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Sierra Leone and her growing investment opportunities

Sierra Leone and her growing investment opportunities

Sierra Leone’s commitment to her socio-economic and political development has continued to be taken in the right direction in the last six years of state governance, by President Ernest Bai Koroma.  (Photo: John Pa Baimba Sesay, IA, China)

Governance successes:

In the agriculture sector, especially during the first five years, the sector was seen by the government as the ‘engine’ for socio-economic growth and development through commercial agriculture and the promotion of the private sector, to which  the farmers and their farmer-based organizations (FBOs) have been added. This sector contributes over 45% of our GDP, employs over two-thirds of the population and generates about a quarter of the export income.

Another area that captured the attention of government during the period 2007 to 2012 was the free healthcare initiative. It was introduced in 2010. In working towards its implementation, Government ensured the provision of more resources to medical staff and the procurement of drugs and equipment and strengthening of supervision. And as a result of this initiative for pregnant and lactating mothers, in 2011 alone, 41,000 women gave birth through the program. At the macroeconomics level, the government was determined to ensure a paradigm shift from overwhelmingly depending on donors to being able to fund our own development. So what we saw was increase in domestically funded by the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, coupled with efforts made to modernize and increase revenue collection by introducing the Automated System for Customs Data, plus system and tax payer identification numbers to tackle tax evasion and tax avoidance. The body responsible for revenue collection in the country collected the highest sum of revenue in the last five years when compared to what used to happen before this period.

Private sector development also became paramount during the first five years of governance by President Ernest Bai Koroma. In effect we saw the establishment of a Public Private Partnership Unit that collaborates with the National Commission for Privatization (NCP). Also, a National Trade Policy and Action Programme was established as an approach to addressing the challenges faced by the country’ trade sector. It also is a way of guiding both policy makers and members of the private sector on matters relating to trade in Sierra Leone.

Growing investment opportunities:

That said, Sierra Leone still continues to attract huge investment in the mineral, marine, and agriculture sectors. The country’s strong commitment to utilizing her resources for development purposes cannot be overemphasized.  Through the Agenda for Prosperity that today serves as the country’s blueprint for national development, and with a strong country leadership, Sierra Leone has positioned itself to be able to positively bring in investors in an effort to foster growth.  Economic stability has been achieved and we are now a country where the investment climate is being transformed and above all, where opportunities for investment and export are significant. Our investment potentials are as great and tremendous as our aspiration to continue encouraging more investors into the country.

In the area of energy sector, Sierra Leone has a significant international capital driving growing bio-fuels sector, with high potential in hydro-power generation. In agriculture, most of the 5.4 million hectares of land capable of undergoing cultivation is undeveloped, with a perfect growing condition for a wide range of staple and cash crops. What remains a top priority for Government is the  focus on increasing commercialization and private sector investment, with the country having significant opportunities to grow sugar, oil palm, rice, pineapple and other agricultural products for both food and fuel supply. Government will continue to welcome investors in setting up manufacturing companies that will earn such companies with the opportunity to re-invest part of their profits in vital areas of the economy. In the area of fisheries and marine resources, Sierra Leone is amongst the most productive in West Africa and hygiene standards are now being upgraded to facilitate direct export to the EU market.

In the tourism sector, Sierra Leone was one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Worldwide Destinations in 2009. We are having a significant unmet demand for business hotel accommodation in Freetown, with a wealth of eco-tourism sites across dozens of protected areas. However, our beaches are West Africa’s most striking and undeveloped.  Another growing investment opportunity for us as a country is the Extractive Industry which has been reformed. Sierra Leone is blessed with a huge number of resource deposits like diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold and platinum, amongst others. The Extractive industry sector has plentiful resource base and potential that remains underexplored and underdeveloped. Establishing companies that can help in promoting export operations of the country’s mineral resources, especially in packaging products will be an excellent area of investment.

SLIEPA and investment coordination role:

There is a strong commitment from the Sierra Leone Government to meet international best practices in governance and policy. Also, a leading agency in the promotion, co-ordination and generation of foreign and domestic investment in Sierra Leone is the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency-SLIEPA, created by an Act of Parliament, 2004. The Act primarily promotes and attracts private investments both domestic and foreign as a way of improving exports and providing employment opportunities. It also provides a number of investment incentives. These incentives include, but not limited to remittance of profit, guarantee of capital repatriation and of loan remittance and guarantee against expropriation.

SLIEPA, in line with its desire to   support government policies and support, especially the Agenda for Change that has now been rolled over to the Agenda for Prosperity, effected the following projects: 1) The Removal of Administrative Barriers to Investment (RABI) Project; 2) Client Relationship Management System Project; 3) Export Strategy Development Project; and 4) Trade Secrets-SAME Export Guide Project (2009-2010) amongst others. With her doors opened to potential, honest and sincere investors, Sierra Leone looks forward to investments and as a people, we all have a role in ensuring we get those investments that will take us to the apex of development.

But need I say there is the strongest political will for such to happen now?

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