With the ebola crisis behind it, Cynthia Blandford, Liberia’s honorary consul in Atlanta, has been actively strengthening Georgia’s business and educational ties with the West African country.
In October last year, she hosted Liberia‘s vice president and current presidential candidate, Joseph N. Boakai Sr., at a black-tie gala at the Georgia Institute of Technology to raise funds on behalf of youth development programs in his country.
His visit was followed by the arrival in Georgia of seven graduates from the University of Liberia who visited Clark Atlanta and Emory universities and Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville and Savannah State University in Savannah to explore graduate school opportunities.
In addition to visiting the colleges and universities, they attended a four-day workshop at the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute in Lithonia, and met with its founder William Allen, who provided seed funding to support an “African Impact Market” to help launch the export to “Made in Liberia” slippers, gowns, bracelets, arts and crafts to help support scholarships for the students.
The students also toured Atlanta and visited the Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Georgia Aquarium.
Ms. Blandford told Global Atlanta that as a result of the visit four of the participants have submitted applications to the educational institutions. She already has been instrumental in Clark Atlanta’s acceptance of Saki T. Golafale, a graduate of the University of Liberia, into its graduate chemistry program.
Anything but home bound, she led a delegation in December to Liberia with the three-fold purpose of strengthening healthcare and social protection in Liberia with a focus on the role of non-governmental organizations and universities, of increasing trade between Liberia and Georgia and cementing the links between the University of Liberia’s new School of Social Work and Savannah State University.
In addition to her activities as honorary consul, Ms. Blandford serves as president and chair of the University Consortium of Liberia, which she as been promoting since its launch in 2009.
Among the delegates on the December visit were Dr. Cheryl Dozier, president of Savannah State University, several professors from Savannah State; Bart Gobell, director of statewide development and governmental affairs at the Georgia Ports Authority; Charles Redding, president of MedShare International and Steve Stirling, president of MAP International and Dennis Byron, president and CEO of Cathartica Global Consultancy and Patsy Jo Hilliard, former mayor of East Point.
While in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, the delegation attended a round table discussion at the National Port Authority of Liberia on how to strengthen imports and exports between Georgia and Liberia specifically addressed the question of what products would be able to be sent from Liberia to Georgia such as cocoa, shrimp, lobster, talapia and wood products.
The delegation also attended commencement exercises at the University of Liberia where Dr. Dozier received an honorary doctorate and Ms. Blandford was honored with a Presidential Award of Excellence. They also met with a wide range of government officials and students as well as Christine Elder, the U.S. ambassador, and Mr. Boakai hosted a reception on their behalf at the Palm Spring Resort.
In 2015 Mr. Boakai visited Atlanta where he rejuvenated his country’s ties with Liberia’s partners in the University Consortium, which is composted of U.S. and Liberian educational institutions that have collaborated on a wide variety of projects including poultry production, training of government officials and the establishment of a center of excellence on information and communication technologies.