RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN - Saudi Arabia has extended a SR45 million loan to Sierra Leone and Mozambique. The two African countries are facing significant economic challenges. The money will be used to build schools in the southeast African state of Mozambique. The Kingdom also sent a consignment of medicines worth millions of riyals to Sierra Leone, a West African nation with a predominantly poor Muslim population. “The donation of medicines is part of a cooperation program within the framework of Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care Initiative launched in 2010,” said M. B. Jalloh, a spokesman of the Sierra Leone embassy in Riyadh yesterday. Jalloh pointed out that Saudi officials handed over the medicines at a brief ceremony at Freetown International Airport in Sierra Leone a few days ago.
He said that the Saudi support would go a long way in helping the Free Health Care Initiative of the Sierra Leone government, which commits to offering free health services and medicines to pregnant and lactating women and children less than five years of age. Saudi Arabia and many other countries from across the world, the UK in particular, supported the policy. The spokesman further commended the gesture of the Kingdom and said that Sierra Leone’s government had received Saudi aid and soft loan facilities on several occasions in the past as well.Asked about the Saudi loan extended to Mozambique, an unnamed African diplomat said that education is a top priority for Mozambique’s government. The country continues to suffer from a high illiteracy rate due to a legacy of colonialism and a 16-year civil war that followed independence from Portugal in 1975.
“Mozambique still lacks sufficient schools and teachers to guarantee education for the nation’s youth,” said the diplomat, while referring to the poor educational infrastructure of that country. The loan facility that the Saudi Fund forDevelopment (SFD) extended, he said, would help to build four schools in the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Niassa in Mozambique. Two of the schools would be secondary schools: One in the Niassa provincial capital, Lichinga, and the other in the Cabo Delgado district of Namuno. The others would be mid-level technical institutes in the districts of Balama (Cabo Delgado) and Majune (Niassa). He said that the SFD and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) were interested in supporting educational projects and other projects in Mozambique and Sierra Leone, the two poorest members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Asked about the details of the SFD loan to Mozambique, he said that the loan agreement was signed in Maputo last Friday. Finance Minister of Mozambique Manuel Chang and SFD Deputy Chief Yousef I. Al-Bassam signed the agreement. This shows the great interest of Saudi Arabia in supporting the efforts of the Mozambican government to build the infrastructure and boost economic prosperity. The involvement of the SFD in Mozambique’s poverty reduction strategies began in 2011, with the signing of a co-financing agreement for Maputo City coastal protection. The SFD will also participate in financing the construction and equipping of a general hospital in the northern city of Nampula in that country. A Saudi mission is due in Mozambique soon to assess the project. The Kingdom has also committed to support such projects in other poor countries across the African continent.
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