MONROVIA –In his first foreign policy speech in February 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden reassured the international community that “America is back.” After the near “zero interest in Africa” of the Trump years, this statement could not have come soon enough for U.S. allies, like Liberia, and partners in Africa.
A huge sigh of relief, the assurance of a fundamental change also came with considerable expectations in sub-Saharan Africa—with four key issues highlighted by much public policy and international relations experts to determine whether the new US administration would really deliver on these expectations.
The issue of security policy priorities, especially the fight against spreading Islamist terror; the issue of climate change, which the President promised to make a hallmark of his administration, with Africa being one of if the most impacted and US development cooperation with Africa with a premium placed on infrastructure and economic development.
It is the latter that interests the Liberian government the most and it has begun engaging its US counterpart on that front. The Weah government now hopes for closer ties and more cordial engagements.
It has begun doing just that and diligently, as a high power Liberian government delegation is already in the U.S. and has begun making some strides for support.
Report of the team garnering momentum is evidence that some top American politicians and officials are pledging their commitments to ensure the Weah-led government gets Washington’s support.
Despite several benefits in aid to the health, energy and the education sectors since its ascendancy in 2018, the CDC-led administration continues to come under staunch criticism over its failure to form stronger ties with Washington.
Led by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, the delegation on Thursday met with Madam Dana Banks, Director of the U.S. President’s National Security Council, a dispatch from that country said. Both teams discussed a wide range of issues concerning Liberia and the broader West African sub-region. Madam Banks is also President Joe Biden’s Special Assistant.
She pledged to work with Liberia in its drive to secure the second Millennium Challenge Corporation’s coveted Compact Program, as she outlined areas Liberia needs to continue making progress that would serve to encourage U.S. policymakers.
On the bicentennial, the U.S President Special Assistant, who has a wealth of experience in Africa, said the U.S. will work with Liberia to ensure the commemoration of this milestone program.
The President’s National Security Council’s head assured the delegation that Liberia remains a strategic partner of the U.S. She outlined key “contours” of the Biden Administration’s policy on Africa.
In an earlier remark, Finance and development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, updated Director Banks on Liberia’s economic resurgence, noting that Liberia’s economic recovery after COVID-19 is positive and that the government is committed to broader economic and investment climate reforms.
“The projections for our GDP now show that growth will reach about 4-percent”. He said through the “painstaking” macroeconomic reforms the government has undertaken, “we‘ve been able to obtain for the first time in ten years a substantial increase in domestic revenue generation. ”
The government economic and governance programs are already aligned to the Biden Administration’s Africa Priorities which is heavy on democratic rights.
Tweah equated Liberia’s democracy to that of the US in terms of respect for constitutional term limits and fundamental human rights and freedoms.
“President Weah even recently campaigned to reduce his length of time in office from six to five years, indicating his strong commitment to democratic values,” a dispatch from the US quotes him as saying.
Also receiving the delegation was renowned Republican Senator and former presidential aspirant, Ted Cruz. During a visit to his office on Capitol Hill, Senator Cruz promised to be a strong voice in Congress for Liberia.
“We share something in common, the Lone Star”, the Senator gleefully remarked – referring to the Liberian and the State of Texas’ flags that have the single white star.
“Also like President Weah and key members of the Weah led Administration who come from an underprivileged background. My father was put in jail for his stance on freedom for the underprivileged,” he said.
Like his Influential colleague, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Cruz promised to be a “voice for Liberia.”
Senator Graham on Wednesday committed to rallying his congressional colleagues of the Republican Party to sign a “Letter of Support” for Liberia’s second bid of the coveted Compact Program under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
The MCC is a U.S. development assistance program that provides beneficiary countries time-bound grants which are targeted at ensuring economic growth, reducing poverty, and strengthening governmental institutions. The investments of the MCC do not only support a country’s stability and prosperity but also enhance American Interests.
Liberia has already benefitted from the MCC Assistance and Investments that led to more than 200 million dollars being spent on the rebuilding of the war-ravaged electricity grid of the country.
“I‘ll do a letter in support of Liberia’s Bid and have my Republican Colleagues sign up on to it in favor of your country,” Graham, a ranking member of the Budget Committee and also serves the U.S. Congress Committee on Appropriations and Judiciary said.
Senator Graham, regarded by many as a person whose voice is weighty in determining the direction of U.S.’s International development assistance is serving his fourth term.
In a related development, the Minister of State McGill has extended an invitation to Senator Cruz to visit Liberia and be a part of the bicentennial commemoration in Monrovia next year.
The former Republican Presidential Candidate said he will consider highly the request and could visit Liberia next year. The Liberian delegation is expected to meet with more Biden Administration officials, and Congressmen and Women across party lines in the coming days.