Facts

Population: 4,846,887 Visit Worldometers
Area: 111 369 km²
Capital City: 

Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east, the Atlantic Ocean to its south. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,700,000 people. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country’s capital and largest city is Monrovia. Forests on the coastline are composed mostly of salt-tolerant mangrove trees, while the more sparsely populated inland has forests opening onto a plateau of drier grasslands. The climate is equatorial, with significant rainfall during the May–October rainy season and harsh harmattan winds the remainder of the year. Liberia possesses about forty percent of the remaining Upper Guinean rainforest. It was an important producer of rubber in the early 20th century. The Republic of Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. The country declared its independence on July 26, 1847. The U.S. did not recognize Liberia’s independence until February 5, 1862 during the American Civil War. Between January 7, 1822, and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born black people who faced legislated limits in the U.S., and 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to the settlement. The black settlers carried their culture and tradition with them to Liberia. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the U.S. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected as Liberia’s first president after the people proclaimed independence. Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence, on July 26, 1847, and is Africa’s first and oldest modern republic. Liberia retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia supported the United States war efforts against Germany and in turn the U.S. invested in considerable infrastructure in Liberia to help its war effort, which also aided the country in modernizing and improving its major air transportation facilities. In addition, President William Tubman encouraged economic changes. Internationally, Liberia was a founding member of the League of Nations, United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity. The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated “bush”. The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power, and the indigenous tribesmen were excluded from birthright citizenship in their own lands until 1904, in a repetition of the United States’ treatment of Native Americans.The Americo-Liberians promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples. Political tensions from the rule of William R. Tolbert resulted in a military coup in 1980 that overthrew his leadership soon after his death, marking the beginning of years-long political instability. Five years of military rule by the People’s Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars. These resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people (about 8% of the population), the displacement of many more and shrunk Liberia’s economyby 90%. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President. Recovery proceeds but about 85% of the population lives below the international poverty line. Liberia’s economic and political stability was threatened in the 2010s by an Ebola virus epidemic; it originated in Guinea in December 2013, entered Liberia in March 2014, and was declared officially ended on May 8, 2015.




Currency

Corruption

Corruption is endemic at every level of the Liberian government. When President Sirleaf took office in 2006, she announced that corruption was “the major public enemy.” In 2014, the US ambassador to Liberia stated that corruption there was harming people through “unnecessary costs to products and services that are already difficult for many Liberians to afford”. Liberia scored a 3.3 on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt) on the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. This gave it a ranking 87th of 178 countries worldwide and 11th of 47 in Sub-Saharan Africa. This score did, however, represent a significant improvement since 2007, when the country scored 2.1 and ranked 150th of 180 countries. When dealing with public-facing government functionaries 89% of Liberians say they have had to pay a bribe, the highest national percentage in the world according to the organization’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer.

 

Crime

Rape and sexual assault are frequent in the post-conflict era in Liberia. The country has one of the highest incidences of sexual violence against women in the world. Rape is the most frequently reported crime, accounting for more than one-third of sexual violence cases. Adolescent girls are the most frequently assaulted, and almost 40% of perpetrators are adult men known to victims. Both male and female homosexuality is illegal in Liberia. On July 20, 2012, the Liberian senate voted unanimously to enact legislation to prohibit and criminalize same-sex marriages.

 

Culture

Liberia. 20th century. Brooklyn Museum. The religious practices, social customs and cultural standards of the Americo-Liberians had their roots in the antebellum American South. The settlers wore top hat and tails and modeled their homes on those of Southern slaveowners. Most Americo-Liberian men were members of the Masonic Order of Liberia, which became heavily involved in the nation’s politics. Liberia has a long, rich history in textile arts and quilting, as the settlers brought with them their sewing and quilting skills. Liberia hosted National Fairs in 1857 and 1858 in which prizes were awarded for various needle arts. One of the most well-known Liberian quilters was Martha Ann Ricks, who presented a quilt featuring the famed Liberian coffee tree to Queen Victoria in 1892. When President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf moved into the Executive Mansion, she reportedly had a Liberian-made quilt installed in her presidential office. A rich literary tradition has existed in Liberia for over a century. Edward Wilmot Blyden, Bai T. Moore, Roland T. Dempster and Wilton G. S. Sankawulo are among Liberia’s more prominent authors.Moore’s novella Murder in the Cassava Patch is considered Liberia’s most celebrated novel.[

