McArthur Foundation Calls for Investment in Tourism, Culture

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Dr. Patrick Woodtor, Founder and President of African International House (AIH) visits his birth place in Sanoyea, Bong County, on December 19, 2019. He and his team shared the AIH mission's vision with the villages and the children at a school founded by Dr. Woodtor. Dr. Woodtor is accompanied by three members on the AIH Board (Mrs. Lisa Pilot-Norman, Dr. Kim L. Delaney and Mrs. Jan Austin).

-Says Liberia stands to generate billions if more investment is done

A four-member delegation of the McArthur Foundation, based in the United States of America, has called for more investment in the tourism and culture sector of Liberia, indicating that Liberia would benefit and generate billions of U.S. dollars if more investment is done in the sector.

“Now, we need to create more awareness about tourism because tourism is a huge market that can generate billions of dollars, like the Bahamas in the Caribbean and Jamaica. Most of their economy is based on tourism,” Mr. Patrick S. Woodtor, a member of the delegation from the McArthur Foundation said.

He emphasized that Liberia can also benefit from tourism like other countries around Africa, especially supporting its economy, stating that, “Liberia has an intimate connection with America and would stand the chance to benefit more.”

“We are interested in tourism, which is a huge market. We want to develop tourism. This will encourage Americans and other Africans to come to Liberia. Again, our aim is to promote local culture,” Woodtor said.

According to him, there is a need for the government to focus on infrastructure, especially providing electricity, water, internet services and road networks. He further called for supporting the local artists and craft makers.

“Grand Cape Mount County, which has Lake Piso, is a beautiful place that people will always want to be, but the road network is causing serious problems for people to move there. We have to develop a path to get to those interesting places,” Mr. Woodtor who is also a Liberian based in the United States said.

According to him, Liberia is prime and set up to be the number one tourism market for African Americans, due to the history of Liberia and its association to America.

“Liberia is actually behind in the area of tourism, but there are chances of improvement. Today we cannot complete with Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa. Now, we need to create more awareness so that people know that tourism is a huge market that can generate billions of dollars,” Woodtor said.

The AIH Mission Team was hosted in Liberia, from December 15th to the 23rd, by REAP West Africa, Co-founded by Mrs. Christine Tolbert  Norman. This mission, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, was held to launch an MOU between REAP and AIH that has a mission to promote African Diaspora Art and Culture for the purpose of social transformation.

The delegation, including Dr. Kim Dukney, Lisa Pilot, Jau D. Austin and Patrick S. Woodtor, visited several places that included Clay Ashland, Bentol, Brewerville, Kendeja, Royal Grand Hotel, Liberia’s cultural ambassador Juli Endee, Cuttington University in Bong County, and Bomi County, particularly Blue Lake.

“We will take two quilt-makers to Chicago this year, and maybe bring two cream makers from Chicago to Liberia in 2021. This is the first time for the organization to explore the opportunity in Liberia. Our visit is a cultural exchange program,” Woodtor said.

“We want to also put Sanoyea, which is located in Bong County, on the map, especially where the first commercial plane crashed in Africa and the people were buried there.

The AIH Mission team is seen visiting the Cocoa Processing Plant of Mr. Clemenceau B. Urey, Sr. (left), located in Careysburg. After the tour of the plant, Mr. Urey hosted the team at a sumptuous dinner at his home.

“We had a little festival in Bentol, which was graced by most of the quilt-makers and artists that exhibited. They are actually doing very well and the delegation is impressed with what was demonstrated by Liberians,” Woodtor said. “We spoke with few of them and even encouraged them for being creative and innovative to expanding their activities. They need to reach out to other artists to collaborate; that will enable them to rise above their current level.”

He said the delegation met with the American Ambassador Christine Elder, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with a focus on exploring opportunities ahead of next year’s visit.

According to him, Liberia has some of the best beaches in Africa that would help the government in generating revenue, but continued to be underutilized, stating, “it’s a magnet for tourism.”

“Again, many Americans don’t know about Liberia as they know about Ghana and Jamaica in terms of tourism and historical knowledge. People are going to Ghana because of the level of awareness regarding tourism. Today, Ghana has the infrastructure for tourism,” he indicated.

Meanwhile, Mr. Woodtor said members of the delegation have expressed interest to support children in their schooling, sanitation and remain hopeful of the expressed commitment.

The mission was culminated at a African Diaspora Art, Culture abd Educational Exchange FESTIVAL held at the William R. Tolbert, Jr.  Foundation headquarters, called THE LION HOUSE, on December 21, 2019. Special Features on that occasion comprised: Display on numerous Paintings, Sculptures, Quilts, snd viewing President WRT, Jr. Museum, and a variety of Performing Arts.

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