The three Ebola-affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, are this week receiving an economic and business delegation from The Netherlands. The aim of the delegation is to promote urgent investments in these three countries, as a means of helping to restore normalcy by jumpstarting economic growth and development.
The Netherlands’ Foreign Trade and Development Minister, Madam Lilianne Ploumen, who is leading the delegation, made Liberia the first stop. She said upon arrival in Liberia at the weekend that it was important to restore impressive economic growth experienced before the outbreak. Doing this, she asserted, requires rebuilding communities and their economic structures.
Minister Ploumen was accompanied by Dutch businessmen and trade and development officials as well as representatives from Civil Society organizations.
In her remarks to a huge crowd of Liberian government officials, businessmen, civil society and the media yesterday, Minister Ploumen said she and her delegation were here not for “quick wins” but for a long-term commitment to invest in the Liberian economy.”
Initially, she had hoped to be accompanied by 15 Dutch entrepreneurs. Instead, it turned out that the number doubled to 30, which made her very happy, she said.
We consider this friendly and meaningful gesture by our Dutch partners most welcome, particularly because the delegation is not just here to tell the governments and peoples of the three countries
“sorry” about Ebola’s devastation. The delegation is exploring ways in which Dutch business, industry and civil society can assist us in rebuilding the economies.
The delegation is comprised of specialists in growing food, infrastructure development, managing logistics, creating health solutions and experts who help people to solve social issues.
The Dutch initiative poses a serious challenge to the three countries, their governments and people. What the Mano River people must now do is to think fast and strategize as to how to respond to
The Netherlands’ extraordinary initiative. What are the most immediate and feasible agricultural, commercial, economic and industrial programs and projects that we can present that would interest the Dutch? These programs and projects should be such as are able to generate jobs to put our people back to work, to restore income that will enable them to put their lives back together, better care for their families and move the countries forward.
We believe that in the case of Liberia, for starts, the areas most urgently in need of investment are agriculture—including poultry and livestock; sugar production, vegetables; tree crops, including citrus, coffee, cocoa, rubber, with added value components; and fisheries.
There are also challenges and investment opportunities in education—mainstream, as well as vocational and technical education; real estate and small industries.
The Chinese have just recently invested US$10 million rehabilitating the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC). There is the Booker Washington Institute in Kakata, which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has pledged to turn into a “center of excellence.” In this, the President has a great opportunity to transform this 86 year-old institution into a first class vocational and technical training center that will be the envy of West Africa.
A modernized BWI would go a long way in answering the technological and industrial demands for trained hands to operate and maintain the machines in the agricultural, construction, manufacturing, mining, power, refrigeration, telecommunication, tourism and water industries.
One of the critical areas in which our Dutch partners could help us is in the water sector. Look at all the erosion taking place along our beaches, eating away at historic places like Buchanan, capital of Grand Bassa County, West Point, Point Four and New Kru Town in Monrovia. There are also the perennial drainage problems in Monrovia, which have for decades posed very serious health and sanitation challenges to the city’s nearly 1.5 million people.
There is yet the need to dredge the Mesurado River and reclaim all its shores in Clara Town, Vai Town, Slip Way and Providence Island and turn them into pristine tourism attractions.
Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, who has close connections with the Dutch and helped bring the delegation here, confided to the Daily Observer that already the Dutch pledged to dredge the Mesurado River. That would be a great beginning toward fixing Monrovia’s water problems and beautifying the capital.
Liberia should seize this Dutch initiative with all seriousness and help inspire a positive impact.