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NEWS  

Sierra Leone Government Markets Country's Potential to Investors in London
By Internet News Reports
Nov 19, 2009, 17:24
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The All Peoples Congress (APC) led government of Sierra Leone with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, have jointly opened the trade and investment forum in London. The Sierra Leone Government delegation, led by His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, yesterday, Wednesday 18th November 2009, focused attention on presenting Sierra Leones untapped mineral wealth and natural resources to would be investors.

In his statement at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Westminster West Central London, President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma called on investors to commit themselves and do business in Sierra Leone.

President Koroma walks into Conference Center accompanied by Prince Charles

He pointed out that his government has been focusing on improving the investment climate by streamlining tax administration, enacting a new companies law and cutting red tape.

President Koroma said in addition to the protections against expropriation already enshrined in the Investment Promotion Act of 2004, his government has signed Bilateral Investment Treaties and Double Taxation Treaties with other countries and is able and willing to do so as the circumstances demand.

"I am proud to say that Sierra Leone is now one of the top five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa when it comes to investor protection and the ease of starting a business," the President said.

He explained further that his government has enacted a new Minerals Act to ensure greater transparency and a fairer deal for investors and communities.

The President thanked partners and friends especially the United Kingdom government for their support.

President Koroma catalogued some of his countrys growing potentials which are open to investment including; agriculture, energy, fisheries, mineral resources to mention but a few, adding: "our country is blessed"

He said since the war ended in 2002, Sierra Leones economy is expanding at an annual rate of around 6 percent, adding that the country will this year enjoy its tenth year of uninterrupted growth even in the face of the global economic downturn.

With stability fully returned, the President said his government has been able to look beyond the troubles of the past to the promise of the future and that promise, he said, is captured in what he called the Agenda for Change. "The Agenda for Change aims to put Sierra Leone on the path from aid dependency to a dynamic, self-sustaining economy. It focuses on investment and reform in the key strategic sectors which are most critical to unlocking the full productive potential of our economy," the President said.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair argued that Sierra Leone has recovered from its brutal civil war and could offer unmatched opportunities in agriculture and tourism.

With miles (kilometers) of untouched beaches and arable land, Blair encouraged investors to take a chance on the land once riven by civil war especially since its leadership is committed to stamping out the corruption that has impeded growth in other African countries.

"Its (Sierra Leone) got massive natural resources, wonderful possibilities commercially in agriculture, tourism, mining," Blair is quoted to have told newsmen, adding "What its got now for the first time is a stable system of government with a president who genuinely wants to make change, root out corruption."

Blair said, for example, that Sierra Leone had one of the biggest reserves of iron ore in the world, and had recently privatized its port, which could be used for exports off the West African coast.

"Africa is a rich country with poor people Sierra Leone is the clearest example of that," he said.

Blair, whose Africa Governance Initiative has been working with Koroma and his government for over a year, said before the meeting: "Investors are now prepared to think differently about Africa and there are a new generation of leaders who are rising to this challenge."

He said that since first meeting Koroma in 2007, "each subsequent meeting has made me more confident that, despite many challenges, Sierra Leone has significant, unrealised potential and is open for business and investment.

"William Fitzgerald, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said Washington was backing Koromas efforts because his government had "made impressive strides creating the stability and investment environment required to achieve long-term economic growth."

SOME OF THE ABOVE REPORTS CULLED FROM AFP AND AP REPORTS


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