By Ajong Mbapndah L
As the world tries to make sense if developments in Guineas and which direction its leadership will take, Jordan Garcia, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Guinea for California says there is a reason to view the future with optimism. Speaking in an interview with PAV after a recent visit where he met with current interim leader Col Mamadi Doumbouya , government officials, and interacted with civil society groups. Garcia says the optimism he saw in Guineans filled him with hope for the country’s future.
On his interaction with the new leader, Jordan Garcia says he found him passionate and cleared eyed on what he is out to do and which direction he is taking the country .
Could we start by situating the context of your recent visit to Guinea?
The main purpose of my trip was to get acquainted with the new government.
I was also looking forward to meeting an NGO that has been doing outstanding work for women in Fria, Sombori Djigui. I experienced a warm welcome in Fria from the Mayor, the mayor’s office, and a delegation representing Sombori Djigui. It wouldn’t surprise anyone who has been there, but Fria is a beautiful city.
I had the honor to participate in Katala this year as a jury member. I met some inspirational young entrepreneurs. I think this years’ award winner, Bountouraby Soumah and her car washing business Lavage Auto Kagbelen, will have tremendous success. She truly deserved the honor.
As with every visit I learn something new. This visit I really enjoyed a new local art gallery in Conakry, the Villa des Arts that showcases talented local artists.
It has been a year since my last visit and I was really looking forward to seeing some of my old friends. It was so good to be back in Guinea.
Your visit came a few months after the emergence of a new leadership in Guinea, what was the mood like in country?
The mood was overwhelmingly happy even though it is an exceedingly difficult time financially for everyone. The return of freedom of expression was a warm and welcome return. I would describe the feeling as a sigh of relief and also one of hope.
How did your meeting with the current interim President Col Mamadi Doumbouya go and what were some of the issues that came up in discussions?
It was an honor to meet President Doumbouya and I thought the meeting went very well. He is highly intelligent, sincere, and an engaged listener. I think his education and background clearly guide his vision for this transition and putting the government on firm footing for the next democratically elected government. He was very clear that a strategic partnership with the United States was critical in helping realize a positive future for Guineans.
Importantly, it was clear to me by our meeting that he genuinely cares about the future of Guineans.
How reassured were you on the future of Guinea after discussions with Col Doumbouya?
I was very reassured, the President is a young man who understands the sobering realities in Guinea after ten years of financial mismanagement, corruption, socio-political tension, government sanctioned murders, and civilian arrest. There is a lot of work to do and I think the interim government can use all of the support it can get for a good transition to an elected government.
The President embraces the concept that the role of government is to deliver goods and services to the people, and I found that very reassuring.
What impact has the change in leadership had on your role or duties as Honorary Counsel for Guinea in California?
My duties have always been to Guineans regardless of the political leadership so in that sense my role is no different. The change gives me optimism for more opportunities for American companies to do business in Guinea, which I firmly believe will be good for Guineans. This administration has stated its intention to focus on its strategic partners in the West, particularly the United States. This is a big change from the prior administration which worked almost exclusively with China and Turkey without assured benefits to Guineans.
Talking about leadership, what updates did you get on the whereabouts and situation of former President Alpha Conde?
Former President Alpha Conde is currently under house arrest in the former First Lady’s residence in Conakry. He is currently awaiting trial by a civilian court. To my knowledge, the charges against the former President have not been released yet.
What are some of the investment opportunities or sectors that could be of Americans in Guinea?
There are already many more opportunities for US firms, especially in agriculture, infrastructure, and technology. The President made it clear that Guinea is open to US investment and opportunities. I think a close strategic partnership with the US would serve Guinea well, similar to successful examples in Rwanda and likely the case in DRC. Look at Rwanda today, there are many investors, a simple and transparent business climate, and not to mention robust tourism. There is a lot of work to be done, but this can be replicated in Guinea given the political will of this and future administrations.
Considering the apprehensions that your home government has military rule, what do you plan on doing to reassure Americans that all is well, and Guinea is still open for business?
It is definitely not military rule. The new government is entirely civilian, experienced in their respective fields and many of whom studied in the West. The President directed his administration to implement good governance policies and prioritize transparency. Guinea is undeniably open for business and this will be more apparent as the new administration works towards its goals. I am further encouraged by the Guinean youth and entrepreneurs ready and able to engage given the opportunities.
An ironic change is that it is arguably less of a military state than under Alpha Conde. The simmering tensions palpable a year ago have disappeared and there are actually fewer soldiers in the streets than under the previous administration.
I think it is a good sign that President Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya freed the remaining political prisoners jailed by Alpha Conde. But I am reminded and saddened by the price that was paid in the fight for democracy under Conde. Hundreds of people lost their life and my heart goes out to their families and friends. It marks a low point in our history.
Thank you for this opportunity to highlight my recent trip. I look forward to 2022 bringing health and prosperity to Guineans.