In a recent report by Business Daily, published on the BBC and written by James Melik, the President of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Koroma, commenting on whether there is the danger that foreign companies might strip the wealth, then simply leave the country, said “We have put in place a new mineral act to ensure that civilians benefit as much from the natural resources as the investors, we encourage investors to come in with their technology and their knowledge, but we are also concerned about the local environmental impact and we will ensure strict adherence to our environmental laws.” According to the report, the president is keen to change the perception of his country being dangerous. “There is a high degree of social stability,” he says, “There are strong ethnic ties in the regions, but Sierra Leone has avoided ethnic divisions.” And he confirmed this by saying “I am one of the few presidents of the world who drives himself around and walks around the streets. People know that I am there and I wave to them.” In continuing, the Head of State said “This is how safe the country is. What more can you ask for in creating a stable environment?”
The report also pointed out that there has been peace in Sierra Leone for eight years and the government is under pressure to bring about development. Liberalised trade policies mean that investors are not legally obliged to find local partners, as is often the case elsewhere in Africa, while in South Africa companies have to comply with the country’s black empowerment laws. “In terms of the investment opportunities, there are risks everywhere,” the president argues. “We have to change this perception of Africa being a no-go area.” One issue that had deterred big international companies investing in the country has been the perennial problem of corruption. But according to Jonathan Hyman of the EIU, there has been a lot of progress in tackling the problem over the last couple of years. Hyman maintains that the former head of the country’s anti-corruption commission had made significant improvements in tackling corruption. Jospeh Kamara, the new ACC commisoner, has widened the scope of the office and has recently charged the former head of the national revenue authority on 57 counts of corruption,” Mr Hyman says
One of the important points of the government’s policy is that foreign companies are allowed to import any labour they require, including unskilled workers. Youth unemployment, which stands at 40%, is proving to be highly contentious. “This is a problem we are addressing,” the president said, “It cannot be addressed overnight because of the unique difficulties that we have.” Over the period of the war, youth missed out on opportunities. “Because of the war, many young people have not darkened the doors of a school. We need to educate them, we need to ensure that they are equipped with skills,” he says. A lot of them were driven off the land and need to return. “We are only using about 15% of arable land and we need to use about 27% to supply domestic consumption – the remainder can be used to export promotion,” the president asserts. “Our farmers have remained poor because they have been subsistence farmers, and in commercialising agriculture we have to address a number of other issues: markets, accessibility, roads, storage capacity, value addition – we can train youths to work as farmers so they can earn a comfortable living.”
Sierra Leone is indeed an example of change in the Sub-Saharan region. President Koroma has made it his government’s priority to challenge the country’s economic problems by addressing corruption in government, which he sees as a serious deterrent to the country’s social and economic progress. Major international companies are lining up to invest in a country that has made business security an important priority in the way the government operates. Sierra Leone is now open for business, and the Head of State is urging investors to take advantage of the moment and discover the untapped natural wealth that this nation has to offer.
Link to the original article written by James Melik: BBC
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