The Netherlands Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister, Lilianne Ploumen, head of the Dutch business delegation on a one-day visit to Liberia, yesterday told a Liberia-Netherlands business dialogue that the visiting entrepreneurs see a lot of opportunities in working with Liberia.
Addressing the Liberia-Netherlands Business and Investment Dialogue, held in the C. Cecil Dennis Hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Min. Ploumen disclosed that when she announced her trade mission a few months ago, she had hoped that she would be joined by 15 Dutch companies. It turned out that the reality was above expectation as she came along with representatives from at least 30 companies.
“The entrepreneurs have not come to Liberia for quick wins. They are here for a long term commitment to the people and to invest in the economy of Liberia,” Ploumen assured.
During the press stakeout after the roundtable discussion between the Liberians and the Dutch entrepreneurs, she disclosed that Liberia was open for business, adding, “business that will foster inclusive economic growth.”
Included on her delegation were specialists in growing food, including vegetables, building infrastructure, managing logistics, creating health solutions and those who work with people to solve social issues.
Speaking earlier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine Ngafuan, lauded Min. Ploumen for taking personal initiatives that helped to address the crisis of the last wave of the deadly Ebola virus disease in 2014.
He said Ms. Ploumen and her colleagues’ joint letter to all their hospital administrators and heads of health services in the Netherlands, requesting for medical personnel to be sent to Ebola-affected countries, had great impact on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. That collaboration helped Liberian health practitioners to combat the disease and Liberia was declared Ebola-transmission free by the
World Health Organization (WHO) on May 9, 2015.
The Foreign Minister expressed excitement over the trade and investment dialogue with the entrepreneurs from the Netherlands.
He said the relationship between Liberia and the Netherlands, which began as far back in the 17th Century, lasted until the turn of the 20th Century, specifically in the 1980s when Liberia became embroiled in a bloody civil conflict that witnessed the departure of Dutch foreign direct investment from the country.
He noted that because of the strong ties between both nations, the Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM, was one of the first international airlines to operate after the construction of the Roberts International Airport.
The Minister said he looked forward “to a new beginning of the Netherlands-Liberia commercial and trade ties.”
He assured Madam Ploumen and her delegation that the Liberian Government and people value the opportunities that the trade and economic mission would bring. “We firmly believe that it will help to lay the foundation and further strengthen the economic and bilateral friendship and cooperation between our two countries and peoples. It also signals to the world that all is not lost in the Ebola-affected countries,” he said.
The Foreign Minister assured the Dutch Minister that her investors and their investments would be “fully protected under the laws of Liberia.”
Giving a historic account of commercial relations between both nations, Mr. Isaac Nyanabo, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium with accreditations to the Netherlands, Luxemburg and the
European Union, stated that Liberia established in 1864 its consulate and appointed H. Muller of Hendrik & Co. of Rotterdam. That initiative of the Liberian government was reciprocated in 1872 by the
Dutch government when it appointed Mr. MaASSCHALK of Greenville, Sinoe County, as its Consul in Liberia.
Commerce Minister Axel Addy, who made a power-point presentation on what he described as the “Liberian story”, spoke about the country’s commerce sector post and prior Ebola.
His presentation, he said, was a joint effort of a team from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Commerce. The other entity on the team was the National Investment Commission (NIC).
He told the Dutch delegation that prior to 2014, the nation projected a GDP of over 8 percent.
He listed some of Liberia’s major products to include rubber, cassava and iron ore. He, however, stated that the nation looks forward to exploring other entrepreneurial endeavors.