Since the end of the civil war in 2003, Liberia has embarked on a sustained effort to reduce poverty and deliver security for all of its citizens. During this time, the economy has averaged 7% growth during this time. Ensuring that this growth creates the kind of employment that reduces poverty for the many remains a challenge.
Mining accounts for much economic growth but brings less than 15,000 jobs, in a workforce of 1.2 million people. By contrast, agriculture – which accounts for over half a million jobs – only grew by 2.8% per year. This is lower than population growth.
Liberia’s potential workforce is likely to double by 2030, estimates suggest that Liberia will have a shortfall of some 600,000 jobs by 2030 if nothing changes. The government therefore needs to restructure its economy away from extractives and towards more labour-intensive sectors, if it is to provide the jobs and the welfare its citizens need.
The government has a vital role to play in lifting constraints on the job-creating private sector and in kick starting job-creating industries. Creating an environment which will enable the right kind of business to invest is essential. The government’s National Export Strategy 2014-2018 sets out a road map to develop sectors that have the potential to all but fill the jobs gap. These sectors are rubber processing and manufacturing, oil palm, cocoa and fisheries/aquaculture.
Implementing the strategy is not easy, as it requires coordinated action by a wide range of ministries, agencies and development partners – who all tend to work to disparate agendas and mandates. We are supporting the government to overcome these challenges and to bring the National Export Strategy to life. First by cutting it down to a few manageable actions that will address the greatest constraints. Second by securing a consensus for action across the key Ministries and agencies involved – particularly the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the National Investment Commission and the Ministry of State. Third by ensuring clarity of roles and responsibilities. Fourth by helping designated agencies to play their role in a coherent and coordinated way, while building their technical capacity.
By focusing on removing the constraints in rubber processing, oil palm, cocoa and aquaculture over the next two years, the government can lay the foundation for a transformation of the Liberian economy – away from dependence on extractives and towards more inclusive growth. This shift will help secure more than half a million life-changing jobs for the people of Liberia.