Economy and infrastructure

The Central Bank of Liberia is responsible for printing and maintaining the Liberian dollar, which is the primary form of currency in Liberia. Liberia is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a formal employment rate of 15%. GDP per capita peaked in 1980 at US$496, when it was comparable to Egypt’s (at the time). In 2011, the country’s nominal GDP was US$1.154 billion, while nominal GDP per capita stood at US$297, the third-lowest in the world. Historically, the Liberian economy has depended heavily on foreign aid, foreign direct investment and exports of natural resources such as iron ore, rubber, and timber. Following a peak in growth in 1979, the Liberian economy began a steady decline due to economic mismanagement following the 1980 coup. This decline was accelerated by the outbreak of civil war in 1989; GDP was reduced by an estimated 90% between 1989 and 1995, one of the fastest declines in history. Upon the end of the war in 2003, GDP growth began to accelerate, reaching 9.4% in 2007. The global financial crisis slowed GDP growth to 4.6% in 2009, though a strengthening agricultural sector led by rubber and timber exports increased growth to 5.1% in 2010 and an expected 7.3% in 2011, making the economy one of the 20 fastest growing in the world. Current impediments to growth include a small domestic market, lack of adequate infrastructure, high transportation costs, poor trade links with neighboring countries and the high dollarization of the economy.Liberia used the United States dollar as its currency from 1943 until 1982 and continues to use the U.S. dollar alongside the Liberian dollar. Following a decrease in inflation beginning in 2003, inflation spiked in 2008 as a result of worldwide food and energy crises, reaching 17.5% before declining to 7.4% in 2009. Liberia’s external debt was estimated in 2006 at approximately $4.5 billion, 800% of GDP. As a result of bilateral, multilateral and commercial debt relief from 2007 to 2010, the country’s external debt fell to $222.9 million by 2011. While official commodity exports declined during the 1990s as many investors fled the civil war, Liberia’s wartime economy featured the exploitation of the region’s diamond wealth. The country acted as a major trader in Sierra Leonian blood diamonds, exporting over US$300 million in diamonds in 1999. This led to a United Nations ban on Liberian diamond exports in 2001, which was lifted in 2007 following Liberia’s accession to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. In 2003, additional UN sanctions were placed on Liberian timber exports, which had risen from US$5 million in 1997 to over US$100 million in 2002 and were believed to be funding rebels in Sierra Leone. These sanctions were lifted in 2006. Due in large part to foreign aid and investment inflow following the end of the war, Liberia maintains a large account deficit, which peaked at nearly 60% in 2008. Liberia gained observer status with the World Trade Organization in 2010 and is in the process of acquiring full member status. Liberia has the highest ratio of foreign direct investment to GDP in the world, with US$16 billion in investment since 2006. Following the inauguration of the Sirleaf administration in 2006, Liberia signed several multibillion-dollar concession agreements in the iron ore and palm oil industries with numerous multinational corporations, including BHP Billiton, ArcelorMittal, and Sime Darby. Especially palm oil companies like Sime Darby (Malaysia) and Golden Veroleum (USA) are being accused by critics of the destruction of livelihoods and the displacement of local communities, enabled through government concessions. The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company has operated the world’s largest rubber plantation in Harbel, Margibi County since 1926 with more than 8,000 mostly Liberian employees in 2015, making Firestone Liberia the largest private employer in Liberia.

Energy

Formal electricity services are provided solely by the state-owned Liberia Electricity Corporation, which operates a small grid almost exclusively in the Greater Monrovia District. The vast majority of electric energy services is provided by small privately owned generators. At $0.54 per kWh, the electricity tariff in Liberia is among the highest in the world. Total installed capacity in 2013 was 20 MW, a sharp decline from a peak of 191 MW in 1989 before the wars. Completion of the repair and expansion of the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, with a maximum capacity of 80 MW, is scheduled to be completed by 2018. Construction of three new heavy fuel oil power plants is expected to boost electrical capacity by 38 MW. In 2013, Liberia began importing power from neighboring Ivory Coast and Guinea through the West African Power Pool. Liberia has begun exploration for offshore oil; unproven oil reserves may be in excess of one billion barrels. The government divided its offshore waters into 17 blocks and began auctioning off exploration licenses for the blocks in 2004, with further auctions in 2007 and 2009. An additional 13 ultra-deep offshore blocks were demarcated in 2011 and planned for auction. Among the companies to have won licenses are Repsol, Chevron, Anadarko and Woodside Petroleum.

 

 

Government

On July 26, 1847, the settlers issued a Declaration of Independence and promulgated a constitution. Based on the political principles denoted in the United States Constitution, it established the independent Republic of Liberia. The United Kingdom was the first country to recognize Liberia’s independence. The leadership of the new nation consisted largely of the Americo-Liberians, who initially established political and economic dominance in the coastal areas that had been purchased by the ACS; they maintained relations with United States contacts in developing these areas and the resulting trade. Their passage of the 1865 Ports of Entry Act prohibited foreign commerce with the inland tribes, ostensibly to “encourage the growth of civilized values” before such trade was allowed in the region. By 1877, the Americo-Liberian True Whig Party was the most powerful political power in the country. It was made up primarily of people from the Americo-Liberian ethnic group, who maintained social, economic and political dominance well into the 20th century, repeating patterns of European colonists in other nations in Africa. Competition for office was usually contained within the party; a party nomination virtually ensured election. Pressure from the United Kingdom, which controlled Sierra Leone to the west, and France with its interests in the north and east led to a loss of Liberia’s claims to extensive territories. Both Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast annexed some territories. Liberia struggled to attract investment in order to develop infrastructure and a larger, industrial economy. There was a decline in production of Liberian goods in the late 19th century, and the government struggled financially, resulting in indebtedness on a series of international loans. On July 16, 1892, Martha Ann Erskine Ricks met Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and presented her a hand made quilt, Liberia’s first diplomatic gift. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Ricks stated, “I had heard it often, from the time I was a child, how good the Queen had been to my people – to slaves – and how she wanted us to be free.”

