George Weah becomes Liberia’s president
Following the first female president of Africa, Liberia will now have the first president who has been an international football star. George Weah won the country’s presidential election run-off on 26 December 2017 with 61.5% of the vote beating his rival, the outgoing Vice-President Joseph Boakai, who got 38.5% of the vote. Some 1.2 million Liberians cast their ballots, but voter turnout was low at 55.8%, down from 74.5% during the first round (Maps & Facts). After losing the 2005 presidential elections in the second round against the incumbent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Weah made progress by garnering over 50% of the votes in Monrovia province, where he is a senator and where 42% of the country’s electorate is concentrated. This first peaceful democratic transition is a historic milestone for the country. Liberia was hit hard by the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, and has been affected by sluggish commodity prices. The development challenges for this small West African country are enormous. Liberia ranks in position 177 on the Human Development Index, and more than half of its 4.5 million people live below the poverty line. Its lack of infrastructure undermines Liberia’s development prospects. According to the African Economic Outlook report, less than 10% of its roads are paved, and only about 45% of Liberian households can access an all-season road within five kilometres. The country’s education quality is low, particularly outside of Monrovia. The primary net enrolment rates increased from 33% in 2008 to 49% in 2015, but that still means that only one out of every two Liberian children is enrolled in school. The health system was strengthened following the Ebola crisis, but it continues to face serious challenges. George Weah’s campaign – with its slogan, “Change for Hope,” successfully won the youth vote. In an interview, George Weah announced that he intends to place a strong emphasis on developing agricultural exports, using Ghana as a model. Employment and education will be key priorities for his government. George Weah will be sworn in as the 25th president of Liberia on 22 January, taking over from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has been in office since 2006.