Liberia’s efforts to revitalise its economy have laid the groundwork for IFC to pursue new opportunities for private business growth, says IFC executive vice-president Lars Thunell during a visit to the West African country.

“I would like to congratulate the government on its commitment to tackle corruption, its adoption of a transparent process in awarding government contracts, and its proactive engagement with private sector players,” Thunell says. “These steps to improve the business environment make it possible for IFC to play a crucial role in supporting private sector development, and they will spur investment and entrepreneurial activity across the country.”

Thunell was in Liberia as part of a three-country Africa trip that also included Ghana and Nigeria. He met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, other senior government officials, representatives from the local private sector, and some of IFC’s partners and clients in the country while in Monrovia.

Thunell signed an advisory mandate during the visit for IFC to serve as lead adviser to the government in selecting a private operator that will supply Monrovia with electricity in the short to medium term, until a longer-term solution can be achieved.

IFC’s activities in Liberia are conducted through its post-conflict initiative for Africa, which its Board approved in June 2006 to enhance IFC’s activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. IFC’s strategy involves supporting Liberia’s economic recovery by helping improve the investment climate, strengthening the financial sector, supporting private participation in infrastructure, and financing selected private sector companies.
IFC has had a presence in Liberia since 1965, when it took an equity stake in the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment. Today IFC is looking at ways to engage further with this institution, in such areas as trade finance and advisory services on risk management and internal processes.

Since February 2006, a joint team from the World Bank Group – representing the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga), the Foreign Investment Advisory Service, and IFC’s Private Enterprise Partnership for Africa – has been conducting a large-scale advisory program in Liberia. Goals include reducing barriers to formalisation of businesses; improving the investment policy framework, legislation, and institutions; and improving public-private dialogue to underpin reforms that assist the private sector.