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A Look at President Koroma’s First Year of his Second Term

A Look at President Koroma’s First Year of his Second Term

Sunday 17th November 2013 marked the one year of the second term of His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Many citizens believe that his performance after his re-election in November last year has given them the flames of hope that would continue with the ongoing transformation of the country, while others especially from the opposition are still critical about his administration’s ability to deliver to the people. The Press Attaché in Saudi Arabia, Alhaji M. B. Jalloh, takes a look at President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s one-year reign in the midst of detractors and the unbelieving Thomas’s.

Following the successful implementation of his ‘Agenda for Change’ during his first term, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma promised in his re-election campaign to do more in his second term in the areas of youth employment, infrastructure development, electricity, agriculture, good governance and other pillars that would accelerate Sierra Leone’s economic growth. Besides, the President dedicated his second term to the youth of the country, who are in the greater majority.

The marking of President Koroma’s one year in office after his re-election was celebrated by the youths at Masiaka in the North and Freetown amidst pomp and pageantry. The theme of the celebration was “Flames of Hope”. Addressing a mammoth youthful crowd at the forecourt of the country’s largest administrative building in the capital, Youyi Building on Sunday 17th November,  Bai Mahmoud Bangura, the Presidential Youth Aide to His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, said “youth of this country appreciate President Koroma for all what he has done for us since he became president six years ago.”

He also wondered that with “all the mammoth youth problems, including the huge 70% youth unemployment” they as youth are still willing to celebrate hope and humbly appreciate President Koroma. But the Presidential Youth Aide however asserted that an increase in direct foreign investment in the country would mean increased employment for the youth. Skills acquisition among young people to compete and participate adequately in the emerging job market has ranked high since President Koroma’s re-election last year. His government through the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has started a stakeholders’ dialogue that would result in a local content compact as a concrete step in the implementation of the Local Content Policy.

The policy presents an opportunity for the local indigenous business to maximize benefits from the increasing private investments in the country. In the ongoing stakeholders’ dialogue, challenges affecting the private sector, especially the Small-Scale Enterprises (SMEs), including “unfair competition from foreign businesses, and government policies slanted towards foreign investments such as duty waivers and tax holidays which local/indigenous businesses do not benefit from”.

According to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alhaji Osman Boie Kamara, “we are aware of the challenges but they are not insurmountable. Success will require coordination within Government and partnership with the private sector and our development partners to increase the local content use; and to stimulate growth of other sectors such as services in construction, tourism and financial services etc, creating linkages with the mining and agro-business investment”. The Trade Minister believes that such strategy will help drive economic diversification and reduce dependence on mining.

As Usman Boie Kamara puts it, “we have made progress in the implementation of four broad components of the policy; increasing procurement of locally sourced goods and services, promoting the employment of Sierra Leoneans, promoting local ownership and developing human resources through the transfer of skills”. Development partners (the GIZ, World Bank, DFID and EU have expressed commitment to assist the Government of Sierra Leone in implementing the Local Content Policy and are supporting the MTI in firming up the compact which would lay bare the roles and steps to be taken by each stakeholder.

Head of DFID Sierra Leone, Phil Evans, emphasized that; “spreading the benefits of development through local content is an excellent aim, but can be a challenge. It also needs a clear focus on what can be achieved, and a realistic plan to make it succeed.”

DFID, he assured, is pleased to be working with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to help build capacity to implement the local content policy, and to improve market efficiency for the benefit of both producers and consumers throughout Sierra Leone.

On its part, the World Bank is recommending a pilot implementation of the Local Content Policy based on the “Growth Pole” geographical framework. The “Growth Pole” approach underscores that an economic hub generates spill-over effects to other sectors. The concept links core industries with supporting sectors in order to generate employment.

The World Bank Country Manager in Sierra Leone, Ato Brown, said: “The World Bank will work with the Government and its development partners to develop the national local content compact which will enhance that implementation of this policy through such compact and on the growth pole geographical framework holds huge opportunities to optimize the economic social impact of foreign direct investment in the country.”

While speaking about the misconceptions about the Local Content Policy and urging for a proper implementation of strategy that would help in the management of expectation, Mr. Brown said the demand for prosperity among the people is high and may lead to tensions in the society.

The Country Manager cautioned that it may not be proper for Chief Executive Officer (CEOs) to be made to feel threatened by parliamentarians over managerial issues; rather he called for skills training and agro-industry development. He emphasized that local content implementation does not happen automatically and that privatization is essential for its success.

According to the Chief of Staff at State House, Dr. Richard Konteh, “the Local Content Policy seeks to achieve 20% local employment at Senior Managerial Level, 50% at Middle Management Level and 100% at Non-technical level (i.e. drivers, cleaners, cooks etc.)”.

Dr. Konteh believes that Sierra Leoneans may not have the available skills to occupy all the positions “but companies must allow Sierra Leoneans to understudy the experts so that eventually our citizens would take from them through succession plans”.  Government, he added, is in advance stage to making the Local Content Policy into law.

In order to reduce the 70% unemployment among the youth, who constituted the majority among the voting population in the country who endorsed him for a second term, President Koroma’s administration is going to create a Youth Village to be constructed soon by the Chinese to empower the youth with the required skills for the job market so as to benefit from the policy.

Upon his re-election, President Koroma lined up to his promise to dedicate his second term to the youth by establishing a Ministry of Youth Affairs to coordinate the activities of the youth. The President made a follow-up by recently appending a Presidential Youth Aide to help facilitate youth activities.

President Koroma however conceded that unemployment is a major challenge for the youth of Sierra Leone. “That is why we are going to create a Youth Village to capacitate them to learn skills and get engaged in agriculture because agriculture is not a poor man’s work,” the President assured.

President Koroma’s administration continues to do more in the areas of road infrastructure, agriculture, good governance, economic development, health service delivery, electricity supply, creating investment friendly environment that would easily attract foreign direct investment and other vital pillars that would widen the economic space for growth.

Amidst the praises showered on President Koroma by many Sierra Leoneans for his exemplary work, the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party continues to cry over spilt milk. It could be recalled that following the re-election of the President last year, the SLPP petitioned the conduct of the electoral process at the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone. The matter was eventually thrown out of court on “legal technicality”.

Despite the court ruling was against the SLPP, its supporters and officials continue to cry foul. The furious National deputy Chairman of the party, Dr. Prince Alex Harding, fumed: “We did not lose the election. We were robbed as a people of our will.”

Meanwhile, a recent newspaper report quoted Dr. Harding to have rated the performance of the first one year in power of the APC as “below standard.”  For the Presidential Youth Aide, “one can see and feel the development brought by President Koroma’s government to every hook and cranny of the country, including Dr. Prince Harding’s home town of Baoma Station in the Bo District.

“The Human Development Index has proven it all and if one is in search of reasons why we are celebrating hope and appreciating our president, there is an unending list of mesmerizing tangibles”, Bai Mahmoud Bangura said while celebrating the President’s one year of his second term.

But in spite of the political divide, many Sierra Leoneans believe that President Koroma is steadily building on what he started during his first term under his ‘Agenda for Change’ despite the criticisms coming from critics and other political opportunists – a situation that is not unique to the country but also most countries in Africa.

However, President Koroma has on many occasions harped on the several challenges his government is facing and the urgent need for every citizen to come onboard the development train if we should succeed as a prosperous nation. Dr. Harding, the ball is your court!

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