Liberia’s Finance Minister Eyes Even More Productive Engagements with AfDB
Liberia’s Finance Minister, Augustine K. Ngafuan, has expressed a strong desire for his country to engage the African Development Bank in a more productive way.
Speaking during an interview on the sidelines of the 2009 AfDB Annual Meetings in Dakar, shortly after he signed a US$10 million grant agreement for the implementation of an agriculture sector rehabilitation project on behalf of his country, Mr. Ngafuan expressed satisfaction with the agreement, describing relations between the AfDB and Liberia as strong.
He said he had been received at the meetings with “great hospitality”, adding that, “The AfDB family has done tremendously well in the planning of these meetings”. He thanked the AfDB for its role in helping Liberia cope with adverse effects of the financial crises.
On his country’s efforts in fostering economic development, Mr. Ngafuan singled out agriculture as a big contributor to Liberia’s GDP, but emphasized that most of the farmers’ outputs were stalled because of inadequate training and failure to implement proper procedures.
“We need to improve productivity in agriculture so as to get added value, especially with respect to the effort our farmers put in,” he added.
Asked to describe how the US $10 million grant would be utilized, Mr. Ngafuan alluded to the challenge in balancing the project’s terms of reference and its implementation with the high expectations of the people. “It’s one thing to sign an agreement, it’s another thing to have it implemented on the ground. The key now is how fast we can implement all the good ideas and plans to meet the lofty expectations enshrined in this agreement”.
He expressed his country’s desire for a country office which, in his words, “will help us a whole lot in making sure that in the short term, we turn the (signing) ceremonies into real tangible benefits on the ground. That’s what our people need”.
This project is going to help improve the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and outputs of the farmers, Mr. Ngafuan said.
The project aims at increasing the income of small-holder farmers and rural entrepreneurs, including women on a sustainable basis, reduce poverty and enhance food security for more than 9,600 rural households. The expected benefits include improved water management infrastructure for 1,600 Ha, the rehabilitation of 100 km feeder roads, 16 multifunctional marketing and commodity handling, potable water supply facilities within 8 project counties, as well as processing and storage facilities.
On the question of future collaboration with the AfDB, he said, “We look forward to more productive engagements with the AfDB not just through budget support, but through the private sector”.
The AfDB has been a strong partner, especially to the post-conflict Liberian government, having provided the highest budget support so far of over US$20 million. Further, several Liberian banks have engaged the AfDB for some level of financing, according to Mr. Ngafuan.