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Statement Delivered by Hon. Haja Afsatu O. E. Kabba at the Crans Montana Forum, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain, December 2008.Theme: Strengthening the GCC- Africa Cooperation
Jan 6, 2009, 17:12
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Prime Ministers and Ministers of Cabinet from the various countries represented here, Ambassadors, Representatives of International Organizations, Development Partners, Chairman and members of the Crans Montana Forum, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. All protocols observed.

My President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone has asked me to convey his greetings and sentiments of His highest esteem to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the people of the Kingdom. My President has also asked me to convey His warm greetings and best wishes to all of you for a successful conference as you make bold efforts toward strengthening the cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council States and Africa for the benefit of our people.

Mr. Chairman, I personally want to extend my personal gratitude to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom and the people of Manama for the warm hospitality that has been accorded to me and my delegation since our arrival in Manama. My President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is a firm believer in south-south cooperation with a view to supporting development efforts for the common good of all citizens of the south-south axis. In this regard, my President conveys His Governments total support for your efforts and that of the Crans Montana Forum in fostering dialogue that will no doubt result in the creation of a solid foundation and the bedrock for International Development among south- south member states.

Mr. Chairman, I am coming from a small tropical country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa called Sierra Leone. A country that came out of a brutal eleven year civil war that ended in 2002. The current population of Sierra Leone is about five and a half million people, with a surface area of 72,000 square kilometers.

I am very proud to report to you that peace and stability have indeed returned to Sierra Leone as demonstrated by two Presidential and Parliamentary general elections and two Local Government elections that have been judged by the competent international organizations as being FREE, FAIR, CREDIBLE AND REPRESENTING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE. In fact the credibility of these elections was demonstrated by the victory of the opposition party in both the Presidential and Parliamentary general elections last year that ushered in the Government of His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

In terms of political stability, civil liberties, and political rights, Sierra Leone is now a shining beacon of hope in Africa. The transition from war to peace and the assumption of the reigns of power by the opposition party in September 2007 indeed is a very rare occurrence in Africa and a testament to the latent strength of our democracy and will of our people to embrace change.

Government has instituted an Open Government Initiative though which His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and members of his Cabinet travel to various parts of the country on a regular basis to hold open forums in which government policies are explained and government officials get first hand feed back from the citizens. International development partners are always invited to these forums. This is part of the Good Governance initiative to ensure the full participation of the citizens in the affairs of state.

This year, Sierra Leone was selected to receive the prestigious Africa Peace Award by the Trustees of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) for our good human rights record, the peaceful settlement of disputes and good governance. The World Bank and the International Finance Cooperation have also rated Sierra Leone as the easiest country in West Africa to start a business.

Mr. Chairman, My President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, in his speech to parliament on 10th October, 2008, declared that

"having laid a solid foundation for the advancement of our country, we intend to proceed in the coming year, according to the priorities agreed in our" Agenda for change" Programme. The agenda concentrates on six priority areas as follows:

Energy and Water supply;
Infrastructure and Transportation;
Youth Unemployment;
The Growth Sectors;
Social Services and
Capacity Building

President Koroma further emphasized that these priority areas, his government will place greater emphasis on the tripod of our development, namely energy, agriculture and infrastructure. While my Government remains committed to addressing the basic social needs of our people, we need to concentrate on these three priority areas to sustain the necessary level of development that can lift our people out of poverty. We as a people must therefore mobilize the necessary resources to undertake these programmes".

Mr. Chairman, Sierra Leone is endowed with substantial natural resources. These include mineral resources such as diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold and iron ore as well as rich agricultural and marine resources. These are the major sources of our export earnings. My country is greatly endowed with water resources rainwater, ground water, streams and rivers that can be harnessed for energy generation. We have seven major rivers and an abundance of rainfall. Sierra Leone is one of a handful of countries in all of Africa that have water independence; this means that all of the water sources are contained within the country. Our rivers and their tributaries provide us with an abundance of hydroelectric potential. We are working assiduously to ensure the efficient use of water as we work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In fact, I have come here directly from the Republic of Mali where I participated in a regional conference of Ministers responsible for water resources in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states. The theme of that conference was Regional Integration of Water Resources.

