Speaking during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Weah said Liberia’s economy was dwindling and needs the support of Nigeria’s private sector to remain afloat.
He also appealed to Nigerian banks in Liberia not to close shop because of the dwindling economy as government plans to revamp the economy that would benefit investors.
He said Liberia’s economic crisis was as a result of the fall in prices of the country’s major exports and unfavourable foreign exchange rate.
“The prices of our two basic export commodities, rubber and iron ore, continue to fall on the world diminished market our foreign exchange earnings from the export of these and other commodities are used mainly on the importation of food and other commodities, causing massive trade deficits; youth unemployment is at an all-time high, and prices of basic commodities continue to increase.
“Our people have voted for change, and for hope. And change is finally here. But mere political change is meaningless without development, prosperity, and growth Your Excellency, we need Nigeria’s help to jump-start our economy,” he said.
He also stressed the need for Nigerian investors to avail themselves of the opportunities in Liberia, saying, “Liberia is now open for business to the Nigerian private sector.”
He said: “There is a need to address the current volume of trade between our two countries, which is very low and does not exceed $5 million, by some estimates. Yet, the Liberian banking sector is dominated by Nigerian banks, and I am made to understand that their head offices in Nigeria may be considering reducing their support or even shutting them down because of the recent downturn in our economy. If this is true, l urge them not to do so, as l am optimistic that trade and commerce will increase in the near future.
“There are also major shortcomings in the electricity and power sectors, in road construction, in housing, in mining, and in fisheries, to name a few, that could be of serious interest to Nigerian investors, either as individuals or companies, or through joint-ventures or public-private partnerships.”
The Liberian leader said his administration’s ‘Pro-risks Poor Development Agenda’, intends to tackle the many economic and social problems he inherited, especially infrastructure deficits, youth unemployment, and reviving the education, agriculture, mining and health sectors, for which Nigeria’s assistance would be greatly appreciated.
“Your sustained technical assistance for capacity building in these sectors is most welcome. For example, Nigerian teachers and medical volunteers to Liberia, under the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) Agreement with Liberia, have been very crucial in boosting capacity development in Liberia, and it is my hope that this assistance can be considerably increased to address with urgency our most pressing socio-economic needs at this time.
“More specifically, under the Bilateral Teacher Exchange program, we are seeking 6,000-plus teachers to make up for the shortage of good teachers in our educational system. In agriculture, we are seeking experts and extension workers to build capacity in the sector, particularly with crops, (such as cassava, for example,) which lend themselves readily to value- added propositions and export earning potential”, he said.
Weah thanked Nigeria for restoring peace to Liberia and helping reform Liberian military after the country’s civil wars.
“Although yours is the largest economy in Africa, with the most powerful army in our sub-region, you have never used your wealth and military prowess to expand your territory, threaten your neighbors, or de-stabilize any sovereign nation in the region,” he said.