 

 

Health

Hospitals in Liberia include the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia and several others. Life expectancy in Liberia is estimated to be 57.4 years in 2012. With a fertility rate of 5.9 births per woman, the maternal mortality rate stood at 990 per 100,000 births in 2010. A number of highly communicable diseases are widespread, including tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases and malaria. In 2007, the HIV infection rates stood at 2% of the population aged 15–49 whereas the incidence of tuberculosis was 420 per 100,000 people in 2008. Approximately 58.2% – 66% of women are estimated to have undergone female genital mutilation. Liberia imports 90% of its rice, a staple food, and is extremely vulnerable to food shortages. In 2007, 20.4% of children under the age of five were malnourished. In 2008, only 17% of the population had access to adequate sanitation facilities. Approximately 95% of the country’s healthcare facilities had been destroyed by the time civil war ended in 2003. In 2009, government expenditure on health care per capita was US$22, accounting for 10.6% of total GDP. In 2008, Liberia had only one doctor and 27 nurses per 100,000 people. In 2014, an outbreak of Ebola virus in Guinea spread to Liberia. As of November 17, 2014, there were 2,812 confirmed deaths from the ongoing outbreak. In early August 2014 Guinea closed its borders to Liberia to help contain the spread of the virus, as more new cases were being reported in Liberia than in Guinea. On May 9, 2015, Liberia was declared Ebola free after six weeks with no new cases. According to an Overseas Development Institute report, private health expenditure accounts for 64.1% of total spending on health.

 

 

Languages

English is the official language and serves as the lingua franca of Liberia. Thirty-one indigenous languages are spoken within Liberia, none of which is a first language to more than a small percentage of the population. Liberians also speak a variety of creolized dialects collectively known as Liberian English.

 

 

Military

The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are the armed forces of the Republic of Liberia. Founded as the Liberian Frontier Force in 1908, the military was retitled in 1956. For virtually all of its history, the AFL has received considerable material and training assistance from the United States. For most of the 1941–89 period, training was largely provided by U.S. advisers. After the UN Security Council Resolution 1509 of September 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia arrived to referee the ceasefire with units from Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, and China with the view to assist the National Transitional Government of Liberia in forming the new Liberian military.

 

 

Foreign relations

President Sirleaf with John Kerry, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and British PM David Cameronin September 2015. After the turmoil following the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars, Liberia’s internal stabilization in the 21st century brought a return to cordial relations with neighboring countries and much of the Western world. As in other African countries, China is an important part of the post-conflict reconstruction. In the past, both of Liberia’s neighbors, Guinea and Sierra Leone, have accused Liberia of backing rebels inside their countries.

Religion

According to the 2008 National Census, 85.6% of the population practices Christianity, while Muslims represent a minority of 12.2%. A multitude of diverse Protestant confessions such as Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, United Methodist, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) denominations form the bulk of the Christian population, followed by adherents of the Roman Catholic Church and other non-Protestant Christians. Most of these Christian denominations were brought by African American settlers moving from the United States into Liberia via the American Colonization Society, while some are indigenous—especially Pentecostal and evangelical Protestant ones. Protestantism was originally associated with Black American settlers and their Americo-Liberian descendants, while native peoples held to their own animist forms of African traditional religion. Indigenous people were subject to Christian missionary, as well as Americo-Liberian efforts to close the cultural gap by means of education. This proved successful, leaving Christians a majority in the country. Muslims comprise 12.2% of the population, largely represented by the Mandingo and Vai ethnic groups. Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadiyyas, Sufis, and non-denominational Muslimsconstitute the bulk of the Liberian Muslims. Traditional indigenous religions are practiced by 0.5% of the population, while 1.5% subscribe to no religion. A small number of people are Bahá’í, Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist. While Christian, many Liberians also participate in traditional, gender-based indigenous religious secret societies, such as Poro for men and Sande for women. The all-female Sande society practices female circumcision. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right.While separation of church and state is mandated by the Constitution, Liberia is considered a Christian state in practice. Public schools offer biblical studies, though parents may opt their children out. Commerce is prohibited by law on Sundays and major Christian holidays. The government does not require businesses or schools to excuse Muslims for Friday prayers.

 

Shipping flag of convenience

Due to its status as a flag of convenience, Liberia has the second-largest maritime registry in the world behind Panama. It has 3500 vessels registered under its flag accounting for 11% of ships worldwide.

 

 

Telecommunications

There are six major newspapers in Liberia, and 45% of the population has a mobile phone service. Much of Liberia’s communications infrastructure was destroyed or plundered during the two civil wars (1989–1996 and 1999–2003). With low rates of adult literacy and high poverty rates, television and newspaper use is limited, leaving radio as the predominant means of communicating with the public.

 

 

Transportation

Comments are closed.