US-Africa Trade Relations: Is Liberia Prepared to Be A Part?

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Of recent President Barack Obama and the United States Government held a historical meeting with African leaders on establishing trade link with the continent and investing in its economy and human resource.

During his deliberation at the meeting, President Obama disclosed investing US$33 billion in Africa, calling on American companies to begin exporting their products here to increase competition with others that are in business with the continent.

The United States Government’s attention is claimed by the potential economic growth seen in Africa, thereby making the continent attract many countries including China and India.

However, President Obama and other top U.S. Government officials including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that this great dream can only be achieved and Africa benefits when there is rule of law and corruption is curbed.

This then makes it compelling that if expectations Africans have about U.S. aid package and coming in of businesses can be realized, the common denominators including rule of law, good governance and curbing of corruption have to be given serious attention.

In addition to the US President and other top Government officials’ warning, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Europe, Africa and Asia, Matthew Murray emphasized that business is built on relationship and trust, and that if the relation can hold; both Africa and US should reach a consensus to do away with things not in conformity with best practices.

According Mr. Murray when he was addressing the press on August 7 at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, DC, he intoned that U.S. businesses are restricted from receiving or giving out bribes, and that any company found of such is punished under the U.S. Law.

On the basis of this restriction, Mr. Murray said the U.S. Government has passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that bars U.S. businesses from accepting bribe or giving bribes to win contract.

Like President Obama, Mr. Murray said investors invest to get their returns, and they cannot operate in an environment that custom system will be poor and full of bribes.

Emphasis by the U.S. Government on rule of law and corruption is an indication that for this relationship to smoothly work, each country needs to work on its system of governance.

Liberia as one of the African countries and of concern now has an Anti-Corruption Commission that does not have prosecutorial power.  It (Liberia) has been graded by Corruption Watch as one of the top corrupt countries in the world.

Domestically, corruption is openly spoken every day, and it is an open secret that Custom officers receive bribes and other forms of gratuity to get goods into Liberia.  Police officers and Immigration are also on record for extorting money from drivers and compromising rule of law by receiving bribes to release crime suspect.

As a result of impunity many Liberians see in Government, most university students openly state that they would also work in government to do the same as their fathers and mothers did because they cannot be the ones to change what has lived in this country for centuries.

Can Liberia fit in the U.S-Africa trade relation realm considering what the Government pleads to see happening?

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