Liberia’s ties with Atlanta continue to be strengthened through the efforts of Cynthia Blandford, the West African country’s active honorary consul general, under newly elected administrations both here and there.
Through Ms. Blandford’s efforts, B. Elias Shoniyin, deputy minister of Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport during his visit to Atlanta at the end of March and in early April.
Mr. Shoniyin, the first official from the foreign ministry to visit Atlanta, also assisted Ms. Blandford with preparations for the upcoming May 15-19 visit here of its recently appointed ambassador to Washington, George S. W. Patten Sr., by meeting with the board of directors of the Liberian Association of Metro Atlanta as well as local officials.
Ms. Blandford, who has formed extensive links between Southeastern and Liberian universities and maintained the city’s relations with the West African country through last year’s presidential election in Liberia and Atlanta’s mayoral election, reinforced business ties by leading a delegation of members of the National Black MBA Association to Liberia and Ghana in February.
True to form, she packed to the brim the minister’s three-day schedule including meetings with representatives of the 20,000-plus Liberian diaspora, with the visit to Hartsfield-Jackson where they promoted a future meeting between the ambassador and John Selden, the Atlanta airport’s aviation general manager, with a private dinner meeting with officials of AGCO Corp., the agricultural machinery manufacturer based in Atlanta, and with a gathering at her offices downtown with local officials and the consul general of Nigeria, Aishatu Aliyu Musa.
At Hartsfield-Jackson, they met with Elliott Paige, director, Air Service Development, to reaffirm the Sister Airport Agreement with Roberts International Airport signed in 2017 and to describe the potential for increased cargo business due to the groundbreaking for a U.S.$11 million air cargo facility at Roberts International.
Ms. Blandford terms the air cargo facility being built at Roberts International a “Cargo Village,” which once completed would be able to service all of West Africa. “The Atlanta airport does not currently have an African air cargo partner,” she told Global Atlanta, “and Roberts International’s ‘Cargo Village’ is being positioned to serve West Africa.”
The cargo facility will have a warehouse that will include controlled cold storage, walk-in freezers and other amenities to hold seafood such as lobster and shrimp as well as fish for export. The Liberian government is developing the country’s fishery and aquaculture sector and is actively seeking investors to expand these businesses.
During the meetings, Mr. Shoniyin also promoted the preparations already being undertaken on behalf of the 200th anniversary of the return of freed slaves from the U.S. to Liberia in 1821, which the country will be promoting extensively as it positions itself as “the door of return.”