct and indirect employment opportunities will be created over the next five years across Coca-Cola’s locally sourced supply-chain of distributors, retailers and material suppliers.
Meanwhile, President Sirleaf used the occasion to warn Liberians against destructive tendencies that are gradually taking over the country. She said this trend has the propensity to scare investment from the country. “It will not work if people are going to destroy businesses. It’s not going to work with placards all over the place. It’s not going to work unless businesses know and have confidence in our policies, laws and in the way we do things,” she cautioned.