My portfolio, the Ministry of Energy & Power, is responsible for electricity, water, sanitation and storage of petroleum products among others. Every sector of Government depends on these services. Electricity is the key to national development as no country in the industrial age has achieved meaningful national development without sustainable and affordable electricity. Reliable power supply has enormous potential to transform and expand the economy and thus create jobs and contribute to human security.

WATER IS LIFE!!! Nothing can survive without water. Sanitation is necessary for meaningful health, and water is a key ingredient for a healthy population. It reduces infant and maternal mortality. Furthermore, water can be a major factor in ensuring peace as nations cooperate to use this valuable resource.

In Sierra Leone low grades of energy dominate the energy scene; about 87% of the total energy used in Sierra Leone is traditional fuels, that is, firewood and charcoal. In terms of cooking, wood is the predominant household energy source and it accounts for about 92% of the domestic energy use while charcoal accounts for 4.8%. Electricity and gas between them account for only 0.4% of household energy consumption. The petroleum product used in households is predominantly kerosene, which contributes about 2.7%.

Upon assuming the reigns of power in September 2007, His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma made a pronouncement in His First address to Parliament on the 5th October 2007 categorizing the challenges of inadequate electricity in Sierra Leone as a national priority deserving immediate attention. The Head of State further outlined his Vision as follows:

"To provide reliable, cost effective, sustainable, environmentally complaint energy to satisfy the present and future needs of all sectors in Sierra Leone, through public and private sector partnership including international assistance". - H.E Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, 10th October 2007.

In accordance with his vision, and promises to the people, His Excellency the President put in place the appropriate structures and established a Presidential Energy Emergency Task Force supervised by my Ministry for the purposes of instituting emergency measures to restore the supply of electricity and provide recommendations for the countrys sustainable energy future. The policy pronouncement by His Excellency was based on firm conviction that Sierra Leone is a blessed country with abundant natural resources. With the right policy direction and strategy, the entrepreneurial talent and huge inherently tolerant potential of its people, Sierra Leone is now poised to address the challenges of sustainable energy delivery, promote human security, peace, stability and sustainable development.

Sierra Leone is endowed with a wealth of energy resources which are viable particularly biomass, hydroelectric, solar and wind power. The fossil fuels with commercial value in Sierra Leone are coal and crude oil. The type of coal available in the country is lignite and there is a significant reserve of it. With regards to Petroleum two explorations were done by Mobil and Amoco in 1982 and 1986 respectively. The results of these explorations indicated that there is the potential for oil and gas in the country. In 2003, agreements were signed with four companies for additional exploration and development work in the contract areas or blocks. Recently in June 2008 government published a redefinition of offshore Petroleum Block boundary and opening of three new offshore blocks for exploration.

The Ministrys current focus is on accessible renewable energy resources and the available accessible renewable energies are hydropower, biomass, solar and wind. Sierra Leone has several rivers that could be exploited for hydroelectricity. The estimated potential is 1,513 MW scattered in about 27 sites. The biomass resource base comprises residues, existing forests and deforested or otherwise degraded lands on which "energy plantations" can be cultivated. Of the residues, 656,400 tonnes of crop wastes (rice husk, rice straw, cocoa husk, etc) are produced annually, with a total annual energy potential of 2,706 Giga Watt Hours (GWh). This gives an indication of the potential of a single biomass resource (crop residues) to adequately satisfy the countrys basic demand for electricity. The country experiences sunshine for most part of the year and hence solar energy is in abundance. The potential for Solar PV or Solar Home Systems is great due to the solar radiation and very low access of electricity in the country. Pilot solar lighting has been demonstrated in rural communities installed in hospitals, secondary schools, domestic and commercial buildings.

The continued decline of electricity generation in Freetown towards the end of 2007 saw the entrance of two independent power producers in the country. The available capacity, by then, was about 5 MW. Consequently, GoSL engaged two Independent Power Providers (Global Trading Group GTG) for the provision of 15 MW at Kingtom for one year (December 2007-December 2008) and Income Electrix Limited (IEL) for the provision of a total of 25 MW to be installed at Blackhall Road and other locations in Freetown to salvage the electricity supply crisis.

