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Records of people in Liberia go back to the 12th century when Mende people moved west from Sudan forcing smaller groups to the coast, especially as the Mali Empire collapsed. Tribes traded along the coast and slave-trading Arabs also arrived. From 1461 Europeans developed trading posts, naming it the Pepper Coast, and then the Grain Coast.
In 1822 the American Colonization Society began sending thousands of freed black Americans to settlements in Liberia. The new arrivals believed in western politics, subjugating the indigenous tribes. Never colonised by Europeans, they declared independence in 1847 as Africa's first republic.
However, lack of investment and loss of territory to neighbours caused the economy to struggle. In World War 2 Liberia supported the USA who invested in infrastructure and the country grew strongly until a military coup in 1980 by the Krahn tribe. Two civil wars then devastated the economy. Recovery only began after a peace agreement in 2003. The country remains poor and was hit by the Ebola epidemic from 2013 to 2015.
Liberia comprises flat to rolling coastal plains that contain mangroves and swamps, which rise to a rolling plateau and low mountains in the northeast. Rainforests cover the hills, while grassy savannah and deciduous forests cover the north.
The highest point (entirely within Liberia) is Mount Wuteve at 1,440m in the northwestern Liberia range of the West Africa Mountains and the Guinea Highlands.
Only eight wells had been drilled offshore Liberia prior to 2011, all in shallow waters. The commencement of deep water drilling in 2011 was driven by the identification of a new Cretaceous fan play along the West African transform margin. Turonian sands, similar to the oil-bearing reservoirs in Ghana and Sierra Leone, are expected but no commercial fields have yet been discovered.
The undoubted geological potential of the deep water acreage off Liberia leads Globalshift to forecast future oil, followed by gas production and rapid growth. However, better details will be available once the exploration campaigns in the area are more advanced which were delayed by the Ebola outbreak. Output is not expected to begin until well into the 2020s.
Population: 4 million
West African coastline
Land area (sq kms)
Oil prod (000s b/d)
Gas prod (bcm/yr)
Oil cons (000s b/d)
Gas cons (bcm/yr)
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LIBERIA - Map and National Flag
The government of Liberia is modelled on the government of the USA. It is a unitary constitutional republic and representative democracy. The president is head of government, head of state and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, elected to a 6-year term. The Legislature is bicameral composed of the 30-member Senate serving 9-year terms and the 73-member House of Representatives.
The oil and gas industry is overseen by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry through the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) established in 2000 for the purpose of holding all of the rights of Liberia in potential and proven reserves of oil and gas.