Gov’t Eyes Tourism to Maximize WTO Dividends

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Liberia may be the newest member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but the country is making all frantic efforts to ensure that it maximize the dividends that comes with such status. It is in this regard that the government yesterday launched a program gear toward one of the most lucrative sector under the WTO arrangements, the tourism sector.

The government launched the Liberia National Export Strategy (LNES) on Tourism, which is an integral part of the WTO Post Accession Plan. The strategy has nine pilot projects that have the potential to transform Liberia’s tourism industry.

Tourism functions as a key driver for socio-economic development. It represents an important economic activity and a major source of employment in most of the countries around the world.

At the launch of the LNES, a dramatic cultural performance from western, central and southeastern Liberia, was enough to tell the story of how Liberians have the potential and creative minds in driving the country’s tourism sector and making Liberia one of the best tourism sectors in the world.

“We are here to embark upon a critical chapter in our post-WTO accession period of our country’s admission into this global organization. For so long we yearned and struggled for this moment when Liberia, as a full-fledged member, would be plotting on how to maximize the dividends of such honored membership,” Vice President Joseph N.Boakai who officially launched the strategy at the Monrovia City Hall in Monrovia, said.

Before Liberia’s accession to the WTO, Mr. Boakai said, Liberian people have always remained cognizant of the need to pursue diversification to create employment opportunities, particularly for the women and youth, and wholeheartedly welcome the National Export Strategy on Tourism.

“Liberian people are truly emboldened by this initiative, because it bears huge potential to impact our people across Liberia. We are particularly excited about the Kpatawee and positively Liberian projects for they foster a culture of patriotism and go a long way in promoting what Liberia has to offer in the tourism sector,” VP Boakai stressed.

He lauded Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of International Trade Center (ITC), for the unreserved support they continued to render Liberia in the interest of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

“We also welcome and appreciate your quest to help improve our trade environment and your unremitting stand for the interest of women in business in the global arena. By experience, tourism has prospered when it is more in the private hands,” the Vice President said.

VP Boakai also lauded Minister Axel M. Addy of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) for exemplary leadership and other stakeholders for the tremendous effort they gave to Liberia’s march into the WTO.

Joining the Vice President at the launching of the LNES, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used the occasion to stress that the employment created by the tourism sector enables people from other countries to come and see as well as appreciate what we have. However, she called on those in the private sector to ensure that the next time that the International Trade Center (ITC) hosts a Trade Exhibition the Center should ensure that Liberia is represented to showcase Liberian-made products. \

President Sirleaf reiterated an earlier call by Commerce Minister Axel Addy appealing to Liberians to learn how to love their country. President Sirleaf told her audience: “If it means that you should go and stand on top of Mount Nimba and shout ‘Love Liberia’ it will be a nationalistic and patriotic pride for every Liberian to sing it as a song – so be it!”

Ms. Gonzalez, also speaking shortly after the launch, said the launch of the LNES was another milestone for the country.

Minister Axel M. Addy of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) said he was delighted for the launch of the initiative, which seeks to create job opportunities for young people in Liberia. He commended President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai for being committed to the rebuilding processes of the nation including the tourism sector, and especially their support to rebranding Liberia.

The Minister noted that tourism is a multibillion dollar industry, which millions of people travel all around the world to have a positively experience of global tourism.

“We are trying to promote a strategy that’s aimed at unlocking the potential of the tourism sector in Liberia with the primary focus on job creation. With tourism, you don’t necessary need to be a university graduate; with tourism, your knowledge about the forest, lakes and rivers, can make you a tourist guide,” he said.

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