A Conversation with One of Africa’s Leading Ladies and Liberian Presidential Aspirant, MacDella Cooper
Photos: Liberian Presidential Aspirant, MacDella Cooper
MacDella Cooper is an activist, philanthropist, and politician who is currently in the race to become the next President of Liberia. She is a former child refugee of Liberia who defeated the odds and survived life in a war-torn country. Over the years, she has dedicated her time and resources to initiatives that improve the lives of Liberians. As founder of the MacDella Cooper Foundation and the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy, she tirelessly fights for the rights of others, particularly women and children.
MacDella is an outspoken advocate for underrepresented Liberians and promises to deliver the relief Liberians have long hoped for. To address inequities in Liberia’s government, MacDella founded the Movement for One Liberia, a political party dedicated to giving Liberian women, youth, and disadvantaged citizens the opportunity to participate in the government.
She expertly balances her successful business endeavors and life as a wife and mother with the needs of impoverished Liberians. To some, she is Madam MacDella Cooper, the political phenom breaking barriers as she amplifies the voices of concerned Liberians in a life-changing way and to others, she is Mama Liberia, a woman with an authentic purpose and a heart for easing the suffering of those around her. Her demeanor uplifts and inspires individuals in every generation.
Regardless of how you have come to know her name, there is one thing that is certain, MacDella Cooper is a force to be reckoned with and the change that Liberia deserves.
Q: MacDella Cooper, you are in the midst of a challenging Presidential race in Liberia. This is a race you competed in during the 2017 elections; what made you decide to run again this year after being defeated in the previous election?
A: My passion for seeing Liberia become one of Africa’s most economically secure countries is not one that will ever end. I was hopeful that the current President would enter office and carry out the promises made to the Liberian people during the 2017 election, but I see that it has not been done. I am ready to come in strong and fix all of the issues that we are facing. Liberia is a country that is more than deserving of better days and I plan to enter into the office of the Presidency and be a leader who is always present and accountable for positive changes in our economy, schools, hospitals, technology, and more.
I am ready to give Liberians the chance to live in a country that protects and values them.
Q: If elected, what will be the first reform you will propose?
A: To see the Liberia we all want, I have to upgrade our education system. As of now, the literacy rate is 62.42% for males and 32.82% for females, which means that working age adults cannot read and write well enough to complete vocational training. When this happens, they live in poverty and do not have a way to buy healthy food, which is why so many Liberians now suffer from declining health. It is all a cycle that the current President keeps Liberians stuck in to maintain his corrupt practices - a nation that can understand what is happening around them can voice their opinion, so their voices are being stifled by keeping education out of their reach.
Once I have programs in place to make Liberians more literate, they will be ready to enter training programs that will benefit our country in multiple ways - jobs will be created, we will be able to use our natural resources to make more money that is used to build up Liberia, and the overall health of our people will improve, to name a few.
While I am making improvements in education, I will also work with my administration to build a better infrastructure, so educated Liberians who are ready to work will have a way to get to and from places of employment and shopping centers. From there, Liberians can expect to see improvements in all sectors - education, economic development, healthcare, innovation and technology, and the justice system.
Q: In your opinion, what is the key to turning your vision for Liberia into reality?
A: I am a leader who hears and understands the suffering of Liberians and is willing to change it. I have lived through what they are going through and know the strength it takes to come out of that place of pain and suffering. I also know that it takes help from others at times, so I am going to use the relationships I have maintained over the years with investors and business leaders to bring help into Liberia. But before I can accept money from investors, I have to make sure that corruption has been removed from our government. I will not allow money from investors to profit lawmakers while Liberians suffer from poverty and despair.
From the start of my Presidency, corrupt leaders will be replaced with leaders who will govern the laws of the land appropriately and protect the wellbeing of every Liberian. I will have a zero-tolerance policy for corrupt practices and will not waste any time unraveling the layers of corruption created by the current administration.
Q: You often express concern about the future of Liberia’s economy and mention that investors will play a part in economic revitalization; how are you going to manage influence from investors, particularly those from other countries?
A: I understand that some Liberians are concerned about having investors from other countries come in and create businesses, but I can promise them that this is our country now, and will remain our country after I am in office. I will not allow any investor to come into Liberia and take away our citizens’ rights to earn a good income. Investors will comply with the laws of Liberia and will not harm our country. I have carefully sourced business leaders and investors from around the world who have a heart for helping others and as such, I will only work with those who agree to allow Liberians the right to be trained to operate the new businesses being formed - the goal is to have Liberians live better and contribute to making Liberia a better country in every way.
Our access to safe drinking water and reliable electricity will be some of the benefits that Liberians will see, in addition to state-of-the-art schools that show our kids how to prepare for life in the real world. My role as President is to secure business deals that protect and add value to the lives of the people of Liberia, not take it away.
Q: There has been an ongoing debate as to whether women have been given a fair chance to participate in Liberia’s government. Tell us where you stand on this issue.
A: Women, young people, and people living with disabilities are underrepresented in every area of government in Liberia. We are behind the times when it comes to having equal representation in our government. When the current President was elected, women held 11.7% of the seats in government and men held 88.3%. Now, six years after he has been in office, women hold 9.7% of the seats in government and men hold 90.3%.
This means that men are still the primary decision makers on every issue, even those related to women’s rights and roles in society. A democracy is not supposed to operate this way - every Liberian should be able to look at our leaders and see at least a handful that can speak for them when it comes to making and enforcing laws.
