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Sierra Leone News : Sierra Leone’s business community calls for investment-led post Ebola economic recovery
By Awareness Times
Mar 12, 2015, 17:02
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When Sierra Leone’s business community met with international investors in London’s House of Commons on 24 February, to discuss the post-Ebola economy, the overwhelming message was that a sustainable economic recovery for Sierra Leone needed to be investment-led not aid-led.

 

However potential investors in Sierra Leone associate Sierra Leone with its 10 year civil conflict and now the Ebola epidemic.  Those negative perceptions make attracting investment much harder and a campaign to change Sierra  Leone’s international image is needed, say the national and international business community.

 

The event - ‘Post Ebola economic renaissance in Sierra Leone and the role of the private sector’ - was organised by Freetown firm Elixir Marketing and Media as a non-profit initiative, and sponsored by the Sierra Leone Chamber of Mines.  

 

House of Commons Post Ebola Renaissance Event 085

 

It was chaired by British politician, the Right Honourable David Lammy MP and attended by over 150 international and national financiers, business people and investors.  Representatives from Sierra Leone included Dr Samura Kamara, the Minister of Foreign Affairs; Momodu Kargbo, Governor of the Central Bank; Joseph Kamara, the Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission; Professor Monty Jones, Special Advisor to the President and H.E. Mr. Edward M. Turay, our High Commissioner to the UK.

 

The opening speech was delivered by John Sisay, CEO of Sierra Rutile and President of the Chamber of Mines. He emphasised the country’s resilience and economic potential. “Sierra Leone is a country that holds much promise. It has been tested over the years, but at every given occasion has shown itself capable of facing down its challenges.  It has made resilience its backbone and real hope the oxygen of the country.   It is a small country of six million people, but we are a small country with big ambitions, and our problems are small enough to fix.”

 

Speaking next was Professor Monty Jones, Special Advisor to the President.  He highlighted Sierra Leone’s determination to meet the objectives set out in the 2013 Agenda for Prosperity despite the setback caused by Ebola: “A post Ebola Economic Recovery plan has been developed and it outlines our aspirations to fast track economic growth and development to over and beyond where we were before Ebola struck and move on course to attaining our vision of Middle Income Country Status by 2035. The plan incorporates key aspects of the Agenda for Prosperity and will address the weaknesses observed in the health sector and destructions in other aspects of the economy by the Ebola epidemic.” 

 

Simon Cleasby, CEO of Addax Bioenergy - a large agri-industrial investment in Sierra Leone – gave the investor’s perspective.  He told the audience that Addax’s experience of investment in Sierra Leone was positive, notwithstanding the immense challenges that the country is facing. “We started production in 2014, have just made our first sales of bioethanol, and remain completely committed to our investment, as well as to Sierra Leone,” he said.

 

The keynote speaker, Dr Samura Kamara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, focused on economic diversification: “Mining is the main driver of revenue in Sierra Leone and the sector is estimated to provide about 300,000 jobs, which is second only to agriculture. As such it is extremely important to our future prosperity; however Ebola reaffirmed our need to diversify the economy, as we have learned from shocks such as this, and of course the civil war, that resilience depends on opportunities for growth, employment and development across different sectors.”

 

Three other panellists - Mykay Kamara MD of A&A Investments and Services; Isha Johansen, President of SLFA; and Amara O Kuyateh, Deputy Director General of NASSIT - joined the speakers in leading the debate and answering questions from the audience.

 

Topics discussed included creating a more investor friendly regulatory environment, the role of women and young people in the post-Ebola economic renaissance and investor protection.  Capacity building emerged as a particular theme, with Mykay Kamara saying: “It’s incredibly important that we couple increased liquidity with capacity building.  It is not just about injecting capital into companies.  We have to do that alongside capacity development, across all aspects.”

 

Kamara’s point was underscored by NASSIT’s Amara Kuyateh: “We need to invest in local leadership, building the systems that support it and investing in the capability of local people.  Sierra Rutile is a testament to what investing in local leadership and local capabilities can achieve,” he said.

 

Post Ebola Renaissance in Sierra Leone and the role of the private sector is the first of a series of international and national events aimed at increasing the private sector’s participation in Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola recovery.  It follows on from the Private Sector Trade Exhibition held at Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko in early February.


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