Coca-Cola has launched a new $5.7m PET bottling line in Liberia which was formally commissioned by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has challenged Liberians to create the enabling environment for businesses investing in this country to feel safe, expand and grow.
"It will not work if people are going to destroy businesses; it's not going to work with placards all over the place; it's not going to work unless businesses know and have confidence in our policies, laws and in the way that we do things," she cautioned.
Sirleaf also commissioned a new science and technology school and officially launched the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation's five new Water Health Centers that will provide safe water access to over 61,000 Liberians at the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Duport Road, respectively, on Monday, October 26, 2015.
President Sirleaf described the new economic and social investment initiatives as the first vote of confidence in Liberia after the deadly Ebola virus disease.
"Today let me say to all Liberians, this is the time for commitment," the Liberian leader appealed; noting that the country's economy is going through some difficult times given that our main exports - rubber and iron ore - are now facing depressed global crisis.
She noted that with the decline, Liberia must find other initiatives to be able to promote businesses to create those exports and the means whereby the gaps that now exists because of global crisis can be filled by expansion into other areas.
President Sirleaf indicated that though the environment has to be created by government policies and practices, it also has to be created by every Liberian who wants to see jobs, see business expand and wants to see where we, like neighboring countries can export to other places. "The challenge is to every Liberian to make sure that what they do, how they act, how they support, how they join in creating this environment will enable us to achieve our development objectives," she said.
She noted that though there have been periods of interruption and contraction in Liberia over time, the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company, like Firestone-Liberia, has remained with Liberia despite these difficulties.
She further urged the Coca-Cola Company to bring in a juice manufacturing plant that will have juices made in Liberia for domestic consumption and possible export to other countries. "All these years for Liberia not to have a juice producing plant is totally unacceptable," she said, adding that now is the time to create that plant for the production of juices for us too.
She thanked all those who made it possible to see the dream of Coca-Cola Company become a reality.
For his part, the Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer of Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Alex Cummings said, "Liberia may have been fractured by the tragedy of Ebola over the last year but its spirit of optimism, ambition and progress will never be broken."
He pointed out that Coca-Cola has been ever-present in Liberia for over 65 years and their commitment to investing in economic and social initiatives remains as strong as ever as they increase their contribution to supporting sustainable growth of both their business and the communities they serve.
The Coca-Cola Bottling Company's first PET bottling line begins production at its Monrovia facility immediately. The new capabilities will expand Coca-Cola's beverages to include more convenient plastic bottles for Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, and water. It will also serve as a regional export hub for Sierra Leone and Guinea. An estimated 7,500 direct and indirect employment opportunities will be created over the next five years across Coca-Cola's locally sourced supply-chain of distributors, retailers and material suppliers.
As part of Coca-Cola Africa Foundation's Safe Water for Africa program, it launched five new Water Health Centers in Liberia. A total of seven new Centers will be inaugurated by the end of the year (2015), providing safe, clean water access and sanitation to a total of 61,000 persons.
In a related development, President Sirleaf dedicated the newly constructed the Model Science and Technology School situated on Duport Road.
Speaking at the dedication, the Liberia President stressed that fundamental to any growth in business or any aspect of our society are education and skills. "If you lack that, you cannot grow the capacity to be able to manage the business, to be able to create the high level jobs for Liberians."
She hoped that with the dedication of this model institution, it can be an example that one can still be a motorbike taxi driver or hold a job and still go to school because if you do that it will sustain you for life. "These facilities are meant to provide an opportunity to many who will learn here and set the example as they go out," she said, "You are the hope of the family."
President Sirleaf challenged the Coca-Cola Bottling Company to sit with the Ministry of Education just to see how this model school can be replicated in other parts of the country.
The Chairman of Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Alfonso Libano, who also made remarks said, "Liberia's progress over the past decade has been driven by growing employment opportunities and widening access to basic community needs," he said, adding further that by creating new direct employment opportunities within our bottling plant, and providing access to advance education facilities and safe water, they hope to help transform the opportunities available for current and future generations while providing more beverage choice than before to Liberian consumers.
Education Minister George Werner stressed that education is a public good of which the state is the duty bearer and since President Sirleaf began her service to the country, this government has worked hard to address several issues in education not least of which are the following five: access, equity, quality, safety and learning outcome.
Minister Werner indicated that though there have been much progress, there are challenges which the government alone cannot solve. The necessity for partnerships with government is paramount.
He thanked everyone who, one way or the other, contributed to the success of this initiative.
The Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer of Coca-Cola Company Alex Cummings said that this effort signifies the "golden triangle"- government, civil society, and business working together to solve society's problems. He said as a system, they are committed to being a part of every community where they live and work; Liberia is no exception.
Mr. Cummings said they are proud of the school because he believes the school will not only teach skills of science and technology and math; but also teach the self-skills of values of integrity and honesty. "This school will focus on educating the best and brightest Liberians and we make no apologies for that," he said, promising that whoever has the intellect and ability will be able to attend this school; warning though that it will be based on merit.
He committed to working with the Ministry of Education so that five-ten years from now this school will look like it does today. He promised to also work with the community to make sure that that is the case.
The new Model Science and Technology School will provide state-of-the-art technical facilities for an intake of over 300 students. The school built with partner support from the Ministry of Education, Paynesville City Corporation and Chevron Liberia Limited will further expand to include 12 classrooms as well as a science and computer laboratory, library and other academic facilities.