President Sirleaf Calls for Investment in Agro Sector

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has informed potential investors that attended the US-Africa Business Forum about the need to invest in Liberia’s agriculture sector.

The US-Africa Business Forum in which the President participated is the second on Africa where African leaders and CEOs assembled with their American counterparts to discuss areas of investment in Africa.

President Sirleaf attended the forum for the first time since it came into existence in 2014, the year Liberia was struggling to control the Ebola Virus Disease, making it impossible for the President to attend.

Addressing potential investors in New York on September 21, President Sirleaf said the agriculture sector is a significant priority for Liberia because it is the sector that holds the future of the country’s economic growth.

The President Sirleaf highlighted several challenges to the country’s economic growth brought on by civil and financial crises, and the Ebola epidemic. She explained how over the years, Liberia concentrated on the extractive sector, which has been affected by the reduction of iron ore and rubber prices on the world market.

She named cocoa and oil palm as potential agricultural products for investment, and stressed processing of raw materials as a key deliverable.

“We are trying to move away from the extractive industries, which has been the traditional medium for growth, to agriculture,” she said. “Working with the private sector, we will expand on the production of oil palm, cocoa, rubber and others, with value addition as key objectives,” she pointed out.

She called on African countries to pay attention to building skills and mobilizing private capital for the promotion of trade and economic growth.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama acknowledged that Africa has made progress despite some leadership challenges in some countries.

President Obama, who in 2014 urged American investors to engage Africa in business, also reiterated that investors should continue their engagement because Africa needs trade, not aid.

During the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in 2014, during which the first edition of the US-Africa Business Forum was held, President Obama announced US$33 billion worth of investments in Africa covering energy, infrastructure and agriculture.

The second U.S. Africa Business Forum was organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

According to a dispatch from New York, President Sirleaf joined the Prime Minister of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Dessalegn; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PHV Corporation, Mr. Emanuel

“Manny” Chirico; and the Chief Executive Officer of VISA, Mr. Charles Scharf, for a panel discussion under the theme: “Markets on the move – How diversified economies can transform risk into opportunities.”

The discussion was moderated by the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina.

Some initial benefits of the U.S. Africa Business Forum will include six project preparation grants to be announced by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), totaling US$5 million for a Kenyan project; a US$100 million project for infrastructure investment in Africa to be announced by PTA Bank and the Export-Import Bank of the United States of America; while the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is entering into a

US$1.8 million partnership with the National Association of Securities Professionals (NASP) to convene a U.S. – Africa Institutional Investor Conference and send U.S. financial professionals to sub-Saharan Africa to help infrastructure investments, among others.

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