The deadly Ebola scourge is apparently forcing scores of foreign nationals out of Liberia.
The latest group of foreign nationals who are departing Liberia are Chinese merchants, who hitherto were trading at various commercial districts across Monrovia.
Whether the Chinese vendors’ departure from Liberia is informed by diplomatic advisory from the Chinese Embassy near Monrovia has not been established by the Daily Observer.
When contacted, Gao Bin, Political Officer at the Chinese Embassy said the Embassy had not advised Chinese here to leave the country. He, however, admitted that some Chinese have left Liberia on their own volition.
Our reporter has also observed that scores of Chinese-owned business centers and stores around Monrovia have been closed over the last two weeks running.
A cursory survey of Chinese businesses, dispersed across Monrovia, has shown that several Chinese stores are now closed. Some of the stores are at the commercial Red Light district include Fuan Incorporated, Xin Lon Trading Limited, Excelle Business Center and Waximin Business Center.
Others are, Xin Wang Store, Lai Kiang Business Center, G. H. Whole Sale and Xin Ye Business Center.
At the Water Side Commercial District, our reporter observed that most Chinese stores have been padlocked. These include the popular Xin Tin China Town store. The impression is that most of the Chinese vendors operating these stores of packed bag and baggage and left the shores of Liberia so as to avert contracting the deadly Ebola scourge.
Andrew J. Washington, a salesman at the Xin Ran Trading Center located at the Millad Hage Complex in Red Light told our reporter that the Chinese started leaving Liberia on early July following the official pronouncement by the Liberian Government of the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.
Washington, who was seen selling some wares and products at the Xin Ran Trading Center, said the Chinese merchants were leaving Liberia owing to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus.
He admitted that the Chinese merchants’ departure will have a serious impact on the provision of Chinese products in Liberia. Washington was going about his business at the Xin Ran Trading Center, one of the few Chinese stores, at the bustling commercial Paynesville Red Light district, alongside a female Chinese lady who is one of the few Chinese merchants who have not departed.
At the closed Fuan Incorporated, a Liberian store boy, Isaac Bedell, said they (store boys) were paid three months salary advance by their Chinese bosses. He further disclosed that the Chinese business adventurers promised to return and to their businesses when the Ebola virus no longer poses threat to human existence in Liberia.
Most of the Chinese stores deal in products such as table lamps, Chinese designer suits, flashlights, cooking utensils, interior-deco material, wall clocks, table clothes and a host of other household and offices wares and appliances.
Noticeably, owing to the non-availability of electricity in most parts of the country, a good number of Liberian families now depend entirely on the “Chinese light” as a source of current. With the departure of the Chinese, scores of Liberians could revert to the routine use of candle light as a source of household light.
This sad development, many Liberian salesmen say, could lead to ‘double problems: the lack of Chinese products and the attendant joblessness that will come along with the closure of Chinese stores.
About four Liberians are reportedly employed in most of the Chinese stores. The closure of these stores automatically renders them jobless.
Sino-Liberian relationship has been on an enviable course since the ascendency of the Unity Party-led government to state power. Scores of Liberian have benefited from one kind of training or another in the Peoples Republic of China. At the same time, Sino-Liberian trade relations have been booming, with a good number of Liberian entrepreneurs visiting China and vice versa.
Here in Liberia, major Chinese companies including China Union, CHICO and CICO road construction firms and others are making inroads in the Liberia reconstruction and recovery drive. Still, some Chinese employees working with these companies have left Liberia according to information gathered by this newspaper.
Recently, the Chinese government denoted US$1.7 Million worth of medical materials and equipment to assist Liberia in the fight against the deadly Ebola scourge. Accompanying the medical items were three experts to help in the proper and effective utilization of the items.
Though the Chinese Ambassador here, Yue Zhang, told reporters recently that the Chinese government has no plans to evacuate its citizens from Liberia due to the Ebola Virus, the quiet withdrawal of the Chinese merchants from Liberia business milieu is reminiscent of the tacit covert diplomacy that is often associated with Chinese in world politics.
Political analysts here believe that the withdrawal of the Chinese nationals from the Liberian business environment is yet another twist to the Sino-Liberia relationship. This relationship is now predicated on a quid pro quo rapprochement that shows how China is now involved in the extractive industry here, on the one hand, why Liberia received aids and investment from China.
The Daily Observer could not establish whether the Chinese merchants’ exit from Monrovia is replicated across the country where there is heavy Chinese presence.