（By H.E. Ren Yisheng, Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia）
The 8th ministerial meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Dakar, Senegal at the end of November. Since its inception in 2000, the FOCAC has become an important platform for China-Africa collective dialogue and an effective mechanism for pragmatic cooperation. It has played an important role in advancing China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership, strengthening China-Africa cooperation in various fields, and enhancing the well-being of the Chinese and African people.
Liberia is a participant in and contributor to the construction of the FOCAC. In 2018, Liberian President H.E. Dr. George Maneh Weah attended the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and held bilateral talks with Chinese President H.E. Xi Jinping. Under the strategic guidance of the two leaders, the Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative and the Liberian initiative “Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development” have achieved effective docking. The achievement of pragmatic cooperation between the two countries goes deep into the hearts of the people.
Since the establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries, especially after the resumption of the ties in 2003, China has carried out pragmatic cooperation with Liberia by following the right approach to justice and interests and adhering to the concept of sincerity, real result, affinity and good faith, and has achieved a series of tangible results.
- Complete Project Construction
In July 2018 and July 2019, the China-aided two annexes to the Liberian Capitol Building and the Ministerial Complex were completed respectively. The Ministerial Complex was the second largest building in Africa at that time, second only to the African Union Headquarters building. H.E. President Weah attended the handover and opening ceremony of the Complex which has become the new landmark of Monrovia.
In July 2019, President Weah attended the handover and opening ceremony of the upgraded Roberts International Airport Terminal Project carried out by China. The new airport has greatly improved Liberia’s gateway image, facilitated personnel exchanges, and promoted economic development of Liberia.
At present, the Chinese side is proceeding in an orderly manner with the implementation of China-aided projects including two overpass bridges on Tubman Boulevard, the refurbishment and expansion of Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), national clinical diagnosis and treatment laboratory, and the Somalia Drive -Sinkor road and bridge in Monrovia.
Over the years, China has also implemented many other projects for Liberia such as 50 bored wells in rural areas (2018), the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (2015), the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU, 2015), the Tappita Hospital (Jackson F. Doe Memorial Regional Referral Hospital, 2011), the agricultural technology demonstration center in Bong county (2010), University of Liberia Fendall Campus (2010), Ministry of Health Office Building (2009, renovated in 2021), 3 rural middle schools (2009), Anti-malaria laboratory in JFK medical center (2007), the SKD Sports Complex (1986) and its current renovation and maintenance, Barreke Sugar Mill (1978).
- Material Assistance
Since the breakout of COVID-19 epidemic, the Chinese government and the private sectors have successively provided 6 batches of anti-epidemic material assistance to Liberia, including a large number of ventilators, oxygen generators, etc. The Chinese side also assisted the 14 Military Hospital and the Liberian Armed Forces with 20 million yuan worth of medicines, medical equipment and ambulances. The Chinese government is also providing basic medical and nutritional services worth 1 million USD to Liberian women and children through UNICEF.
In February this year, China and Liberia signed a new phase economic and technical cooperation agreement. By this, the Chinese side will provide Liberia with 150 million yuan grant assistance (equals to 23 million USD), and this is a 50% increment compared with the previous phase.
Over the past three years, China has provided Liberia with approximately 2,500 tons of emergency food assistance each year. This year, China International Development Agency has signed an agreement with the WFP to purchase rice amounting to 2 million USD to provide food assistance to Liberian students and their families under the impact of the pandemic.
Not long ago, the Chinese side handed over large consignments of learning tools, anti-epidemic materials and daily necessities to the Clar Hope Foundation led by the First Lady H.E. Clar Marie Weah and the “Starfish Foundation” and Group 77 led by Vice President H.E. Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor.
- Technical Cooperation
Till now, China has carried out six terms of technical assistance project of bamboo and rattan weaving and vegetable planting for Liberian youths since 2007. More than 900 technical young people engaged in bamboo and rattan weaving and vegetable planting have been trained, and the weaving products and vegetables planted by graduates account for about 50% of the share of the market.
China-aided LBS project was put into use in 2008 and at present, it has experienced five phases of technical cooperation. The project has carried out the construction of 7 radio transmitting stations in 5 cities including Monrovia, and the programs broadcast have covered most areas of Liberia.
China and Liberia have also carried out technical cooperation projects such as agricultural technology, SKD stadium maintenance and mineral resources survey, and trained more than 2,500 young technical talents. In addition, China has so far dispatched 14 batches of medical teams to assist Liberia. In addition to participating in diagnosis and treatment, the Chinese medical teams have also donated a large amount of medicine and equipment.
- Scholarship and Training
The Chinese government provides Liberia with about 50 full scholarships and hundreds of training places and “Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship” every year to help cultivate Liberian talents. The focuses of training are firstly on agriculture, such as hybrid rice, vegetable planting, fishery management, bamboo and rattan weaving, etc; secondly on infrastructure construction, such as rural transportation and water conservancy, urban construction planning, flood control and disaster reduction, infrastructure planning and construction, information network, airport management, etc.; thirdly on health care, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, malaria treatment, maternal care, infectious disease prevention, traditional Chinese medicine, etc.; fourthly on security, such as safe cities, immigration management, police training, etc. In recent years, more than 2,000 Liberian young people have participated in the training of relevant projects, and 200 plus students have obtained master’s and/or PhD degrees in China.
- Investment and Project Contracting
The Chinese enterprises’ investment in Liberia is mainly concentrated in mining, forestry, fishery and other fields, making important contributions to increasing employment, improving people’s livelihood and promoting economic development in Liberia.
Most major infrastructure projects in Liberia are constructed by Chinese enterprises, including Redlight to Gbarnga 180km Road Project, the Design, Rehabilitation and Maintenance of 68.6km Road at Gbarnga-Ganta-Guinea Border, 50 km Road from Karloken to Harper, the Renovation and Upgrading of Roberts International Airport, APMT Monrovia Phase II Expansion Project, Oil Tank Removal and Reconstruction Project for LEC in Liberia, the 225kV Substations of Yekepa, Buchanan, Monrovia and Manopower transmission and transformation projects, etc.
In 2013, the mine project of the China-Union Investment Bong Mines Company was put into production and created more than 400 employment opportunities for Liberia. The project has been affected to some extent by the fluctuation of iron ore prices and the Covid-19 epidemic, and is currently preparing to resume work and production.
At the same time, Chinese companies actively fulfill their social responsibilities, such as donating living materials to the nearby communities, setting up local employee clinics, helping to build schools, and actively donating COVID-19 anti-epidemic materials.
The fruitful results of Sino-Liberia cooperation are obvious to all. On the basis of mutual respect for each other’s core interests, China is willing to take the new session of FOCAC as an opportunity to work with Liberia to actively implement the outcomes of the FOCAC, continue to promote the healthy development of bilateral friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation, and make joint efforts to build a community with a shared future.