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Sino-Africa Relation; the Sierra Leone Perspective

Sino-Africa Relation; the Sierra Leone Perspective

Wei Jianguo is the Secretary-General of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. When asked about what impressed him most about Sino-Africa economic cooperation, by CHINA-AFRICA  of  20th December 2011 edition , (a publication by the International Business Daily, at the Ministry of Commerce, in the People’s Republic of China), he specifically looked at China’s investment in  Africa thus, the investment  in Africa by China  has been largely on  infrastructure facilities, educational training and other large projects  and that “China surpasses the United States, France and Japan in their separate African investments…”.  (Photo: John Baimba Sesay, Information Attache, China)

This must be an outstanding impression he must have got, following what China is doing in Africa. Africa, no doubt is, economically and democratically a progress continent, but as written by Zheng Minyi, Africans must face the challenges faced by the fast growth the continent is experiencing.

It should be noted, that there are more than 6,000 branches of Chinese related companies across Africa with some 2,000 investments in the continent. In Malawi for instance, China’s first investment program in that country following the signing of diplomatic ties years back is through the Malawi Cotton project, with funding from the China-Africa Development Fund. This is believed to be the largest China-related agriculture investment in Africa. The China-Africa Development Fund is one of several ways through which Chinese enterprises are encouraged to invest in Africa.

Trade between Ghana and China, according to the publication earlier referred to reach US $ 1.27712 billion exceeding US $ 1 Billion for the first time, according to data in 2007 and   China’s imports from Ghana are to   increase by 150% and such imports include, but not limited to rubber and cocoa.  China, the world’s second largest economy and the largest exporter of manufactured goods has continued to play a leading role in international trade especially across Africa. It has significantly contributed to Africa’s economic growth.

Sierra Leone has been no exception to the socio-economic gains that African countries continue to enjoy from China. Sierra Leone has a Mission in China that is accredited to other countries in South East Asia and Pacific Region like Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam among others.  From the viewpoint of trade relations and economic and technical cooperation, to exchanges and cooperation in the fields of culture, education and health, there have been positive ties between the two countries. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in the early 1970s, China has continued to be of help to Sierra Leone. The Sino-Sierra Leone cooperation of mutual benefit started from 1984 and it has been making serious progress since then.

Mr. Paul A. Minah, Acting Head of Mission, Sierra Leone Embassy in China, elaborating on how the Mission has been trying to woo investors into Sierra Leone, said “the mission has been in constant touch with genuine investors within China and other countries of accreditation. Periodic meetings are held in the Mission especially with those Chinese companies that are presently in Sierra Leone. The Embassy in China, Mr. Minah explained was also very participatory in the 2010 Shanghai Expo, wherein Sierra Leone businesses people were brought to China and had contact with their Chinese counterparts. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) medium is also another forum through which the Embassy has been contacting investors…”

When President Koroma assumed power in 2007, one of his first priorities was to work towards the implementation of the Agenda for Change, which was and is still, aimed at moving the country to a new direction, a direction that is determined to change the lives of average Sierra Leoneans in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure, energy and power among other areas. To this end, the Mission in China has a crucial role to play in the implementation of the Agenda for Change just like other Missions abroad. Acting Head of Mission knows that  “The President’s Agenda for Change covers amongst others, the development and improvements in the areas of Energy, Health, agriculture and food security, infrastructure development, education etc. The Chinese government and Chinese investors have contributed immensely in these areas and there has been remarkable improvement in these areas back home. A large number of Sierra Leoneans now graduate from prestigious Chinese universities. In 2011 alone 32 will be graduating, thus supporting the educational sector of Sierra Leone”

Generally, there are several investment potentials in Sierra Leone. We have seen a bang in the country’s mineral sector, with mining companies like African Minerals and London Mining making tremendous progress in not only promoting the country’s image at the international scene as a business friendly environment, but also helping in the area of unemployment. The President’s Agenda for Change, when related to agriculture means a look for a post war country like Sierra Leone and this is another area that the President has paid serious attention.   Our investment potentials in agriculture are among the best in  West Africa , having a “diverse climate, plentiful; rainfall, good soil and abundant land to be cultivated…”(Page 17 of LOKWE Magazine-July,2011 Edition) .In Eastern Sierra Leone alone,  over 75% of people are believed to be engaged in agricultural activities.

There is another great potential area in Sierra Leone and that is fisheries and marine resource sector. The marine resources of the country are not that developed for a number of reasons and they have not been effectively managed over the years. Government’s commitment to fully bringing to light the potentials in the fisheries sector could not be underestimated, especially following the introduction of a West Africa sub regional programme on fisheries.  That said, another intervention in the fisheries and marine sectors could be through the construction of fisheries harbour complex, which practically could be of great help to our country and this is where I think the China Machinery Engineering Cooperation would want to intervene. The marine sector alone is contributing about 10% to Sierra Leone’s Gross Domestic Product, also creating an employment for thousands of Sierra Leoneans.

A lot has been happening in terms of forging the diplomatic ties between Sierra Leone and China. President Koroma’s election into office as President of Sierra Leone has also seen a new direction in the relationship between Sierra Leone and China, with more Chinese investors now present in Sierra Leone than before. With funding by the Chinese Government for the construction of a new International Airport in Sierra Leone now available, it means, Sierra Leone’s development potentials, spearheaded by President Ernest Bai Koroma are gaining momentum. This has been a priority of His Excellency the President since he came to power four years ago and he has not slept over any of those priority areas of agriculture, education, infrastructural development and a host of others.

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