Liberia’s honorary consul general based in Atlanta, Cynthia Blandford, and Michael L. Best, who teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the College of Computing, are to visit Washington this week to meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Ms. Blandford told Global Atlanta that they will be attending a reception at the residence of Liberia’s ambassador to the U.S, Jeremiah Sulunteh, where Ms. Sirleaf is expected to give a briefing about the current extent of the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
Ms. Sirleaf’s visit to Washington is her first since she declared a state of emergency in August of last year to deal with the Ebola outbreak that gripped West Africa.
She has been Liberia’s president since 2006 and is the first female elected head of state in Africa.
The visit to Washington follows the signing of an agreement on Feb. 11 between Georgia Tech and the Liberian Telecommunication Corp., the national communications operator, to assist in the development of the country’s broadband information technology network.
Yves Berthelot, vice president for international initiatives at Georgia Tech, and Pierre King, the deputy chair of the LibTelCo, joined Ms. Blandford in signing the memorandum.
The memorandum states that the work of Dr. Best in Liberia is to continue including training of government officials, advisory research and the establishment of a center of excellence on information and communication technologies and development.
Georgia Tech recently granted Dr. Best a four-year leave of absence so he can assume the position of director of a newly formed United Nations institute in Macau, China, but he is expected to remain involved with the Liberian project.
Georgia Tech is a member of the University Consortium in Liberia, an organization that brings together colleges and educational institutions focused on study abroad, student and faculty exchanges, service learning and scholarships with a particular focus on Africa.
The university has been involved in a variety of projects in Liberia over the past decade including the development of its film industry known as Lollywood that is growing with the support of Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry.
Georgia Tech has worked in the past with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and the Liberian Telecommunications Authority on the development of their capacity building plans.
It also has partnered with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia to explore the use of new media in post-conflict national healing and reconciliation and is the custodian of the commission’s physical archive.
And it has developed in collaboration with the commission, a mobile video story-telling system that allows all Liberians, from both urban and rural areas, to share their stories across the nation and to browse and view the stories of others.
Among other activities as well, it has partnered with the Center for Women’s and Children’s Empowerment, a local non-governmental organization, to establish a new computer training laboratory and provide ICT literacy programs for women, ex-combatant and displaced people.
Atlanta’s connections with Liberia obviously are far reaching and the Moreouse School of Medicine recently hosted a post Ebola recovery panel including Ms. Blandford and James Sirleaf, the president’s son who is a medical doctor.
The U.S. is bringing back troops assigned to help the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea deal with the Ebola crisis
While Ebola is winding down, it still remains a threat. National curfews are being lifted and the country’s borders are reopening that were closed during the height of the crisis last year.
For more information, Ms. Blandford may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (404) 565-1154.