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Kandeh Yumkella and Bishop Biguzzi promote University of Makeni (UNIMAK) Sierra Leone

Kandeh Yumkella and Bishop Biguzzi promote University of Makeni (UNIMAK) Sierra Leone

VIENNA/MILAN: George Biguzzi, Bishop Emeritus of Makeni Diocese and UNIDO Director General Kandeh Yumkella joined forces at a recent event to promote the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) and Sierra Leone at a “Round Table” conference in Milan, Italy.  (Photo: UNIDO Director General Kandeh Yumkella after delivering his remarks)

Sponsored and hosted by the Saint Lawrence Foundation (SLF) under the leadership of Francesco Zanchi, Chairman and CEO of the Global Service International, the conference brought together top entrepreneurs and mangers of various industries interested in investing in Sierra Leone.

Delivering his keynote address via video from his Vienna based headquarters; Director General Yumkella paid tribute to Bishop Biguzzi for his 35 years of service to Sierra Leone and especially to the people of Makeni Diocese in Northern Sierra Leone. “You have contributed immensely to the socio-economic development of our country and for that you deserve our gratitude.  The people of Sierra Leone are grateful for the key role you played in bringing peace and reconciliation to our country,” Yumkella noted.

George Biguzzi, Bishop Emeritus of Makeni Diocese

Speaking about Sierra Leone’s first private Catholic University, Dr. Yumkella commended all businesses working with the St. Lawrence Foundation to support UNIMAK in its quest for pre-eminence and for helping to train the man power needed to move Sierra Leone forward. Through the many schools he helped established, and now with UNIMAK, Bishop Biguzzi has proven that the best you can do is to invest in people. “You help them acquire the necessary skills they need to become responsible and productive citizens empowered to move their communities and country forward,” said Yumkella.

Since its founding in 2008, SLF and sponsors continue to provide educational opportunities for students at the University of Makeni. Some concrete results involve the construction of three two-story buildings used as hostels for students as well as SLF working with UNIMAK collaborating on a joint academic relationship with the University of Milan for the establishment of a Faculty of Agriculture and Food Technology Sciences. This partnership has already also done feasibility studies on the possibility of producing concentrated fruit juices for export.

Discussions are also at the final stages for academic collaboration with the Castellalanza University Interdisciplinary Unit for Sustainable Economy and the San Pablo University of Madrid for the introduction of a graduate program in Sustainable Development.  The Business School of Universita Catolica is also in discussion with UNIMAK and SLF on an academic partnership to establish a regular MBA program. Also, with financial support from BNP, the De Martini Textile Group plans to invest in Sierra Leone in an effort to revive the Cotton Industry in Sierra Leone which has gone almost extinct as a result of the civil war.

Noting that SLF’s activities with De Martini Textile Group are geared towards the development of sustainable agribusiness practices, Yumkella said that as a former University professor of Agri-business in the United Sates, he was well aware that investors present are cognizant that Agriculture is the most important sector of the African economy today.

“If poor, small farmers are to make the leap from subsistence agriculture to income generating one where there is more food for themselves, their families and communities and they have a better life and a better future, then Agriculture will have to be the engine for economic growth and prosperity,” he said.

Rather than follow the current trend of agricultural production growth that stems from increases in land area under exploitation, Yumkella told the Italian investors that their aim should be increases in efficiency fuelled by the adoption of best agricultural practices, improved infrastructure (irrigation, energy, and mechanization), value adding processing and linkages to growth market.

Meeting such goals, however,  will only be possible when farming and agro-industries undergo profound structural transformation; one that requires the conversion of agricultural raw materials into industrial products and the capacity of our entrepreneurs to participate and compete in global, regional and local value chains,” he stressed.

Sierra Leone, he affirmed, want much more than just charity if poverty reduction is the end solution. The potential for growth in agribusiness is great. “Profits are good for business but your companies must also commit to changing lives. You need to invest in our economy and help us become competitive and move into manufacturing projects. Through investment in agriculture, Sierra Leone can be one of the bread- baskets for the rest of the world. You must help us add value to our natural resources or help us produce higher value products that have a global market, he challenged his audience.

