President George Weah’s first visit outside of Africa in less than a month in his Presidency is about to payoff.
While visiting France, a place President Weah calls home, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to assist Liberia in its developmental drive – this move is changing the narrative in Liberia’s foreign policy.
Traditionally, Liberia President upon taking office first visit outside of Africa is the United States but the new destination is expected to jumpstart the Liberian economy.
France has pledged an initial grant of €10 million to Liberia for immediate road maintenance while modalities are worked out for a more comprehensive and sustainable development assistance package for the country.
The French Government says it will introduce its new Economic Empowerment Program dubbed: “Agriculture through Sports,” which Liberia stands to benefit.
The program will be done through the construction of sporting facilities and the provision of sporting materials and other logistical support.
The French Government has placed Liberia on its shortlist of Bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) program.
Foreign policy analysts say the move by President Weah is a “smart one” because Washington of late has shown little or no interest in Africa.
Within two weeks, President Macron will also travel to the European Union along with a Technical Team from Liberia to rally support for the construction of roads.
President Weah told his counterpart that he inherited an economy that is in ‘stagnation’ and still bleeding from the recovery of the devastating Ebola outbreak that took place 4 years ago.
He also lamented the deplorable state of the Liberian economy and underscored that while Liberia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, yet it is endowed with an abundance of natural resources.
President Macron has determined that sports are one of the best ways to promote development in Africa and have therefore embarked on a sports development program.
FIFA President, Gianni Infantino was invited by the French leader to the launch of his Development through Sports Program.
The FIFA boss informed President Weah that world football governing body has allocated half a billion United States Dollars towards the development of sports in Africa.
He assured President Weah that Liberia will be amongst 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 3-year allocation of US$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.
President Weah used the press stakeout to express 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 came 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. He said he owes a debt of gratitude to France for giving him the opportunity to triumph.
He 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” and acknowledged that this will be the greatest challenge of his administration.
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 to him and delegation and stressed the need to further strengthen the longstanding and great relationship between Liberia and France; as well as forge partnerships for the mutual benefit of their respective countries.