Overview

There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia's indigenous population. The Kpelle in central and western Liberia is the largest ethnic group. Americo-Liberians who are descendants of freed slaves that arrived in Liberia early in 1821 make up an estimated 5% of the population.

There also are sizable numbers of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who make up a significant part of Liberia's business community. Because of the 1989-1996 civil war and its accompanying problem of insecurity, the number of Westerners in Liberia is low and confined largely to Monrovia and its immediate surroundings. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship only to people of Negro descent.

Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality and academic institutions, iron mining and rubber industry booms, and cultural skills and arts and craft works. But political upheavals beginning in the 1980s and the brutal 7-year civil war (1989-1996) brought about a steep decline in the living standards of the country, including its education and infrastructure.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Liberian(s).
Population (2001 est.): 3.3 million.
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): 2.7%.
Ethnic groups: Kpelle 20%, Bassa 16%, Gio 8%, Kru 7%, 49% spread over 12 other ethnic groups.
Religions: Christian 30%, Muslim 10%, animist 60%.
Languages: English is the official language. There are 16 indigenous languages.
Education: Literacy--15%.
Health: Life expectancy--47 years.
Work force: Agriculture--70%; industry--15%; services--2%.
Unemployment: 70% in the formal sector.