As Liberia’s newly elected president, George Weah, promises economic development and job creation, Special Economic Zone (SEZ) legislation may play a critical role in the country’s future. SEZ policies allow countries to designate industries and/or physical areas in which business and trade laws differ from the rest of the country in order to stimulate increased trade, increased investment, job creation and effective administration. The overall objective is to create a world class business environment that is predictable, productive, and profitable.
Since 2013, SPARK has actively engaged with the Liberian government, civil society organisations and entrepreneurs to develop and support the creation of a SEZ in the nation’s capital, Monrovia. Over the course of a two year programme, supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SPARK and local partners lobbied for SEZ legislation. We worked with developers and investors to design the first SEZ based on social enterprise principals. The plans focus on developing the country’s competitive advantages in agriculture and trans-shipment, while maximizing the inclusion of small-holder producers in large value-chains. The implementation of these plans has the potential to generate thousands of jobs while developing Liberia’s agriculture sector, and strengthening the country’s exports and national economy.
In October last year, the Liberian Special Economic Zones Act, co-authored by SPARK Programme Manager, Christian Steinbarth, was finally passed into law. Coupled with renewed interest in changing citizenship and land rights legislation, policies in Liberia could be more competitive than ever for investors, both foreign and domestic.