Sierra Leone is progressing towards becoming an investment hub in Africa. The country’s leadership has ensured a climate of security and stability that has attracted companies from the UK, China, the UAE and even other African countries. Since Ernest Bai Koroma assumed the leadership of Sierra Leone, he has made it his priority to put his country on the path from aid dependency to a dynamic, self-sustaining economy that focuses on investment and reform in the key strategic sectors which are most critical to unlocking the full productive potential of the country’s economy.
Sierra Leone is now one of the top five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa when it comes to investor protection and the ease of starting a business. The government is also unveiling a new investment incentives schedule that creates a level playing field for investors, while improving fiscal responsibility.
Agricultural production and productivity has been increased to raise rural incomes – this would ensure an increase in food security and release productive resources to be deployed in other sectors. The government has also embarked on one of the most ambitious road-building programmes in the country’s history, connecting Sierra Leone’s major cities to each other, as well as to neighbouring countries. And because rural communities will not be able to use those highways if they cannot reach them, the government is also building 2000 kilometres of feeder roads.
President Ernest Bai Koroma has demonstrated his commitment to harnessing the enormous hydro-electric potential in the country’s rivers and waterways, as well as to developing bio fuels and solar energy. The recently completed Bumbuna hydro-plant is the government’s first step towards this clean energy future. The government of Sierra Leone has laid a strong foundation of stability with the introduction of an ‘Agenda For Change’ that sets a clear direction for the country towards economic and social prosperity. The country is now finally poised to fulfil its innate economic potential. The under-cultivated land and fertile nature of the soil offers ideal conditions for new investments in rice, oil palm, cocoa, coffee, and sugar. There is already a new 300 million dollar bio fuels project developed by Addax, which combines a 16,500 hectare sugar plantation with an independent power generation facility.
Sierra Leone is rich in minerals. The country has the third largest deposit of Iron Ore in the world. There are also vast amounts of deposits of bauxite, rutile, gold and of course diamonds. The country boasts some of the best diamonds for industrial and commercial use. The government is also keen to pass a new Minerals Act that will ensure greater transparency and a fairer deal for investors and communities alike from the country’s mineral resources
With 400 kilometres of white sandy beaches, just waiting to be developed for tourism, tour operators around the world have started redefining their travel destinations to include Sierra Leone and new brochures have pages showcasing the beauty of not only the beaches but the landscape of this untapped world of adventure. The country offers a fantastic coastline that houses magnificent 5-star hotels with exceptional hospitality so reminiscent of Sierra Leone’s culture and tradition. Sierra Leone has one of the deepest natural harbours in the world which is strategically located within easy reach of Europe, the Americas and the rest of Africa. So making a trip to this new African paradise could not be easier.
The president of Sierra Leone has made it his priority to engage partners around the world by inviting them to have a hands on in the development of his country. The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has expressed confidence in President Koroma’s government by introducing his Africa Governance Initiative that now has a team on the ground to help the government introduce a new concept of good governance which ensures transparency and accountability.
Sierra Leone has within its marine life some of the most well-stocked and under-fished in the world, teeming with tuna, snapper, barracuda and mackerel. This is a serious area of investment for companies whose interest lies in the fishing industry. The government has also made it easy for anyone to acquire a fishing license, as a corrupt-free environment has been introduced to make the process much more transparent and worthwhile.
The territorial waters of Sierra Leone contain the Venus prospect, where Anadarko and its partners have discovered hydrocarbons. Samples have been sent for laboratory analysis while another exploratory well is planned this year to determine the commercial status of the discovery. In the mean time, government is working with a team from Ghana, Norway and the Commonwealth Secretariat to create institutional arrangements for managing whatever petroleum resources exist transparently and in the long-term interests of the people.
Sierra Leone also offers the highest levels of religious tolerance in the world. This is according to the Gallup Co-exist Index. The people are friendly and visitors are assured of hospitality at its best. Whether you are a Muslim, Christian or Hindu, practising your faith will never be an issue. It is not surprising that expatriates who often arrive on long term work contract normally find themselves deciding to stay and make the country their new home even after their contract expires. This goes to show that apart from the wonderful weather, the country has become an infectious paradise with irresistible temptations. The government has worked hard to make the investment window accessible to anyone or any company with a genuine interest in bringing business to the country.
Sierra Leone has now become a model for good governance in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. With a Head of State that is determined to root out corruption and ensure a fair deal for his people, the future can only be bright as the country and its people extend an open-hand in welcoming all who are keen to explore the vast potential this country has to offer.
First published on Newstime Africa: 25 April, 2010
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