17.1 Liberia is an independent democratic republic situated on the coast of west Africa between Sierra Leone and the Côte d’Ivoire, with a population of approximately 4.7 million. It was founded in 1822 as a colony for freed American slaves and subsequently gained its independence in 1847. It was the first democratic republic on the African continent. The Republic’s historical origins explain the country’s close links with the USA. Seven years of civil war ended in 1995, followed by a further period of instability and another civil war followed. In 2003, following an internationally recognised peace agreement, a National Transitional Government took control of the running of the country with the support of a UN International Stabilisation Force. In 2006 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa’s first elected female head of State and was re-elected in 2011. In 2018, George Weah took office following democratic elections. The President, who is elected for a six-year term, is chief of State and head of government. The legislative branch of government consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives, members of which are elected by popular vote. Following an Ebola epidemic, originated in Guinea, which began in March 2014 and ended in May 2015, Liberia continues to receive significant levels of international aid and material inward investment from, among others, the USA, the EU and China. Such inward investment includes several multi-billion dollar concession agreements in the iron ore and palm oil industries with numerous multinational corporations. The Liberian dollar (L$) and the US dollar are the two legal currencies. English is the official language.