Sime Darby deal to create 20,000 jobs -Liberia

Reuters | Tuesday May 5 2009
  • Liberian investment chief confirms $800 million deal
  • Sime Darby to build downstream facilities in Liberia
By Alphonso Toweh

MONROVIA, May 5 (Reuters) -- Liberia's $800 million palm and rubber deal with Malaysian firm Sime Darby will create 20,000 much needed jobs in the West African country rebuilding after civil war, Liberia's investment chief said late on Monday.

Sime, Malaysia's biggest company, said on Monday it had struck a deal to develop oil palm and rubber estates in Liberia as global demand surges, and sufficient land in Asia is increasingly difficult to acquire.

"This agreement ... will create 20,000 jobs within 10 years," National Investment Commission Chairman Richard Tolbert told Reuters, confirming the total investment for the 63-year concession would be $800 million.

Since winning post-war polls in 2005 as Africa's first elected female head of state, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has made attracting foreign investment a key policy as she attempts to rebuild the country after a 1989-2003 civil war.

Vowing zero tolerance for corruption, her government is trying to capitalise on Liberia's iron ore reserves as well as rubber.

"In the midst of the global financial crisis Liberia continues to attract huge investment," Tolbert said.

"This is due to the attractive business environment, good security and political stability."

ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker, is developing a $1.5 billion iron project in Liberia.

That deal was eclipsed in January when China Union said it would spend $2.6 billion over the next eight to 10 years on another iron ore project, even as other mining firms scale back on investment as demand for metals falls amid the global downturn.

As well as buying the plantations on which to grow crops, Sime will build downstream processing facilities such as a rubber factory and a palm oil refinery, Tolbert said.

Sime Darby is not the first company to strike a deal with an African country to secure food supplies. (Editing by Daniel Magnowski and James Jukwey)

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