U.S. missing out on big opportunities in Africa, Liberian official says

China steadily growing footprint across continent

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The U.S. has been reluctant to fully embrace investment opportunities in Africa because of an apprehension of a return to the nationalization schemes of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and bad governance, said Mr. Konneh.

The minister said these issues are “things of the past.”

U.S. businesses expanding in Liberia include such companies as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Anadarko.

Trade between Liberia and the U.S. has grown, albeit slowly, since the U.S. government reinstated Generalized System of Preferences benefits to Liberia in 2006 and granted African Growth and Opportunity Act eligibility in 2007, said the State Department official.

The U.S. is the largest bilateral donor to Liberia, supporting security sector reform, democratic institutions and the Liberian economy.

In 2013, President Obama included Liberia as a focus of the “Power Africa Initiative” to promote modernization of the energy sector and increase access to electricity. Mr. Konneh said U.S. investment would be welcome in the energy, power and agriculture sectors.

Liberia struggles with high unemployment despite its high growth rate.

“African countries are growing very well, but the growth is a jobless growth because most of this is filled by extractive sector investment,” said Mr. Konneh. “This is not just a Liberian issue, it is an African issue and a global issue.”

Mr. Konneh’s father, siblings, uncles and aunts were all killed in the war. He fled to Guinea at the age of 18 and then came to the U.S. to study at Penn State University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“So many other families in Liberia also went through that same experience,” said Mr. Konneh of his war experience. “It is an experience that has shaped us into this new generation of Liberians who are dedicated to the cause that this should never happen again to our country.”

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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