As the United States prepares to inaugurate its 45th president, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a visiting Liberian delegation that while new faces will be popping up throughout the government in the coming days, Washington's commitment to stand together with Liberia will remain as firm as it has been for over 170 years.
Speaking at a ceremony where a joint statement was signed on the U.S.-Liberia partnership dialogue Thomas-Greenfield vowed the U.S. will continue helping the West African nation.
“Our joint statement affirms our commitment to work together to address the challenges that Liberia currently faces and acknowledges the importance of these issues for Liberia’s overall economic development,” she said Tuesday at the State Department.
Liberia is still recovering from two brutal civil wars which ended in 2003 and an Ebola outbreak that killed about 4,800 people between 2014 and 2016.
3rd round of US-Liberian dialogue
This is the third U.S.-Liberia partnership dialogue, including joint talks on how to expand agricultural production and trade, enhance the West African country’s investment climate and infrastructure and strengthen its post-Ebola recovery and healthcare efforts. The challenge for Liberia, Thomas-Greenfield says, is to make as much progress as it can in the time it has.
“Your challenge is to send a clear message to the rest of the world that Liberia’s prioritization of embracing reform and focusing on infrastructure development means that Liberia will be ready for business,” she noted.
The partnership dialogue was divided into group sessions focused on how the U.S. can help Liberia diversify its economy away from commodity-driven exports and support private-sector growth through expanded financial services and credit facilities, according to Liberian Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara.
“In response to a request from our minister of finance and development planning for support in attracting private equity to Liberia, particularly in structuring sovereign bond guarantees, the U.S. offered to provide such support," she said. "This will go a long way to enhance Liberia's capacity to finance critical infrastructure deficit, especially in energy and roads."
Cooperation boosts agrobusiness
Kamara said there were fruitful discussions on expanding farm production and developing Liberia’s agro-business sector.
“Through building the agrobusiness value chain, enhancing regional trade and exports and implementing land reform," the foreign minister said, "there‘s no doubt the third dialogue will enhance the progress of the previous dialogue deliberations in this sector, add value to agriculture production and trade as well as enhance food security in Liberia."
As the West African country gears up for presidential elections in October, a recent survey of more than 1,500 people by the aid agency Catholic Relief Services (CRS) says that half of all Liberians think their country could plunge back into conflict more than a decade after the civil war ended.
Worries about corruption, unemployment
Liberians told CRS they see three main factors that could incite violence: systemic corruption in the public sector, tiffs over land ownership and high rates of youth unemployment.
Kamara voiced that she hopes the discussions this week and subsequent follow-up actions will help meet key objectives.
For her part, Thomas-Greenfield said there is strong bipartisan U.S. support for Liberia, whether the U.S. is ruled by a Democratic or Republican administration, because “Liberia has been a strong partner of the U.S. on issues of concern before the United Nations and regional bodies, and has been a stalwart partner in working together to fight transnational crime, promote democracy and protect citizens in both our countries."