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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs