Liberia, US to partner on energy, agriculture

Liberia14 May 2013, News Wires, Washington – The United States and Liberia have pledged to strengthen cooperation in energy and agriculture as the West African country continues its decade-long recovery from civil war.

Speaking at the end of the US-Liberia Partnership Dialogue in Washington, US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the two countries have a relationship deeply rooted in historical ties and a “shared commitment to democracy, human rights and economic advancement.”

According to her, the first session of the dialogue focused on spurring growth in Liberia’s agriculture and energy sectors, looking at ways private companies can be brought in to play a key role.

The next session of the talks is planned for Monrovia, Liberia, within a year and will focus on human development, she said.

Liberian Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan said Liberia has come a long way in recovering from the 14-year civil war that ended in 2003, but still has a long way to go.

“The distance we have traveled thus far in addressing the challenges we have inherited as a government pales in magnitude when compared to the distance we still have to travel,” he said.

The U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue was announced in January to provide sustained U.S. technical and financial assistance to help Liberia to continue to mend.

During its decade of peace, Liberia has held presidential and general elections, improved its social services and infrastructure, and protected human rights. Liberia now ranks among the 10 fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, but the nation is still burdened by high unemployment and malnutrition.

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, Liberia’s food situation is “serious” despite the fact that “the country is blessed with a climate favorable to agriculture, extensive biodiversity, and vast natural resources.”

Sherman said dialogue participants discussed how to bring private investment into Liberia’s agriculture sector. The Feed the Future initiative is a key element in strengthening Liberia’s food security and nutrition, she added.

Feed the Future is a U.S. global hunger and food security initiative that addresses the root causes of hunger and poverty. The initiative focuses on smallholder farmers, particularly women. The initiative seeks to engage multilateral organizations, nonprofit groups and the private sector to accelerate agricultural growth.

Regarding energy and power, Sherman said the participants discussed ways to encourage private companies to invest in power generation, transmission and distribution. She said improving regulatory policies is a key to that process.

Liberian Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy Patrick Sendolo said an energy infrastructure is needed to attract investment by commercial agriculture businesses.

“We have a population that has been patient. They have been resilient. They want to see their children go to better schools and have better access to health care,” Liberia’s Finance Minister Amara Konneh said.

He echoed the assessment of other participants that the private sector will have a big role to play in Liberia’s development.

Liberia’s long-term development goal is to become a “middle income” country by 2030.

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