President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told a high United States (US) Government delegation currently in Liberia for the US/Liberia Partnership Dialogue that a big push is required in areas such as research, feeder road construction, storage facilities, market infrastructure, and more — all of which, she said, are key.
The Liberian President met with the US delegation on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 when they paid her a courtesy visit at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia to mark the beginning of the US/Liberia Partnership Dialogue.
Present at the meeting with President Sirleaf were Information Minister Lewis G. Brown and Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States, Jeremiah Sulunteh.
President Sirleaf said that there is the need for the two countries to work and pull partners together along specific programs that benefit the Liberian nation and people. She acknowledged that much support has been given to the agricultural sector, but stressed that it was now time to concentrate on food security by getting to the small-scale farmers who account for much of the local food production.
President Sirleaf, in January 2013, signed the Statement of Intent of the Dialogue in Washington, D.C along with then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. This was followed by the inaugural edition of the U.S./Liberia Partnership in May 2013, with a Liberian delegation led by Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan.
The Monrovia Dialogue, which is to end today, is to address two thematic areas: Human Development, with focus on Education; and Agriculture. The inaugural edition in Washington had focused on Energy and Power Infrastructure, and Agriculture and Food Security. Foreign Minister Ngafuan, Information
Meeting with the US delegation, President Sirleaf noted that education and human development remain a real and serious challenge, noting that there is no quick fix to the problem. “We are reluctant to continue building new schools, even though they are still required in many places, when the lack of trained teachers, efficient libraries and modern laboratories are still lacking in some places.”
“While reform in the education sector is still ongoing, challenges exist, particularly with human resources,” President Sirleaf stated. She further emphasized the need for more vocational and technical training for Liberia’s youthful population as a means for creating employment opportunity.
In other interventions during the discussion, the President mentioned the recently released State Department Human Rights Report on Liberia. She pledged to read and study the report with the hope of addressing some of the issues raised.
The Liberian leader reminded the U.S. delegation that Liberia is still working on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Process, and expressed gratitude for Liberia’s selection for the U.S. Power Africa Program. Energy is still critical, despite the current level of progress in the sector, she said.
The head of the U.S. delegation, Assistant Secretary of State/Counselor, State Department, Thomas A. Shannon, said the U.S. was glad to be engaged with Liberia and would remain engaged with the country’s development and recovery process.
He also indicated that Liberia’s success is Africa’s and the world’s success, and commended President Sirleaf for her strong address delivered at the centenary celebration of the amalgamation of the Nigerian Federation, adding that the Nigerians and the rest of the world were pleased with the message. Last week, the President delivered a special address on “Human Security and National Reconciliation: The Liberian Experience,” at the invitation of the Nigerian Government.
Mr. Shannon praised the Liberian Government for sending and maintaining troops in Mali, and noted that the effort will have a long-term impact on peace and stability on the African continent and in the global community.
Speaking on the U.S. Power Africa Program, US Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah R. Malac, informed President Sirleaf that consultations are ongoing to help identify projects that will have a private dimension and be attractive to the private sector.
The members of the U.S. Delegation were: Amb. Shannon, Amb. Deborah Malac; Mr. Charles North, Sr. Deputy Assistant Administrator – USA; Mr. Jonathan Shrier, Acting Special Representative, Office of Global Food Security; Ms. Sheila Paskman, Deputy Chief of Mission/Liberia; and Mr. Steven Schwartz, Director/West African Affairs, U.S. State Department.