Dr Kandeh Yumkella listens to a question from the audience

Dr. Yumkella also noted even though Sierra Leone is open for business, investors seeking to do business must be increasingly conscious of their environmental footprint and to work towards the greening of Africa’s economic and industrial growth processes. This, he said, was necessary to safeguard against the continent’s vulnerability to climate change and climate variability and to ensure the efficient use of scarce resources, water and energy to protect efforts made towards job creation from the impact of climate change.

Emerging industrial enterprises in Africa must adopt sound business strategies. “Reduce, Recycle and Reuse. “In your business, there is need to maximize the efficiency with which you use energy and raw materials. You must adopt cleaner production, pollution prevention, green productivity or similar approaches. Enterprises must also maximize the recycling and reuse of the wastes they generate as increased efficiency will not eliminate all wastage. In some cases, enterprises can recycle and reuse their wastes themselves, but often it will be others who recycle and/or reuse them.”

This is also Corporate Social Responsibility for you and the businesses that you own or lead. You must be transparent in your dealings with the host government. Because when you do, you both win. There is no need to import the chicken you eat if you can help our local farmers do it themselves. It is in your enlightened self- interest that you invest in agribusiness supply chain. This way the economy evolves and educational opportunities are created to cater for the new economy.

Speaking from the podium, retired Bishop Biguzzi, a worthy ambassador of UNIMAK and Sierra Leone, seized upon Yumkella’s remarks to challenge investors to follow their Catholic Social teachings to help others in a genuine way and make a difference in the future growth of UNIMAK.

“We are moving in the right direction but we need help, we need partnerships; partnerships that are genuine and intent on making a difference for the future of Sierra Leone. Come and visit and see for yourselves. Talk to those who have visited and they will tell you the challenges we face in Makeni and Sierra Leone.” He also promoted President Ernest Bai Koroma’s “Agenda for Change” telling investors his adopted country, his home, is business friendly and there is no better time to come in and invest.

Bishop Biguzzi also paid tribute to the late Chief Yumkella, father of Dr. Yumkella, whom he said was very instrumental in establishing Kolenten Secondary School the first Catholic School in the district. “The late Fr. Camillo Olivani spoke highly about him and his service to Kolenten and as board chairman for the first five years,” he mentioned.

“We are making a difference,” said Francesco Zanchi, Chairman and CEO of Global Service International, and Chairman of the Saint Lawrence Foundation as he challenged his colleague CEOs to continue their good work for the people of Sierra Leone. “You make Sierra Leone very proud,” he said to Dr. Yumkella for his passionate and inspiring speech.

Anthony Abdul karim Kamara, Jnr, on location in Vienna

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  • May God continue to bless Bishop Biguzzi, Dr Kandeh Yumkella and all those like them who are working to promote Education in our country. They will find that Sierra Leoneans have always been eager to embrace education and learning. The important thing here is that they are promoting practical subjects that would enable the people to do much for themselves afterwards. As a result, the day will surely come again when agriculture, and farmers will be the most important pillars of our society. This should also affect the sudden and crippling urbanisation that has left so many wondering on our streets in cities with no productive work to do. Government, take heed, for you MUST also play your part in educating our people!!

    16th October 2012
  • Dr Yumkella has hit the hammer on the precise edge. Sierra Leone is no longer interested in charity or hand-out,but fair and sensible partnership and healthy sustainable development for the present and future generations.

    The country is honestly opened for business keen to lure investors that promote environmental protection and the enhancement of corporate green credentials.We need investors that does not only cares for financial retuns but also for the protection of our environment that has given us so much to develop.The environmental and resource curse of Niger Delta should not cross barriers or borders,its must not be repeated anywhere in developing markets.Sustainable development should be the ultimate bottom-line in pursue of our resource assets.

    15th October 2012

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