Sierra Leone, a country ready for business
‘Business Civilization Monthly’ is one of the widely published Magazines in the People’s Republic of China. The April edition featured an article, written by John Baimba Sesay, Information Attaché, Sierra Leone Embassy in the People’s Republic of China on the business readiness of Sierra Leone. He also explained the improvement made in Sierra Leone’s tax environment, progress in the Agenda for Change and many other issues. Published in both English and Chinese, Sierra Express Media brings you the English version of the said article. (Photo: His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone)
Sierra Leone, a country ready for business
Sierra Leone is a country located in West Africa with a land size of 72,000 sq km and with a population of approximately 6 million. It has a tropical and humid climate and with so many natural resources such as rutile, diamond, gold, petroleum and rich offshore fishing among others.
The need for a win-win situation for both China and Africa has always taken the centre stage when discussing Africa’s development, to which Sierra Leone is no exception. By 2011 alone, trade between China and Africa reportedly reached $160 billion, while African exports to China increased by one-third during the same period, up from $67 billion in 2010 to $93 billion.
China-Sierra Leone ties
Sierra Leone has continued to enjoy diplomatic relations with China since 1971, when both countries signed diplomatic ties. And since these diplomatic ties were entered into, China has continued to support Sierra Leone in terms of completing a number of projects, such as stations for popularizing rice-cultivation techniques, road bridges, the National Stadium, sugar complex, office buildings, hydropower station, power transmission and sub-station projects, and civil housing. The Sino-Sierra Leone cooperation of mutual benefit started from 1984 and it has been making serious progress since then. Practically, the diplomatic relations between the two countries are based on mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and peaceful co-existence.
From the political front, diplomatic relations between the two countries have led to high profile visits by Chinese leaders to Sierra Leone. This is also the same with Sierra Leone. President Ernest Bai Koroma is the current President of Sierra Leone and he also visited China in 2009 and 2010, twice in a period of three years, since becoming President of Sierra Leone.
From an economic perspective, China has been of great support to Sierra Leone. China has been playing a major role in Sierra Leone’s Agenda for Change as championed by President Ernest Bai Koroma. This could be seen in the framework of Sierra Leone’s infrastructural development, with particular reference to roads infrastructure. From the educational front, the country has, since 1976 to date, continued to accept Sierra Leonean students to study in Chinese Universities, thus boasting Sierra Leone’s Human Resource. No need denying, the fact that our natural resources have also been of great help to China’s development, thus, the win-win- cooperation between the two countries.
Progress in Sierra Leone’s ‘Agenda for Change’
When President Ernest Bai Koroma assumed power in 2007, one of his first priorities was to work towards the implementation of an Agenda for Change. This ‘Agenda for Change’ is aimed at moving the country to a new direction in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure, education, health energy and power. There has been tremendous progress in the implementation of this ‘Agenda for Change’. The provision of electricity to every household in the country has been a major priority of government. The Bumbuna Hydroelectric Dam, which got the attention of President Koroma upon assuming office in 2007, was completed and commissioned in 2009. To date, it has helped largely in the supply of electricity in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Also, the country ensured the installation of a 10MW thermal plant at the Kingtom Power Station, West of Freetown. This was a way of supplementing electricity supply to the Western Area. There was also the installation of a two thermal plants of 8.25 MW at the Black Hall Road Power station to supplement power from Bumbuna especially during the dry season.
The fight against corruption has taken a different dimension with the body responsible to fight corruption, (Anti Corruption Commission) now having prosecutorial powers to charge corruption related matters to court, with no government interference. In 2010, the Anti Corruption Commission handled a total of 117 cases. Eight of these led to convictions, including two Government Ministers. This was a demonstration of government’s commitment to the fight against corruption. The President has also been acclaimed for declaring his assets, in accordance with provision in the Anti Corruption Commission Act 2008.
Another major area of concern, as part of the Government’s ‘Agenda for Change’ was the implementation of a Free Healthcare Initiative, introduced in 2010. In working towards its implementation, Government ensured the provision of more resources to medical staff and the procurement of drugs and equipments and strengthening of supervision. As a result of this initiative for pregnant and lactating mothers, in 2011 alone, 41,000 women gave birth through the program.
Sierra Leone has great investment potentials in the fisheries and marine resources sector. There is a World Bank funded project that seeks to support the effective management of the country’s fisheries sector, under the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project. This project is funded by the International Development Association (IDA) and Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the World Bank, and has three interrelated components namely; (a) Good governance and sustainable management of the fisheries; (b) Reduction of Illegal Fishing, and (c) ensuring an ‘Increased Local Value Addition’ to fish products. The project seeks a 50% reduction of fishing vessels that are observed fishing within the 6-mile Inshore Exclusion Zone by the end of the project life cycle. It is supporting the strengthening of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance of our waters to reduce illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and ensures that industrial fishing operations are carried out within the provisions of the laws of Sierra Leone.
Investors’ intervention in Sierra Leone’s fisheries and marine sectors could be through the construction of a fisheries harbour complex. The point should be stated, that the marine sector alone is contributing about 10% to Sierra Leone’s Gross Domestic Product, also creating an employment for thousands of Sierra Leoneans.
Tax environment and investment incentives
Sierra Leone’s progress is also felt in its tax administration, through the creation of a better and efficient tax system. The introduction of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) has seen the tax environment making steady progress in recent years. ASYCUDA is a computer software package used by Customs Administrations around the world in processing documents on export and importation of goods. The system ensures fast clearance of goods; accounts for revenue collected; helps in the compilation of trade statistics; makes trade more reliable, transparent and efficient having an audit trail that will help in increasing the confidence of taxpayers in the systems of customs operations.
The system is a major component that has helped in migrating customs operations from the then manual system with a large number of tedious steps to an automated system which has today recued on the bureaucracies that used to exist.
Again, another progress in the country’s tax environment is the merger, which has taken place in terms of bringing the Income Tax and the GST under one body – the Domestic Taxes Department. The introduction of the Domestic Taxes Department takes into account components in the NRA’s Modernization Plan, which generally aims at increasing effectiveness and accountability in the nation’s revenue collection agency.
Measures have been put in place to ensure investors are encouraged in the country. A leading agency for this is the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA). This agency creates the platform for direct foreign and domestic investment in Sierra Leone. SLIEPA is responsible for the promotion, co-ordination and generation of foreign and domestic investment. The Investment Promotion Act of 2004 primarily promotes and attracts private investments both domestic and foreign for the development of production and value adding activities as well as to improve exports and provide employment opportunities.
The Investment Promotion Act of 2004 provides a number of investment incentives, as a way of attracting investments into the country – investment incentives like; capacity building support, foreign exchange remittance, remittance of profit, guarantee of capital repatriation and of loan remittance and guarantee against expropriation. Investment areas are plenty in Sierra Leone. In the area of mining, the country has the second largest deposit of iron ore in the world. It has so many investment opportunities in the areas of infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, and telecommunication.
Sierra Leone is ready for business and it looks forward to welcoming genuine investors.
Submitted by Adeyemi Paul – SEM, from Beijing, China
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