Emmanuel Tuloe, who has become a national hero in Liberia after finding $50,000 and returning it to its rightful owner, speaks on his phone in Gbolor Dialla, Liberia. Image Credit: AP

Monrovia: A Liberian teen who found $50,000 but returned the money to its owner has been named an "integrity ambassador" in the West African nation and rewarded with a monthly salary.

Emmanuel Tuloe, who drives a motorcycle for a living, has won plaudits and extensive media coverage for his principled act in Liberia, where nearly half of the population lives in extreme poverty.

On Friday, he told AFP that he stumbled across a plastic bag stuffed with cash totalling some $50,000 while he was riding his motorbike in the northeast of the country on October 10.

To the shock of his friends, the nineteen-year-old returned the money after hearing a plea on the radio from the businesswoman who had lost it.

"My friends were telling me that I am very stupid, and I will never get rich in my life," Tuloe said.

"My parents did not teach me how to steal so I decided to carry the money back," he added. "It was not for me".

The story has been widely reported in Liberia, an impoverished nation of 5 million people that is still recovering after back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003 and West Africa's 2014-16 Ebola crisis. The country also suffers from high inflation and regular cash shortages.

According to the World Bank, 44 percent of Liberia's population lives on less than $1.9 a day.

President and former football star George Weah invited Tuloe for an audience this week, offering him a $10,000 reward for his honesty.

Weah, 55, also offered the teenager a scholarship until masters' level, and named him a so-called "integrity ambassador", with a salary of $500 a month.

"I don't think I will be poor as my friends predicted," Tuloe told AFP, explaining that his dream is to become a doctor or a nurse.

"I encourage all my friends not to take what does not belong to them," he said.