The Acting Minister of Trade and Industry, Madam Mabinty Daramy on Tuesdays 8th September 2015, launched a new investment Project titled, ‘To Increase Sierra Leones Export Competitiveness through Improved Product Packaging’. The event which took place at the Hub Hotel at Wilberforce in Freetown attracted several important personalities from the private sector including Small Medium Enterprise Owners as well as the business community and government officials.
The ceremony was organized by the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) with support from the Commonwealth.
The project is geared towards improving Sierra Leone products packaging with the aim of attracting the local and international markets and for better competition as well as improving economic growth through the private sector.
In her statement, the Minister of Trade and Industry recalled that between 2009 and 2010, she participated in the deliberations of the National Committee established to oversee the preparation of Sierra Leone’s first ever, National Export Strategy (NES).
According to her, Export Packaging was one of the Cross Cutting Issues they identified as being the problem affecting Sierra Leone National Export Performance and for which they developed appropriate strategies to address. She informed that NES process revealed that there was insufficient appreciation of the importance of a packaging industry in the country. She said high quality packaging is a marketing tool, influencing the sale of finished products defined not only by physical appearance, feel and durability, but also by the graphics and wording on labels.
“Since then, I have always had a passion to see that products from Sierra Leone are appropriately packaged” she maintained.
Madam Minister said SLIEPA and Commonwealth must be commended for undertaking the project initiative as according to her improved packaging will foster the country economic growth.
“My appreciation also goes to the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) which is implementing this Project on behalf of the Ministry of Trade and Industry for their unwavering commitment to ensure that this project kicks off” she stated.
She said before the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, one of the key issues that her Government has been grappling with was economic growth strategies focusing on the diversification of the economic base on a few export commodities which comprise nearly 85% of export volumes. She noted that manufacturing (including agro-processing) sector is identified under Sierra Leone’s current Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ as one of the four sectors pivotal for diversification and accelerating inclusive economic growth. According to her, the Government of Sierra Leone recognizes that insufficient value addition is being undertaken in the agro-processing sub-sector, effectively locking at SMEs and exporters out of the higher value end of lucrative global` supply chains and contributing to a negative trade balance for processed food and beverages.
Further the Minister noted that Sierra Leone has an under developed packaging sector which is under-resourced and needs investment, human resources and technological capacity to deliver an international standard of service to the domestic market and exporters. According to her, Sierra Leonean exporters and SME’s require support to raise their technical understanding of international requirements and to upgrade packaging used in order to conform to those standards.
“The global packaging market is currently valued at $597 billion and is estimated to reach $820 billion by 2016” she disclosed.
Earlier in his contributions, the Commonwealth Adviser, Trade Competitive, Kirk Haywood said they have had good diplomatic and economic relationship with Sierra Leone. He said prior to the outbreak of the Ebola Disease, Sierra Leone economic was doing very well but since mid 2014 there has been an economic downturn. He was on; they want to help Sierra Leone and this not their first adventure in supporting projects.
“We have had a project with the Sierra Leone Youth Ministry that gears toward job creation for the youth” he said.
Finally, Kirk Haywood disclosed that after an international bidding process, Treglor Global Consults has been awarded the contract, to give SLIEPA the technical assistant in the implementation process.
He said Commonwealth has recognized that Sierra Leone does not have strong packaging system that stands for competition and attraction on the market. He said those in the private sector better understand what packing does and how it promote the product.
“Commonwealth is really focused on packaging in order to make the private sector helps itself” the Adviser said adding that they also intend to help Sierra Leone in the post economic Ebola recovery”.
Earlier in his opening statement, the Director of Export, SLIEPA, Siaka Kowa confessed that packaging was a difficult problem in the Sierra Leone business sector.
He said it was high time for the SMEs and the private sector produce products that have economic values and attraction especially in the international markets.
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SLIEPA, Raymond Gbekie underscored the implementation mandate of the project was giving to them by the Ministry of Trade. He noted the Commonwealth Secretariat is sponsoring the entire project.
“Packaging will add value to the products in the international Market” he revealed. He said they are quite sure that if increased packaging is done the private sector and other stakeholder will benefit.
A comprehensive presentation was equally done by a representative from Troglor Global Consults, Ebenezer Mante.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.