News / Africa

Liberia Pledges to Upgrade International Airport

President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf makes a point during an interview with Reuters in Washington, May 17, 2013. ( file photo)
President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf makes a point during an interview with Reuters in Washington, May 17, 2013. ( file photo)
Anne Look
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the country needs to upgrade its international airport to meet international standards.  Liberia's aviation chief has warned that the airport could lose flights due to the poor state of its runway and its inadequately trained staff.

Johnson Sirleaf answered questions on state radio Tuesday about what she said is the deplorable condition of Roberts International Airport in the capital, Monrovia, which has not had any major upgrades since 1970.

"The runway needs some serious work and we recognize that," she admitted. "We are making arrangements to start that work right after the rainy season…. I will do it as long as I am clear that the national interest is protected and that we have complied with our laws and regulations."

Aviation authorities say the runway is in particularly bad shape.  The asphalt has deteriorated, leading to dangerous cracks and potholes.

A U.S. aviation expert told VOA that this type of runway deterioration can affect a plane's ability to stop and lead to chunks of debris flying up into a plane's engine, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

President Sirleaf also said the airport workers are not properly trained.  She said Air France has requested higher training standards after several incidents, including an employee hitting a plane with a vehicle, which the president said caused half a million dollars in damage.

"All of them went there just to get a job.  Nobody put them through any training, and that is a highly technical facility," she said.

Liberian travelers, like businessman Morrison Bryant, say they are disappointed.

"The government needs to do something.  Our airport does not compare to other airports.  It is very terrible.  Something needs to be done.  The runway is bad.  When we collect our bags, it is very hot.  I am not impressed at all," he said.

Other travelers, like Peter Samuels, said check-in and security procedures are time-consuming and disorganized.

"This is an embarrassment. The airport needs serious help.  I think there is a need that a system be put in place.  There is no system at all," he said.

The airport was damaged during more than a decade of civil war that ended in 2003.

An airport employee, who asked not to give his name because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said Liberia has had other priorities since then.

"All is not lost.  This country is just from a war.  We needed to put resources in other areas.  I think the government will do something about the airport.  All hope is not lost," he said.

Major international carriers, like Brussels Airlines and British Airways, operate direct flights between Monrovia and Europe.  Delta Airlines operates a flight to and from New York that connects through Accra.  Several intra-African carriers also use the airport.

Chris Goater, Africa spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 world airlines, says infrastructure is a key challenge for airlines flying on the continent.

"That's everything from obviously the airport and the runway to things like how the fuel is developed and delivered to the source and all kinds of issues like that.  Taking fuel, that's 20 percent more expensive in Africa on average than it is in the rest of the world," he said.

He said taxes and surcharges, as well as the risk of ground damage to aircraft, are also concerns for carriers operating on the continent.

Liberia's President Sirleaf said her government is currently reviewing several proposals from international firms to upgrade the Roberts airport.

The president's office says it has drafted a $326-million, 25-year plan to improve and maintain the facilities.

Prince Collins contributed to this report from Monrovia.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs