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In pictures: Foreign investment spawns new business in Sierra Leone and Liberia

Instead of just digging wells or providing medicine, foreign donors are increasingly trying to encourage African business and markets.

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Peter Fayiah, 12, at right, sews together fabric at his family's textiles shop in Buchanan, Liberia. His sisters Maritha, and Mercy, as well as his grandfather are on his left. The family moved to Buchanan from a smaller community in northern Liberia.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Africa Felix Juice is a pioneering enterprise on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Its product may seem mundane – barrels of mango and pineapple juice concentrate – but it represents a crucial breakthrough: The company is the first manufacturer to export from Sierra Leone since the end of its long civil war in 2002.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Africa Felix Juice also reveals a new strategy for aid in Africa. Instead of just digging wells or providing medicine, foreign donors are increasingly trying to encourage African business and markets. “We’re defying the stereotype that Africa is hopeless in manufacturing,” said Claudio Scotto, an energetic Italian businessman who became the head of Africa Felix when it was founded last year.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Production manager, Mahmoud Sesay, works at the lone desk inside the African Felix Juice factory in the First Step EOZ (Economic Opportunity Zone) in Newton on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Despite the frustrations of doing business in the region, Africa Felix has found customers in Germany and the Netherlands, allowing it to employ more than 80 local workers at peak season.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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In neighbouring Liberia, another war-torn West African nation, Canadian philanthropists John McCall MacBain and his wife, Marcy, have invested more than $100-million in an innovative experiment in social entrepreneurship: a renewable-energy company that helps both farmers and workers. Buchanan Renewables BV, clears away old, unproductive rubber trees from plantations, and turns them into wood chips that are exported as biomass to Europe. Electricity companies reduce their coal consumption and carbon emissions by burning the product.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Buchanan Renewables employs about 750 Liberians in the port city of Buchanan, but it also helps rubber farmers to plant new trees, boosting their productivity. The company has rejuvenated more than 2,000 hectares of rubber farms so far, while producing up to 500,000 tonnes of wood chips annually.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Stacks of rubber trees wait to be put through the wood chipper at the Buchanan Renewables operation in Buchanan, Liberia. These wood chips are exported, but there is a promise from the company to build an electric generating station in the area.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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An old shipwreck sits near the Arcelormittal iron ore dock in Buchanan, Liberia. The roads around Buchanan are filled with trucks carrying trees to the grinder. The wood chips are shipped to Europe from the nearby port, which was heavily damaged in the civil war and later revived with the help of a $9-million contribution from Buchanan Renewables to dredge it and remove the wrecked ships. The port is also the terminus of a railway from the country’s biggest iron-ore mine, run by ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel maker. Huge companies such as Chevron Corp. and the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht are active here, yet most people around the city remain poor.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Stacks of rubber trees wait to be put through the wood chipper at the Buchanan Renewables operation in Buchanan, Liberia.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Wires dangle from a wrecked hydro pole in Buchanan. Despite a power generating plant being part of the deal struck by Buchanan Renewables, the town still has no wiring, and no power.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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