Key Note address by HE President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma at Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation
The journey of the next fifty years of independence has begun; and we are gathered here today to map out how we are going to make it better than the journey we made during the last fifty years. This Conference is a moment for solidifying our collective promise to make this country better than we inherited it; and to deliver a country to our grandchildren that is worthy of their admiration, respect, and honorable remembrance of us.
The vision is already cast; the aspirations made known, and the situation more opportune than at anytime since the founding of our nation. Sierra Leoneans all over the country are in agreement that this nation must seize the opportunities inherent in the growing interests in our natural resources and commitment to democracy. We are here to map out how we will utilize our natural resources, our democracy and our culture to transform this nation into a middle-income level country and an advanced economy within the next twenty-five to fifty years.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, distinguished friends of our great nation, it is within our rights to have this vision for Sierra Leone; it is within our rights to want to be in charge of our transformation, and it is within our rights to chart the way forward towards this great vision. More importantly the realization of this vision is within our reach, it is within the possibilities offered by our immense natural resources; and it is within touching distance of what could be achieved by resolute and confident citizens.
Our country is at the threshold of rapid transformation and growth. In this year alone GDP will increase by over 50%. This is no mean feat. The transformation has begun; there is no turning back; we either take charge of the transformation or we will be transformed in ways we do not like.
We establish Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation because we want to move along a path that Sierra Leoneans of all political persuasion, region and religion would be proud of. Sierra Leoneans are very keen on taking the driver’s seat in the transformation of the country. This has been borne out by the discussions organized by the Conference Secretariat all over the country. Farmers want to be at the driving seat of the transformation; teachers and student want to be integral to the transformation; nurses, miners, youths, women, the physically challenged, business people, office workers, professors, lecturers, and traders, all want to be active participants of the transformation.
Everywhere there is a groundswell of support for the idea that we must not only be at the drivers seat, but that our resources must benefit Sierra Leoneans of all regions, all social groups and that everybody, young and old, men and women must be within realms of opportunities made available by the transformation.
Right across the country, a consensus is already emerging that we should mostly utilize the nation’s resources on what I will call the three ‘E’s and the two ‘I’s: Education, Energy, Employment, Infrastructure and Investments on programs of inclusivity, equity and accountability. We are gathered here to deepen discussions on the emerging consensus and set out action points as to which programmes would impact most positively on the greatest number of Sierra Leoneans.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, distinguished friends of Sierra Leoneans, when we critically examine the history of our country, we find great moments of pride, and also challenging moments of sub-optimal performance. We want to overcome our sub-optimal performances; we want to move to an era where this country would mostly be known for its achievements and not for its mistakes and tragedies.
We have achieved a lot as a nation, but there have been too many mistakes and missteps in our history that have often taken the shine off the great promise of our nation. We note on hindsight that many of our institutions, policies, processes and even our education system were not flexible enough to accommodate the changing circumstances of our time. This is not a complaint made against our heritage; it is an acknowledgement of our own reluctance to take bold new measures to change our destiny.
We are now at a position similar to where we were at independence. There is high demand for our natural resources, a democratic system of governance, and a populace eager for transform itself. We must not be distracted; we must not allow partisan interests or electioneering to derail our collective aspirations for a better Sierra Leone; we must not allow the violent to take the shine off our demonstrated commitment to democratic elections. The process of transformation has started, and we must sustain it.
We must all acknowledge that The good Lord has given this nation a second chance, let us grab it with the fervour of true patriots and the strength, efficiency and perseverance of a people prepared for bolder changes to our methods and practices. This involves all of us, politicians, civil servants, farmers, school children, mine workers, traders, every one …SALONE NAH WE ALL YONE EN NAH WE ALL GO MAKE E FINE.
The challenges are huge, but they are not insurmountable. During this conference we will hear about the experience of others that were in similar positions but made the change. If countries that are less endowed than us have done it, we too can do it. We too can create a most productive workforce; we too can construct first class roads and other social infrastructure everywhere; we too can utilize our will and resources to transform the education sector; we too can build a healthcare system that is the envy of the world; we too can have billions of dollars in reserves; we too can become a donor nation, spreading the resources of our productivity, democracy, peace and religious tolerance to the peoples of the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I am heartened by the fact that discussions about the conference all over the country have urged that we strongly focus on implementation of the great ideas that are being recommended. This conference must therefore come up with a framework of implementation; this conference must serve as the bridge for moving the people of this great nation away from the comfort zones of talking too much to the places of action, productivity, and implementation. This conference must live to the promise of its establishment as a process for getting actionable ideas that will transform this country into a caring and confident donor nation, at peace with itself and the world.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, friends of this great nation, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I believe in this nation, I believe in the promise of greatness embedded in our history; I affirm that the positive traits of our nationhood will triumph over the challenges we face; and I know that bold discussions in this conference will yield actionable recommendations that will get us to our vision of Sierra Leone as a donor nation, an advanced economy, and a caring society.
God Bless Sierra Leone
I thank you for your attention.
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