New French Ambassador Michael Roux Touts Liberia-French Relations
MONROVIA – The new French Ambassador, Michael Roux, touted the new dimensions of bilateral relations between the Republic of Liberia and France during a visit with Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. last Monday.
Ambassador Roux noted that relations between the two countries have never historically achieved its current status, largely crediting this to President George Manneh Weah’s close affinity to the people of France. He noted that the recent commencement of Air France flights to Liberia is an indication of the confidence the Government of France reposes in the prospects for growth in the Liberian economy, thanking the Government for its support in making this happen.
Ambassador Roux recounted that because of the case made by President Weah during his formal visit to France in 2018, President Macron of France agreed to include Liberia among the list of 19 high priority countries for French bilateral assistance. This led to the first ever French budget support of USD 5 million in 2019.
Ambassador Roux disclosed that French bilateral assistance to Liberia since 2018 amounts to some USD 33 million. These resources are variously supporting development projects through the French Development Agency (AFD) and its partner Non-Governmental Organizations like Mercicorps, which is presently implementing a USD 5 million youth project in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The Ambassador revealed that a US$10 million urban development project is being designed for the main urban areas of Monrovia. He also disclosed that the AFD is presently supporting 40 Liberians in a wide variety of technical fields in Yamoussoukro, La Côte d’Ivoire.
Praising the Government of Liberia for its leadership and efforts in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ambassador disclosed that France has provided USD 3 million through Action Against Hunger (ACF), a French NGO, noting that the France will continue to stand by Liberia in its fight against the pandemic.
The Ambassador provided a brief on plans to reestablish the French learning institute, Alliance Francais as a way of enhancing Liberia’s regional integration effort through the French language. He noted when launched the Institute will avail special opportunities to Government officials.
The Ambassador and the Minister further discussed a range of issues spanning the current political context of Liberia’s development, macroeconomic reforms being pursued by the Government and the desired impacts; the impact of macro shocks and of COVID-19 on the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and the status of revising the PAPD to address this impact; the importance of policy stability and predictability for investment; and the current negotiation with Accelor Mittal on its phase two project and its linkage with Liberia’s efforts to develop a multi-user rail system primarily for the transit of iron ore from Guinea through the port of Buchanan.
During these discussions, Minister Tweah stressed the importance of support to the private sector through loans for small and medium enterprises as a catalyst to sustain economic recovery and growth. He noted that credit to the private sector has trended downward since 2016 on account of range of factors and described ongoing work with relevant financial institutions to de-risk bank lending to key sectors such as agriculture.
Ambassador Roux agreed that credit for small businesses is and should continue to be an important focus for the Government. He committed to holding further discussions with relevant French NGOs in similar lines of work in other countries with an eye to exploring possibilities for Liberia.
The Ambassador pledged his commitment to pushing Liberia-French relations to new highs.