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April 30, 2017

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Liberians doing business in country where nothing works

MONROVIA--Plagued by power shortages, an erratic water supply and spiraling inflation, many entrepreneurs in Liberia's capital are finding their efforts to prosper in their newfound peace impossible.

The poor but mineral-rich West African state is seeing rapid economic growth led by huge foreign investment in mining but Monrovia's shops, restaurants and bars are struggling to cash in on the boom.

"It's a difficult situation to keep a business afloat here. At times you make money and other times ... you just have to keep the business going," said Kona Lovely McBorrouah, 38, who has been running the Ngomah Technology cybercafe for five years.

Liberia's annual per capita gross domestic product of about US$700 is the seventh-lowest of 229 countries ranked by the CIA World Factbook, one place ahead of the Central African Republic.

The economy is expected to expand six percent this year after an estimated 8.7 percent growth in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund.

But a decade after ruinous back-to-back civil wars that killed 250,000 people over 14 years, the country still doesn't have functioning sewers, drinking water or a land-line phone system.

Garbage collection is non-existent and electricity is scarce, with the state-run Liberia Electricity Corporation supplying just 19,000 paying customers.

McBorrouah, who, like most of Liberia's four million people, is not connected to the national grid, runs a generator from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has to make long trips to a communal water tank.

"It's not an easy thing to run a business six days a week on a generator. It's very challenging especially at this time of the year where there is huge inflation. The price of diesel fuel has increased on the market."

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