Liberia, or Republic of Liberia, a republic on the west coast of Africa. Liberia's name, from the Latin word for “free,” reflects the country's origin as a haven for freed slaves from the United States. After Ethiopia, Liberia is Africa's oldest independent country. It is bounded on the north by Guinea, on the east by Côte d'Ivoire, on the southwest by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the northwest by Sierra Leone. Liberia's coastline measures about 350 miles (560 km). Its area is 43,000 square miles (111,369 km2), about that of Virginia.
Except for a narrow, marshy lowland along the coast, Liberia is largely a hilly plateau. The highest part lies along the Guinea border, where the Nimba Range exceeds 5,700 feet (1,740 m). Rivers are relatively short and swift and virtually unnavigable. There are no good natural harbors. Temperatures are high and fairly even all year, averaging about 80° F. (27° C.). The annual precipitation varies from 150 to 200 inches (3,810 to 5,080 mm) along the coast to less than 90 inches (2,280 mm) in some inland areas. Most of the rain falls from April to November.
|Facts in brief about Liberia|
|Official language: English.|
|Area: 43,000 mi2. (111,369 km2). Greatest distances—east-west, 230 mi. (370 km); north-south, 210 mi. (338 km). Coastline—315 mi. (507 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Nimba Mountains, 4,528 ft. (1,380 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level along the coast.|
|Population: Current estimate—3,556,000; density, 83 persons per mi2 (32 per km2); distribution, 52 percent rural, 48 percent urban.|
|Chief products: Agriculture--rubber, cassava, rice, coffee, bananas, cacao. Forestry--mahogany. Mining—iron ore.|
|National anthem: "All Hail Liberia, Hail."|
|Flag: Liberia's flag, adopted in 1847, has six red and five white horizontal stripes that represent the 11 signers of the Liberian Declaration of Independence. A white star appears on a dark blue canton in the upper-left corner.|
|Money: Basic unit—Liberian dollar. One hundred cents equal one dollar.|
Most of Liberia's people live by subsistence farming. Staple food crops are rice, cassava, bananas, sugar cane, and tropical fruits. Sheep, goats, and pigs are the most numerous farm animals. The main cash crop is rubber. Other important cash crops include coffee and cacao.
Iron ore, mined in the Nimba Mountains, usually accounts for the largest share of Liberia's exports. Other minerals produced include gold and diamonds.
Liberia's forests contain valuable trees such as mahogany, African walnut, and ironwood. Lumber is an increasingly valuable product of Liberia.
The chief manufacturing activities are the processing of minerals, timber, and farm products. The manufacture of light consumer goods, including beverages, shoes, and soap, is also important.
In registered tonnage, Liberia has one of the world's largest merchant fleets. This is mainly due to the large number of foreign shipping companies that register their ships in Liberia because registration fees are nominal and the country imposes virtually no regulations concerning shipping. Railways link most mining areas to ports. Most of Liberia's roads are unpaved. Monrovia is the chief port. Roberts International Airport, near Monrovia, is the major airport.
Liberia's basic currency unit is the Liberian dollar.
Most Liberians are descended from indigenous peoples, peoples who lived in the area before Liberia became a country. The government divides these peoples into 16 ethnic groups, which are officially called “tribes.” About 3 per cent of the people are descendants of freed slaves and are sometimes called Americo-Liberians. The only large city is Monrovia, the capital.
English is the official language. It and various pidgin tongues based on English are spoken by 30 per cent of the population; most of the people speak African languages. Most Liberians are animists. There are also some Christians and some Muslims.
Schooling is nominally compulsory for children up to the age of 16. But only a few-receive modern instruction provided by government, mission, and private schools. About 40 per cent of the people are literate. The national university, established in 1951, is in Monrovia.
Under Liberia's Constitution, a president heads the government, and the legislature consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The president appoints the Cabinet to carry out government functions.