The French Government has placed Liberia on its shortlist of Bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA), pledging an initial grant of €10 million Euros for immediate road maintenance here, while modalities are worked out for a more comprehensive and sustainable development assistance package for the country.
A dispatch from the French Capital Paris, dated 22 February says President George Manneh Weah’s visit to France has yielded remarkable dividends for his young administration.
The Executive Mansion in Monrovia says in further support to the Weah-led administration, French President Emmanuel Macron will also travel to the European Union (EU) within two weeks along with a Technical Team from Liberia to rally support for the construction of roads.
Additionally, the French Government will also introduce its new Economic Empowerment Program dubbed: “Agriculture through Sports,” which Liberia stands to benefit from.
The dispatch indicates that this will be done through the construction of sporting facilities and the provision of sporting materials and other logistical support.
Mr. Macron has determined that sports is one of the best ways to promote development in Africa and has therefore embarked on a sports development program.
In his first presidential visit to France to seek support for his government, the Executive Mansion says President Weah received a red carpet welcome from his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron on on Wednesday, 21 January.
Mr. Weah was received at the Palace Elysee to a rousing welcome by the French Head of State and officials of the French Government.
During a Press Stakeout upon his arrival, President Weah expressed gratitude to France, noting that he was proud to be back in a country where his journey to stardom started.
He enumerated his experience as a migrant, who went to France about 29 years ago in search of better opportunity. President Weah attributed his success story to his longtime coach and mentor, Arsène Wenger of Arsenal and the great people of France.
The former soccer legend turned - politician says he owes a debt of gratitude to France for giving him the opportunity to triumph, reminding French people that he is indeed a product of France.
He also informed his French counterpart, President Macron that he was in France this time as President of the Republic of Liberia to seek the same opportunity and chances that France gave him to succeed for the people of Liberia.
Mr. Weah recalled the enormous tasks he has been entrusted with since his inauguration as the 24th President of Africa’s oldest independent nation to lead the Liberian people from poverty to peace and prosperity.
However, he was quick to remind his French counterpart that peace without prosperity is an “unfinished agenda,” acknowledging that this will be the greatest challenge of his administration.
Mr. Weah notes that Liberia’s economy is in ‘stagnation’ and still bleeds from the recovery of the devastating Ebola outbreak that took place four years ago.
Informing his Mr. Macron of the deplorable state of the Liberian economy, Mr. Weah underscored that while Liberia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, it is endowed with abundance of natural resources.
According to him, though Liberia is blessed with a plethora of natural resources, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world largely due to decades of mismanagement by past leaders.
He intimated that the poor state of the country is due in part to the failure of previous leaders to exploit the natural resources for the empowerment of all Liberians, instead of benefiting a select few.
“This phenomenon of rich-land poor country scenario is at the result of mismanagement of the country’s natural resources,” President Weah argues, adding that it was due to mismanagement of the natural resources and the marginalization of the majority of Liberians that his government has placed “Pro-Poor Policy” at the center of development.
He repeated that he inherited a broke government plagued with unemployment, which is at an unprecedented high, inflation on the rise, the Liberian currency in a free fall state, and foreign reserve at an all time low.
President Weah says expectations remain high, and he is concerned that his government may not be able to deliver on the promise of change for the betterment of the Liberian people without urgent and significant assistance from friendly governments such as France.
President Weah then made a passionate appeal to his French counterpart to assist his administration in any way to help jumpstart the Liberian economy. He named the construction of roads, agriculture, education, healthcare and the high unemployment of Liberian youths as key priorities of his leadership.
He concluded by expressing profound gratitude to his counterpart and the great people of France for the warm reception accorded him and his delegation and stressed the need to further strengthen the longstanding and great relationship between Liberia and France.
A luncheon was held in honor of Mr. Weah and his delegation upon arrival, which was followed by bilateral talks between the two leaders and a press stakeout.
In another development, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who was invited by the French leader to the launch of his Development through Sports Program, was among a host of sports officials representing various institutions including the National Basketball Association.
The FIFA boss informed President Weah that FIFA has allocated half a billion United States Dollars towards the development of sports in Africa. He assured President Weah that Liberia will be among the countries in Africa that will benefit from the pilot project.
While on his official State visit to France, President Weah also met with the Vice President of the World Bank, Makhtar Diop. The meeting concluded that an additional budget support of US$20 million will be provided in June of 2018.
This is in addition to the US$24.7 million grant earlier given to Liberia by the World Bank. President Weah also secured additional financing of US$5 million from the World Bank Social Protection Program to enhance his sports agenda.
He also initiated discussions leading to the front-loading of US$45 million of additional financing from Liberia’s three - year allocation of $210 million to help stabilize the Liberian economy.
President Weah used his meeting with several French businesses, investors and private institutions to rally support for his government and the people of Liberia in an effort to encourage investments and revive the Liberian economy.
He enjoined French investors to replicate in Liberia their investments being undertaken in other African countries.--Dispatch