President Obama used the last session of the UN general assembly in New York to express his admiration for the wonderful work the Sierra Leone president is doing to alleviate poverty in his country. African leadership have started taking control of their own national development strategies to position their countries to be less reliant on aid and foreign assistance and become self-sufficient. They have started turning the aspirations of their people into practical result. There is no turning back as the continent heads into a new political and economic direction. One that has established and solidify its new role as a powerhouse in the economy of the world. Democracy is now flourishing across the continent from east to west and from north to south. The abuse of human rights is being overthrown and replaced with a common sense approach to respect the rights of citizens and enact new laws to protect freedom and liberty. Economies are improving, and the political will to make the people’s lives better is taking a new dimension as hope now looms for a better and prosperous future.
It was remarkable to see how African countries through dynamic leadership were able to buckle the global recession and still maintain amazing economic growths. Governments across Africa have started nurturing their private sector and that has seen individuals starting to take risks by developing the markets that will ultimately create wealth. And governments are responding by enabling the conditions for individual entrepreneurship and direct financial investments. Sierra Leone for example, has seen a progressive turnaround as the government’s Agenda for Change has prioritized four key areas: enhancing national electricity, developing the national transportation network, ensuring productivity in agriculture and fisheries, and sustaining human development. The government of Dr Ernest Bai Koroma is now seriously focused on successful implementation of its Agenda, as transformative action is now visible across the country: from agriculture to roads, energy, health, education, investments, mineral resources, decentralization, job creation and other sectors. In dealing with foreign investment inflow into the country, President Koroma has always ensured a better deal for his people. What you now see across the country is a situation where companies investing in areas like mining and agriculture are encouraged to develop their areas of production by empowering the locals with provision of vital public services like health facilities, schools, and transportation.
Agriculture is currently the number one priority of the government of Sierra Leone. President Koroma’s vision is to make agriculture the engine for socio-economic growth and development by commercializing farmers through farmer-based organisations and promoting the private sector. In order to implement this vision, the government has increased its budgetary allocation to this sector from a paltry 1.6% by the previous SLPP government in 2007 to 7.7% in 2009, and now stands at 10% in 2010, a fulfilment of a target budgetary allocation in line with the 2003 Maputo declaration . A National Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme (NSADP) was signed in 2009 to provide direction for the sector up to the period of 2030. This programme is consistent with (CAADP) the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme which is the framework of heads of states and governments of the African Union and its international partners to promote agriculture in Sierra Leone. In fact in recognition of the seriousness with which the government of Sierra Leone has taken agriculture, Dr Bai Koroma has been appointed Champion Head of State by CAADP.
The government of president Ernest Bai Koroma inherited the country’s infrastructure in a moribund state. It seems apparent now, that under the previous regime, there was no sense of urgency in relation to the construction of roads. Work on the few roads that were marked for rehabilitation had either completely stalled as a result of badly awarded and executed contracts, or were simply moving at an unacceptable slow pace. To address this anomaly, the government listed infrastructural development as one of its key priorities in the Agenda for Change and devised the largest road construction plan ever in the history of Sierra Leone. President Koroma established a high level Infrastructure Committee that meets every fortnight to direct, review and move forward the massive turnaround in infrastructural development. Roads are now being constructed and rehabilitated across every region of the country.
It is the view of President Koroma that it is important to power the country’s economic development without harming the environment, and his government is committed to harnessing the enormous hydro-electric potential of the country’s rivers and waterways as well as to develop biofuels and solar energy. The recently completed Bumbuna hydro-plant is the government’s first step towards this clean energy future! In fact the government was able to provide electricity in Freetown, the country’s capital, within three months of assuming power. An incredible feat by any standard, especially taking into consideration the state of affairs during the tenure of the previous government. Plans are underway to increase the generating capacity of Bumbuna from 50mw to 500mw through the construction of a second dam.
The Sierra Leone president is cognizant of the fact that Africa’s potential to-date and its future growth can only be successful if political and economic stability continues and improves. His government has worked hard to contain inflation, reduce debt, balance the country’s budget efficiently, and ensure accountability and transparency in a politically free and open market. From 2007, at the beginning of his presidency, Dr Koroma and his government have been committed to promoting trade and development and the participation of the private sector in the country’s development agenda. The Hydro-Carbon and tourism landscape are looking promising. Anadarko has announced a Hydro Carbon find in the Venus prospect last August and is currently drilling a test well in the Mercury prospect. The tourism sector has also received a big boost with the concessioning of the landmark Cape Sierra Hotel to a group of indigenous entrepreneurs in partnership with the Hilton Hotels.
There has also been a complete turnaround in health care, education macro-economic stability, investment in infrastructure and public services, private sector development etc.etc. In my next segment, I will highlight on what has been a dramatic transformation of a country’s fortunes by a leadership that is not shy in getting its hands dirty in taking on the ills of a society that has been deprived of basic human services by previous governments who have failed them so miserably, and the hope that is now in the horizon which will once more restore the dignity of a beautiful country called Sierra Leone.
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