Mamba Point Hotel Lobby
Any Liberian journalist who's looking for good stories should loiter in the lobby of the Mamba Point Hotel. At breakfast on Sunday, I sat next to a Canadian guy calling himself a diamonds privateer, who explained to his tablemate the process of getting a diamond concession from the government. It's impossible right now, because of the sanctions, but this guy was grandfathered in, I guess.
Then I overheard a loudmouth American woman explaining recent Liberian history thusly: "Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf only let Charles Taylor go to the international court because the US put the screws on her." Whatever that means.
Then the waiter made me move tables, and I sat next to two US businessmen talking about leveraging millions of dollars in capital from OPIC, the US government agency that's tasked with facilitating US business investment abroad.* One guy was talking about sub-leasing a building to create 3 luxury business suites downtown, investing US$200k. The other guy said that OPIC is "having heart attacks over what they're going to do here. They're leaping without really thinking. They need to have some deals, so they put together this big microfinance [package]. I certainly wouldn't [invest in microfinance in Liberia] right now, but hey, it makes [OPIC's governor] look good."
*Actually, there are two such agencies, the other one being EXIM. They belong to a class of organizations called export credit agencies (ECAs), which exist in most developed nations. This DC group is dedicated to keeping an eye on the behavior of ECAs around the world.