By Samuel G. Dweh (0886618906, 0776583266, [email protected])
July 23, 2019 marked exactly two hundred and twenty days (December 15, 2018 -July 23, 2019), since a 45.7-acre once hosting savanna grass, thorns, tree stumps and animal dung had been transformed into an ‘economically viable terrain’ with a gigantic grey multi-function factory surrounded by thick concrete slab.
During the groundbreaking program, held on December 15, 2018, the space was occupied by the following: Lines of Caterpillars and Tractors; officials of the Chinese company and of the Chinese Embassy in Liberia; dozens of Liberian workers (majority of them residents of the host community, hired by a Chinese construction company, CHICO,) all in red safety helmets and yellow-red vests; and a tiny grey remote-controlled ‘drone’ continually buzzing few meters above people and machines.
Also at the ground-breaking ceremony, the company’s General Manager, Eric Chen, explained to journalists: “The wood development company will be up by 2020, and will employ around 5,000 Liberians. We are here for 40 years, beginning 2018.”
The company Operations Manager and translator, Mr. Nyema Klon Bruce, a Liberian, told the press the kind of wood the company will be looking out for: “Old rubber wood can’t produce latex. We don’t need wood for charcoal (used by most Liberians for cooking), we need wood for furniture.”
The Shangyou Wood Development Industries Co., Ltd. is located in Todee, Electoral Distrct #1, Montserrado County, which stretches into Morris’s Farm (a part of Kakata, Margibi County capital)
On July 23, 2019, Liberia’s President, George Manneh Weah and other dignitaries toured a grey state-of-the-art wood processing facility of the Chinese company as part of a ‘Grand Opening’ ceremony. The saw mill has three ‘operation sections’. Some of the machines on display were: 24 green wood-sprayers; three yellow-orange Multi-Rips (for slicing wood into tiny pieces); two yellow ‘Treatment Plant’ or ‘Impregnation Tanks’ (for protection of woods from damage by termites); and five red Forklifts. Two six-foot ‘control rooms’ (being electrically powered by a Power House) were supplying current into the ‘cutting machines’. Piles of raw cut woods, of various sizes, were at various points of the floor.
Outside of the building, three yellow cranes and four blue trucks were stationed in front a twin Staff-quarters.
“In less than two years, you have achieved this. I hope we will continue with this strive,” President George Weah said to Shangyou Wood officials during the ribbon-cutting segment of the program.
Prior to the tour, there were heart-warming, as well as cautionary speeches.
Shangyou Wood Chairman, Mr. Liu Hong, disclosed that the company has a total investment of 30 million (US) dollars.
“In the future, if the domestic situation and investment policies continue to improve, Shangyou will build a second and third Factory in Liberia,” Mr. Hong added.
Liberia’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, H.E. D. McKinley Thomas predicted a continual ‘washing off’ of acrimony on the Shangyou Wood-Liberian Government relations, alluding to the downpour of rain on the Grand Opening day.
The Ambassador of the Chinese Embassy in Liberia, H.E. Fu Jijun, reiterated his Country’s commitment to supporting Liberia, but expressed his concern: “Frankly speaking, as a good friend of Liberia, I will say that today’s Liberia is still not an ideal investment destination since its public service, such as electricity, water, transportation, skilled employee, social security, good governing, rule of law and so on are not as good as as quite a lot of African countries.”
Liberia’s National Investment Commission (NIC) Chairman, Hon. Molewuleh B. Gray, praised the company on “yielded result” for the their registration request made to NIC.
Hon. Lawrence Morris, Representative of District # 1, Todee, Montserrado County, cautioned residents of his Constituency against posing ‘security threat’ to the Company’s assets.
The faces of Liberian employees at Shangyou Wood Company—attired in red T-shirts inscribed with the company’s name at the front and back—showed undiluted enthusiasm from being ‘redeemed’ from Liberia’s ‘multitude’ of jobless people, who spend long working hours at ‘public talking points’ (Intellectual Centers) or watching European football matches.
Elijah P. Woekpeh and Sabastine Tokpah are two Liberian employees, who identified themselves during the tour.
“My joy from finding a job at this Chinese Company, and being able to feed my family daily, has no bound,” Elijah said as he sat on of the Multi-Rip machines where he had been assigned during the Opening program.
“I’m extremely grateful to Dr. George Weah’s Government and owners of Shangyou Wood Company for ending my long-time search for job,” Sabastine said.
Shangyou Wood Development Industries Co., Ltd. entered into Liberia in July, 2017, registered in March, 2018, and started construction in December, 2018. The company is also registered in China.
This Chinese company has played its role—of providing jobs for Liberians—on the Liberia-China Friend. It’s now left with George Weah Government, and each succeeding one, to play its role: provide security for Shangyou Wood assets (on the ground and in the Bank) and its foreign staff.