Liberia: Country and Foreign Investment
There are no discriminatory laws against foreign persons or entities desirous of doing business in Liberia. Foreign corporations and foreign maritime entities can operate in Liberia directly upon authorization by the Minister of Foreign Affairs or indirectly through local agents, who may be individuals, partnerships, or corporate entities. Foreign citizens resident in Liberia, subject to compliance with the Immigration and Labour Laws of Liberia, are also permitted to establish businesses in Liberia consistent with the provisions of the Business Corporation Act (BCA) and the rules and regulations promulgated by the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry.
Liberia is also a maritime and corporate haven. Many corporations are registered under Liberian Law as non-resident domestic corporations (offshore companies). Since they are not permitted to do business in Liberia, Liberian offshore companies are not subject to Liberian tax. They are not regulated by the Ministry of Commerce or any similar regulatory agency nor are they subject to any enactment intended to regulate the conduct of business in Liberia. As a maritime haven, over 3,900 vessels of more than 131 million gross tons are registered under the Liberian flag, making it the second largest in the world.
In addition to complying with the requirements of the BCA, all business entities authorized to do business in Liberia, must register the business with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, and obtain a business license as a condition precedent to commencement of operations. The Ministry may also conduct an on-site inspection of the business premises.
These formalities apart, Liberia has a very liberal business climate intended to attract foreign investment and spur economic growth and development in the country. Through a liberal Investment Incentive Code, Liberia offers several physical benefits, including exemption from custom duties, income tax, stamp fees and other benefits, to new and expanding business enterprises for approved investments projects in areas such as manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining. Other potential areas for investment incentives include building and construction and transport and communication. Approved investment projects may also be eligible for support in securing loans and guaranteeing credit by the Central Bank
There are no statutory foreign exchange controls in Liberia, and funds may generally be freely remitted into and out of the country. The Prevention of Money Laundering Law of 2002 gives effect to international requirements in respect of due diligence, record keeping, report of suspicious conduct, the offence of laundering the proceeds of criminal conduct and international cooperation in identifying, freezing and confiscating the proceeds of criminal conduct in another jurisdiction.
The Electronic Transactions Law of 2002 regulates trade conducted electronically; currently there are no explicit data protection laws in force in Liberia, but drafts are in circulation for early implementation. A firm that locates a server in the country is in danger of creating a permanent establishment in tax terms; additionally many Internet activities if conducted by a Liberian corporation, would require a business licence, only available to a resident entity.
Given the damage and destruction occasioned by the civil war, electricity and communication services are liable to interruption, sometimes for significant periods of time. The official Liberia Telecommunications Corporation was offered for sale in July, 2006, but the winning bid by United Telephone Exchange (UTE), was contested by Infotel Italia.
In August, 2006, the Liberian Senate confirmed the Chairman and Board of Commissioners of the newly established Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA). The body oversees the scope and operations of the country's telecommunications industry.
In February 2008, LTC signed two Memoranda of Understanding with Alink, an Ivorian telecommunications company, and ZTE Corporation, a Chinese manufacturer of CDMA telecommunication equipment. The first MoU turned over the telecommunication equipment to LTC, while the other gave full ownership and control of the entire network systems.
The Freeport of Monrovia, together with the port of Buchanan, are amongst the most modern ports on the west coast of Africa; they are regular ports of call for major steamship lines operating between Europe, the US and the Far East. There are direct scheduled flights from both Europe and the US to Roberts International Airport on the outskirts of Monrovia. Airmail services are good and the international courier services are well established.