Liberia, formally the Republic of Liberia, is a West African country. Liberia is a Latin word that meaning “Land of the Free.” It is bounded on the west by Sierra Leone, on the north by Guinea, and on the east by Ivory Coast. It has a population of 4,503,000 people and an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 square miles). The official language is English, while over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, reflecting the several tribes that make up more than 95 percent of the population.
The woods along the coast are primarily made up of salt-tolerant mangrove trees, but the sparsely inhabited hinterland contains forests that open into a plateau of drier grasslands. The climate is tropical, with substantial rains from May to October and strong harmattan winds the rest of the year. Liberia is home to around 40% of the surviving Upper Guinean rainforest. In the early twentieth century, it was a major producer of rubber.
The Republic of Liberia originated as an American Colonization Society (ACS) colony, which felt that blacks would have greater possibilities for freedom in Africa than in the United States. On July 26, 1847, the nation declared its independence. The United States did not acknowledge Liberia’s independence until February 5, 1862, during the American Civil War. Between January 7, 1822, until the American Civil War, almost 15,000 emancipated and free-born black Americans, as well as 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, migrated to the colony. The black Americans who settled in Liberia brought their culture with them. Liberia’s constitution and flag were based after those of the United States. After Liberia’s people declared independence on January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a rich, free-born black American from Virginia who had established in the country, was elected as the country’s first president.
Liberia, Africa’s first and oldest modern republic, is the only African republic to have self-proclaimed independence rather than winning independence through a revolution from another nation. During the European colonial era, Liberia preserved and held its independence. During World War II, Liberia assisted the United States’ war effort against Germany, and the United States, in turn, invested in significant infrastructure in Liberia to aid its war effort, which also benefited the country in upgrading and strengthening its main air transportation facilities.
Furthermore, President William Tubman advocated for economic improvements. Liberia was a founder member of the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the Organization of African Unity on a global scale. Political tensions from William R. Tolbert’s administration led in a military coup in 1980 that ousted his leadership soon after his death, ushering in years of political instability. The First and Second Liberian Civil Wars followed five years of military control by the People’s Redemption Council and five years of civilian governance by the National Democratic Party of Liberia. More than 500,000 people were killed or displaced as a result of these events, which destroyed Liberia’s economy. A 2003 peace treaty resulted in democratic elections in 2005. The recovery process is ongoing, although around 85 percent of the population lives below the international poverty level.
Ebola virus outbreak endangered Liberia’s economic and political stability in the 2010s; it began in Guinea in December 2013, spread to Liberia in March 2014, and was declared officially over on May 8, 2015.
Liberia is a West African nation that borders the North Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. It is located between 4° and 9° north latitude and 7° and 12° west longitude.
In the northeast, the terrain is characterized by mainly flat to rolling coastal lowlands with mangroves and marshes, which ascend to a rolling plateau and low mountains.
The hills are covered with tropical rainforests, while elephant grass and semi-deciduous woods dominate the northern parts. The tropical environment is hot all year, with significant rain from May to October and a little respite from mid-July to August. Dry dust-laden harmattanwinds blow inland throughout the winter months of November to March, creating many difficulties for inhabitants.
As fresh rains flow down the wooded plains from the interior mountain range of Guinée Forestière in Guinea, Liberia’s watershed tends to migrate in a southwestern direction towards the sea. Cape Mount, near the Sierra Leone border, gets the greatest precipitation in the country.
The Mano River runs across Liberia’s major northern border, while the Cavalla River runs through its southeast. The St. Paul River, which exits at Monrovia, the St. John River in Buchanan, and the Cestos River, all of which run into the Atlantic, are Liberia’s three biggest rivers. With a length of 515 kilometers, the Cavalla is the country’s longest river (320 mi).
Mount Wuteve, at 1,440 meters (4,724 feet) above sea level in the northern Liberia range of the West Africa Mountains and the Guinea Highlands, is the highest peak entirely inside Liberia.
Mount Nimba near Yekepa, on the other hand, is higher at 1,752 meters (5,748 feet) above sea level, but it is not entirely inside Liberia since it shares a border with Guinea and the Ivory Coast, and it is also their highest peak.
Liberia had a population of 3,476,608 persons according to the 2008 national census. Montserrado County, the country’s most populated county and home to the capital of Monrovia, has 1,118,241 residents. The Greater Monrovia District has a population of 970,824 people. With 462,026 inhabitants, Nimba County is the second most populated county. Monrovia has more than four times the population of all the county capitals combined, according to the 2008 census.
Prior to the 2008 census, the most recent census was in 1984, when the country’s population was estimated to be 2,101,628 people. Liberia’s population grew from 1,016,443 in 1962 to 1,503,368 in 1974. Liberia has the world’s fastest population growth rate as of 2006. (4.50 percent per annum). Liberians under the age of 15 accounted for 43.5 percent of the population in 2010.
There are 16 indigenous ethnic groups as well as numerous immigrant minorities in the community. Indigenous peoples make up about 95% of the population. The Kpelle, Bassa, Mano, Gio or Dan, Kru, Grebo, Krahn, Vai, Gola, Mandingo or Mandinka, Mende, Kissi, Gbandi, Loma, Fante, Dei or Dewoin, Belleh, and Americo-Liberians or Congo people are among the 16 officially recognized ethnic groups.