Currently, there is improvement in the electricity supply in the Western Area. Coupled with the above emergency measure, there are several projects in the pipeline such as:

i. Rehabilitation of existing thermal plants;
ii. Implementation of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and Saudi Development Fund (SDF) project for the installation of 2 x 8.75 MW diesel generating units; and,
iii. Implementation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project for the supply and installation of 2 x 5 MW generating sets at the Kingtom Power Station with an expected commissioning by December 2009.
iv. Completion of Phase I of the Bumbuna hydroelectric project (50 MW) which is being funded by the Government of Italy, the African Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the British Department for International Development (DFID).
v. Upgrading of the Freetown transmission and distribution network by the Islamic Development Bank (IDP)

Furthermore, a study conducted in the 1994/95 identified thirty-two (32) potential sites for the construction of hydroelectric power plants. We continue to discover additional sites all the time.

In his Parliamentary address, His Excellency President Koroma also stated that: "Every district in the country is endowed with hydro electric potential and government intends to provide a mini hydro for all the district headquarter towns".

President Koroma also reflected on His governments success which has re-invigorated international interest in the energy sector. The Government of Japan is supporting the procurement of a 10 MW power plant and construction of a primary substation. The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and the Saudi Development Fund (SDF) is providing funds to significantly increase power generation. The United Nations Peace Building Fund is providing funds for Emergency Support to the Energy Sector. The Peoples Republic of China and UNIDO are providing assistance for the construction of a mini hydro dam on the Bankasoka River. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is providing funding for a Mini Hydro Project. The European Union is funding Electrification of 11 Provincial Towns to facilitate transmission of Bumbuna Power to local communities.

Government is committed, through its structural, institutional and private sector development initiatives, to fully achieve its energy access goals by 2015.

Sierra Leone is a member of the West African Power Pool (WAPP). The main goal of WAPP is to ensure the integration of the electricity infrastructure among West African countries with a view to creating an electricity market where countries can trade in electricity across borders. To achieve this goal, a transmission network is being constructed to link all of the major thermal and hydroelectric electricity generation plants in the sub region. The segment that will connect Sierra Leone to the network will be commissioned in 2011.

Mr. Chairman, As you can see, my Ministry is the lynch pin to national development and sustainable regional peace. It is the ALPHA and OMEGA. Electricity is required for national development. Water is the first thing that a new born child is given. At the end of life, water is used to prepare the deceased for burial. In our Islamic tradition, we use water for ablution before salat. We depend on petroleum products to fuel the engines our transportation sector.

Mr. Chairman, In the realm of mineral resources, we have deposits of diamonds, gold, iron ore, titanium ore (rutile), bauxite among others. All of these minerals are available in very large commercial quantities. Prospecting for oil has indicated the potential for huge commercial quantities off shore. Our abundant rainfall and fertile lands give us a tremendous agricultural potential. Indeed we could become one of the bread baskets of the south-south axis.

The Government of Sierra Leone has identified agribusiness as a strategic sector for investment because of the possibilities it represent for food security, revenue generation and wealth creation. The Governments vision of commercialization of agriculture is being achieved through a programme of attracting private sector investment.

Sierra Leone has an abundance of marine resources. The quality of our fish, lobsters, and other sea food is unrivalled. In fact there was a study conducted in the 1990s by one of our development partners that stated that we could shut down our mining industry and live off our marine resources for decades. This sector is waiting for the right investment partners to take off.

Our tourist potential is unrivalled. Our sandy white beaches, tropical sunshine, historic sites both on and off shore and most of all our friendly people will make any tourist long to extend his or her stay and also return at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Chairman, We are looking for development partners to actualize these and other projects in the energy sector. The main thrust of Sierra Leone Governments investment promotion policy is to eliminate the structural and physical difficulties currently facing potential investors. Among the key strategies is simplifying business registration and transactions through the consolidation of the role of the Sierra Leone Export Development and Investment Corporation (SLEDIC) as a one stop shop.

Mr. Chairman, The Government and people have re-birthed and re-branded Sierra Leone and have restored its image to one of peace, stability, the establishment of the rule of law and an investor friendly atmosphere. It is becoming a destination for potential investors in West Africa.

I know there is someone else here to help me make this clarion call. Let me take this opportunity to recognize the presence of Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, the Secretary General of UNIDO. He is a citizen of Sierra Leone and we his fellow citizens are extremely proud of him for his international leadership role.

I call upon you to come to Sierra Leone and see for yourselves the investment gem that it is. Come one come all.

Finally, I want to congratulate the Chairman and members of the Crans Montana Forum for organizing this forum. I want to assure the Chairman that he can always count on my Governments full support for him personally and his staff and organization in general.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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