The Return of Foreign Vulture Capitalists to Liberia
According to data disclosed under the United States Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and analyzed by Globe Afrique Research Analysts, the 16 countries of the ECOWAS region have spent, over the past four years, 25,877,898 in total lobbying efforts in the United States.
Out of this amount, the biggest spender – 78% or $20,077,678 of the total amount – is the Government of Liberia under President George Weah. It is highly unusual to find the poorest country with the worst economic performance to lead the group in what other African leaders have termed “wasteful spending.” The next highest spender was the Ivory Coast at $3,429,368, Ghana at $676,543, Guinea at $170,000, Nigeria at $96,223, and Mali at $75,000. Countries including Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo have spent zero dollars in lobbying efforts in the United States.
In 2021, President George Weah’s government signed lobbying contracts with six different lobbying firms at the cost of over $550,000 per year. The aim of these contracts, according to FARA documents, is to promote Weah’s administration to direct foreign investments and improve his image with U.S. government officials. Over the past ten years, many African governments have moved away from overspending on lobbying because they realized that it wasn’t worth it, and the results to dollars did not make sense.
Today, many African governments have changed their strategies by focusing on the media circuit, allowing their ambassador to serve as a lobbyist, and improving conditions in their home country, President Weah is adopting a failed strategy to purchase a façade, rather than earn one. Liberia continues to take an approach that fails to address issues in the U.S. State Department reports; particularly, human rights abuses, endemic corruption, a lack of transparency, torture, a lack of transparency, and abuse of power.
Additionally, in the face of a $16 billion missing currency saga and a mop-up process by the Minister of Finance that borders on money laundering, the tiny nation of Liberia relies heavily on foreign lobbyists to produce narratives that mask the realities in the country. Today, Liberia relies heavily on the International Monetary Fund’s Extended and Rapid Credit Facilities to address its Balance of Payments and economic stabilization issues. The country is also in a debt suspension program following the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So how does a country that relies heavily on donations, IMF credit facilities, and debt suspension spends over $20 million on lobbying? Over the past three years, the Liberian economy has suffered consecutive years of economic decline. The Government of Liberia, like so many African nations, needs to address issues raised by the U.S. State Department and members of the Foreign Relations Committee on matters relating to widespread official corruption, human rights abuses, and gender equality. Republican critics see the likes of Bakari Sellers as “Vulture Capitalists” with no moral grounds doing more harm to Liberia by a false narrative of a President Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey called a “Kleptocrat.”
From all accounts, it appears that President Weah is hiring foreign lobbyists to grow his economy and do the work his government officials are incapable of doing while ignoring the essentials human rights issues raised by the U.S. government. This piece was first published by Globe Afrique
Main Photo: George Weah /The Independent