When it comes to running a Presidential election campaign, getting support as a female candidate is equally challenging, with many of my male opponents taking advantage of their current dominance to sway voters.
Q: Young people are very engaged in politics during this election; how will you keep them engaged if you are elected as President?
A: I have always paid close attention to our young people with the understanding that they are our future. What we instill in them is what we will see manifested in our communities years from now, so I take great care to nurture their ability to make informed decisions about the world around them. In 2010, I amplified the voices of young people by founding the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy. The academy provides free tuition that includes room and board, along with access to enriching educational programs that will help them secure scholarships to study at top colleges and universities. Graduates have done exceedingly well and are encouraged to return home to share their knowledge with the next generation of Liberians. I am also proud to share that graduates of the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy are internationally recognized performers who successfully passed their West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations.
Once I am elected President, there will be similar schools built throughout Liberia and additional curriculum will be added to enhance the overall experience of students. I have strong relationships with global educators who will lend support to the development of programs that teach learners at every age and learning level.
Q: Cybersecurity threats are disrupting systems all over the world; do you think it will disrupt the electoral process?
A: I believe that Liberia will experience the impact of our systems being disrupted, especially as the election date gets closer. Our technology is not advanced, which puts us at an even greater risk of seeing disruptions as Liberians make their voices heard by voting. There have already been disruptions during live broadcasts of online platforms that invite me to share my voice with the nation. In past years, the threat of poor technology and cybersecurity attacks have been ignored by the current President. It is safe to say that this is being done intentionally - if Liberians are better connected, education and information will flow and the eyes of Liberians will be opened to see the corruption going on.
Disruptions might continue to come, but I will not stop using every method I can to make sure that my voice is heard - it is too important not to. I am speaking for every Liberian that needs to feel a change in their lives.
Q: Speaking of the election and possible issues, what is your plan to address the rumored voter suppression efforts by opposing political parties?
A: As with any change, it starts with education. Every chance I get, I am telling Liberians and the world that our election process is being tampered with. In many parts of Liberia, voters are being lied to and discouraged when they register to vote. During this phase of the election, sharing information is the key to stopping the voter suppression efforts of my opponents. I go back to the statement that men have used their current dominance to gain support from communities in whatever way they can - some are bribing Liberians and others are using fear tactics.
What is a Liberian to think when all they see around them is corruption? It is hard to know where to place trust, so many will go with what they know and vote for the candidate who puts the most pressure on them, whether it is good or bad. I am hopeful that as my voice continues to be heard, more Liberians will stand up and pay closer attention to the candidates and demand a fair voting process.
Q: What is your overall purpose as a leader?
A: My purpose as a leader is to protect and nurture Liberia so we can all see better days. As a leader, I identify the low-hanging fruits and determine if they are the cause of the lapses in progress. If they are, I manage the process of fixing the root of the issue so other parts of the tree can grow. It is a process that involves a balance of leading and nurturing. Having a government that reflects the population is one way to start the process. Next, we work together to create good jobs through educational programs that will lead to better equipped schools, hospitals, and shopping centers. While that is being done, I will make sure the infrastructure is being developed so we can connect more Liberians with the areas outside of their communities. Of course, enforcing the law is an important part of this - I must make sure that Liberians who have been empowered to work outside of their immediate communities are safe throughout their journey and able to return to homes that have been kept safe.
My administration will likely enter office with little funds because of the current corruption and will need to come up with innovative ways to address the issues and nurture our country back to good economic health. This is why you will continue to hear me mention the need for investors as we get back on our feet.
I will remind you that I am more than a 2023 Presidential candidate, I am the voice of Liberians who have suffered and want a better life.
Q: You are a passionate leader with a special focus on education and protection. Does this stem from your childhood experience as a child refugee? If so, what solutions will you put in place to make sure other refugees receive the protection and help they need?
A: Yes, it does. Being a refugee was a very dark period of my life. I went from one day to the next not knowing when I would eat or see my mother again. Food was not something I had every day and I was always worried about being raped or beaten. My faith told me that I would live to see better days if I looked beyond my current circumstances and trusted the ones around me who were there to help.
We have about 87,000 refugees in Liberia now, and even though they are a small part of our population, they are here with needs that we must fulfill. The same efforts to make Liberians’ lives better will be made to make refugees’ lives better. It will do us no good to leave a part of our population to suffer when we are trying so hard to work together to build a better nation. Refugees are deserving of the same basic rights and necessities as anyone else trying to survive in Liberia, so I will never turn my back on a situation I was once in.
Q: How do you view Africa’s future as a whole?
A: We must be aware that African nations are each wealthier than Arab Gulf states such as Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. If African nations unite, our future will be a continent with zero debt. As a continent, we are blessed with a brilliant destiny, endowed with the richest human, material, and cultural resources. I will push for us to become an African exporter of capital and a net exporter of aid. This is my aim and should be the aim of all African leaders.
Q: Thank you for such transparency. Is there anything you would like to leave our readers with?
A: I want everyone, whether living in Liberia or not, to do as I do and see beyond the current condition of our country and trust the process. Have belief that I will come in and be a leader who acts and meets the needs of Liberians. I am ready to change Liberia for the better and put an end to the suffering - we deserve more, and I intend to make sure that we get more.
You can learn more about MacDella Cooper and her mission to improve the lives of Liberians by connecting with her on social media:
To donate to her campaign and bring change to Liberia, please visit:
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