Former international footballer George Weah has been elected Liberia’s new president by a wide margin as the West African nation faces its first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.

Vice president Joseph Boakai conceded on Friday, congratulating the former Fifa World Player of the Year.

Liberia’s National Election Commission said the Coalition for Democratic Change received 61.5% of the vote with 732,185 votes, beating Mr Boakai’s Unity Party which got 457,579 or 38.5% of the votes.

In his first public comments, Mr Weah said he was “honoured to join a new generation of heads of state”.

Tweeting in French in response to congratulations from French president Emmanuel Macron, he added that “we have a lot to do together to accelerate the building of tomorrow’s Africa”.

Africa’s first female president, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is stepping aside after two terms at the head of the nation founded by freed American slaves.

She led the country from back-to-back civil wars and saw it through a deadly Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians but was criticised for not better tackling corruption.

Mr Weah, 51, is a senator who entered politics after retirement from football more than a decade ago.

He led the first-round vote in October but did not receive enough ballots to win outright over the 73-year-old Mr Boakai, who has been vice president for 12 years.

In his remarks conceding the election, Mr Boakai offered a “hand of goodwill” to the winner and dismissed the idea of challenging the runoff results in court.

“I refuse to subject our nation to such an experience,” he said. “I reject any temptation of imposing pain, hardship and uncertainty on our people.”

Mr Weah is expected to take office in January.

Though voter turnout for Tuesday’s runoff was low, he drew support from the younger generation, which makes up a majority of Liberia’s population of 4.6 million people.

“We are young people and have suffered in this country for so long,” said one supporter, Love Norrision.

The commission said 56% of the country’s 2.2 million registered voters cast ballots in the runoff, which was contested twice in court amid claims of irregularities, with its original November 7 date delayed.

Supporters of George Weah celebrate in Monrovia (Abbas Dulleh/AP)Supporters of George Weah celebrate in Monrovia (Abbas Dulleh/AP)

Mr Weah led the ticket for a coalition party, the Congress for Democratic Change, with Jewel Howard-Taylor as his vice presidential running mate.

She is a senator and the ex-wife of imprisoned former warlord and President Charles Taylor, which raised concerns among some Liberians.

Mr Weah’s rags-to-riches story has been an inspiration to many supporters who call him “King George”.

He was born in a slum of the capital, Monrovia, and showed early promise in football.

He played for top local clubs before starting his international career in Cameroon, then moved on to AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, where he became famous.

While with AC Milan, Mr Weah in 1995 won World Player of the Year. He later played for Chelsea and Manchester City.

Mr Weah’s limited educational background hurt his political aspirations, and he returned to school after the 2005 attempt for president.

He obtained a high school diploma abroad and earned a degree from Illinois-based DeVry University.