The Kpelle make up more than 20% of Liberia’s population and are the country’s biggest ethnic group, living mostly in Bong County and surrounding regions in central Liberia. Americo-Liberians, descendants of African American and West Indian immigrants, mainly Barbadians, make about 2.5 percent of the population. An estimated 2.5 percent of the population are Congo people, descendants of repatriated Congo and Afro-Caribbean slaves who came in 1825. In the 19th century, these two factions gained political dominance, which they maintained far into the 20th century.
Many immigrants, including Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationalities, have arrived as merchants and have formed an important part of the commercial sector. Interracial marriages between ethnic Liberians and Lebanese are common, resulting in a large mixed-race population, particularly in and around Monrovia. Liberians of European ancestry make up a tiny minority in the nation. Citizenship in Liberia is limited to individuals of Black African ancestry, according to the country’s constitution.
According to the 2008 National Census, Christianity is practiced by 85.5 percent of the population. Muslims make up 12.2 percent of the population, with the Mandingo and Vai ethnic groups making up the majority. The majority of Liberian Muslims are Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadiyyas, Sufis, and non-denominational Muslims.
Traditional indigenous faiths are followed by 0.5 percent of the population, whereas 1.5 percent of the population has no religious affiliation. A tiny percentage of the population is Bahá’, Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist. Many Liberians are Christian, but they also belong to traditional, gender-based indigenous religious secret organizations like Poro for men and Sande for women. Female circumcision is practiced in the all-female Sande culture.
The right to freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Constitution, and the government usually upholds this right. Liberia is a Christian state in reality, notwithstanding the Constitution’s requirement for separation of religion and state. Biblical studies are taught in public schools, although parents have the option of opting their children out. On Sundays and important Christian holidays, commerce is banned by law. Businesses and institutions are not required by law to exempt Muslims from Friday prayers.
Economy and infrastructure
The Liberian dollar, which is the country’s principal form of money, is printed and maintained by the Central Bank of Liberia. Liberia is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a formal employment rate of just 15%. In 1980, the GDP per capita reached a high of $496, which was similar to Egypt’s (at the time). The country’s nominal GDP was US$1.154 billion in 2011, with a nominal GDP per capita of US$297, the world’s third-lowest. Liberia’s economy has historically relied largely on international assistance, foreign direct investment, and natural resource exports such as iron ore, rubber, and wood.
Following the 1980 coup, the Liberian economy started a gradual slide due to economic mismanagement, following a high in growth in 1979. The start of civil conflict in 1989 hastened this fall; GDP fell by an estimated 90% between 1989 and 1995, making it one of the fastest decreases in history. GDP growth started to increase after the conflict ended in 2003, hitting 9.4% in 2007. The global financial crisis reduced GDP growth to 4.6 percent in 2009, but a resurgent agriculture sector, driven by rubber and wood exports, boosted growth to 5.1 percent in 2010 and 7.3 percent in 2011, making the economy one of the world’s fastest growing.
A limited domestic market, a lack of sufficient infrastructure, high transportation costs, weak trade connections with neighboring nations, and the economy’s high dollarization are all now obstacles to development. Liberia used the US dollar as its currency from 1943 to 1982, and the US dollar is being used alongside the Liberian dollar today.
Inflation began to decline in 2003, but again surged in 2008 as a consequence of global food and energy problems, hitting 17.5 percent before falling to 7.4 percent in 2009. Liberia’s foreign debt was projected to be about $4.5 billion in 2006, or 800 percent of GDP. Between 2007 and 2010, the country’s foreign debt was reduced to $222.9 million as a consequence of bilateral, multilateral, and commercial debt reduction.
While official commodities exports fell in the 1990s as many investors left the civil war, Liberia’s wartime economy was based on the region’s diamond riches. In 1999, the nation was a significant dealer in Sierra Leonean blood diamonds, shipping more than $300 million worth of diamonds. Following Liberia’s admission to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2007, the UN imposed an embargo on Liberian diamond exports in 2001, which was removed in 2007.
Additional UN sanctions were imposed in 2003 on Liberian wood exports, which had increased from US$5 million in 1997 to over US$100 million in 2002 and were suspected of supporting Sierra Leone insurgents. In 2006, the sanctions were removed. Liberia has a huge account deficit, which peaked at almost 60% in 2008, thanks in large part to international assistance and investment inflows after the conclusion of the conflict. Liberia joined the World Trade Organization as an observer in 2010 and is now working to become a full member.
With US$16 billion in foreign direct investment since 2006, Liberia has the highest ratio of foreign direct investment to GDP in the world. Following the beginning of the Sirleaf government in 2006, Liberia negotiated multibillion-dollar concession deals with a number of international companies, including BHP Billiton, ArcelorMittal, and Sime Darby, in the iron ore and palm oil sectors. Palm oil businesses, particularly Sime Darby in Malaysia and Golden Veroleum in the United States, have been accused by opponents of destroying livelihoods and displacing local people via government concessions. Since 1926, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company has owned and managed Liberia’s biggest rubber plantation.