AFRICAN LEADERSHIP MAGAZINE TIMLESS EDITION OCTOBER 2022 - SIERRA LEONE

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Ken Giami

Founder & Executive Chairman

Group Managing Editor - Kingsley Okeke editor@africanleadership.co.uk

Editor - Kembet Bolton kembet@africanleadeship.co.uk

Head of Creatives - Joseph Akuboh A.

Editorial Board

Peter Burdin, London UK - Chair

Nwandi Lawson, Atlanta USA - Member

Simon Kolawole, Lagos Nigeria - Member

Peter Ndoro, SABC EditorJohannesburg - Member

Frenny Jowi, Nairobi Kenya - Member

Brig. Gen. SK Usman Rtd., Abuja Nigeria - Member

David Morgan, Washington DC USA - Member

Furo Giami - Chief Operating Officer / Executive Director

Boma Benjy - Iwuoha - Group Head, Finance & Administration

Sasha Caton - Manager, UK & European Operations

Jehoshaphat Ogujiuba - Chief Brand Officer / Event Manager

Ehis Ayere - Group Head, Sales & Business Development

Izuchukwu Samuel Ukandu - Manager, Client Relations & Partnerships

Amana Alkali - Executive Assistant to the Chairman

Samuel M. Elaikwu - Manager, Sales & Business Developments

Happy Benson - Director of Operations North America

Christy Ebong - Head, Research & Admin - North America

Stanley Emeruem - Business Development Managers

Muna Jallow - West African Rep for The Gambia and Senegal

Oluwatoyin Oyekanmi - Head, South African Bureau

Bernard Adeka - Head, Nigeria SS/SE

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AFRICA & REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES Abuja Accra Atlanta Banjul Bujumbura Freetown Johannesburg London Monrovia Nairobi Washington DC ISSN 2006 - 9332 JOIN THE CONVERSATION www.africanleadershipmagazine.co.uk FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA Facebook : African Leadership Magazine Twitter : @AfricanLM Instagram: @africanleadershipmag LinkedIn: African Leadership Magazine YouTube: African Leadership Magazine A F R I C A N M A G A Z I N EL E A D E R S H I Pw w w . a f r i c a n l e a d e r s h i p m a g a z i n e . c o . u k 04 P A G E SERRIA LOEN.indd 4 29/10/2022 17:32
TABLE OF CONTENTS 26 52 30 86 36 92 42 112 62 Julius Maada Bio A Statesman on a date with Destiny Unearthing the untapped Agricultural Potentials of Sierra Leone Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh: Marked By Passion For Service In Sierra Leone, Political and Presidential Will makes the difference in the fight against Corruption We are redefining Service delivery and governance in Sierra Leone Sierra Leone: From Resource Curse to Resource Grace The Greatest Capital Is Human Capital Zoodlabs: Pioneering Innovative Investment Strategies In Sierra Leone We are committed to unlocking Sierra Leone Hydro Carbon Potentials ships N E SERRIA LOEN.indd 5 29/10/2022 17:32

CHRONICLING PROGRESS IN THE LION MOUNTAINS

From ‘the hopeless continent’ to ‘the poor continent’ and several negative appellatives in between, Africa and African nations have borne the impact and stigma that comes with negative stereotyping. This negativity has spurned a narrative that impacts on the volume of FDI inflows into the continent, intra African trade, and even a basic understanding of Africa as a continent and not a single country as some non-Africans still think. Hence, the average non-African, who is not an active participant in Africa matters, most likely has skewed, inaccurate and often negative perceptions and image of the continent. But that story is changing – and changing very visibly in the Lion Mountains of Sierra Leone.

Under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio, the country continues to make unquestionable contributions to global human capital development, and lead innovations in various sectors including education, science, technology and the arts.

This timeless edition of the African Leadership magazine chronicles the development journey, the key actors and achievements of the Bio’s administration; and promises a refreshing view of this West African country. I therefore welcome on this beautiful journey, and I assure you, our dear readers, of very pleasant surprises on this journey to one of Africa’s best kept secret destinations.

Welcome to this virtual tour of Sierra Leone, as the nation and its beautiful people look forward to welcoming you as an investor, a tourist or just an explorer. It promises to be one of the most rewarding journeys you will ever embark on.

Come do business with this beautiful country, for Sierra Leone is indeed open for business!

PUBLISHERS NOTE
Dr Ken Giami Chairman & Publisher, African Leadership Magazine
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to

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Dear Esteemed Readers,

I welcome you to the Timeless Issue of the African Leadership Magazine UK, which focuses on the strides of my administration and the New Direction agenda.

We now live in a borderless world, where what happens in Freetown shapes the discussions in London, hence the need to share our government’s efforts towards making the country and the world better.

African Leadership Magazine UK editors have gone to great extents to document our modest contribution towards Sierra Leone’s growth and development, and we are happy to share it with the rest of the world.

In this issue, the editors have extensively covered our Human Capital Development plan, which is the centrepiece of Sierra Leone’s Medium Term National Development Plan (2019-2023). Also featured in this edition is our Education for Development Plan – a strategic orientation designed to improve the quality of life of our citizens through education, inclusive growth and building a resilient economy.

The edition also features accounts from my ministers and other members of my team, who are working tirelessly to build a better country for the present and future generation of Sierra Leoneans.

I, therefore, welcome you to read and be abreast with developments in the Lion Mountains –Sierra Leone.

I look forward to welcoming you to Sierra Leone because our country is open and ready for business.

H.E Dr Julius Maada Bio President Of The Republic of Sierra Leone
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MAKER

THE CHANGE-
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Purpose-driven leadership, love for people and servant leadership has been at the heart of President Julius Maada Bio’s leadership trajectory. President Bio has been consistent from cradle to full bloom, and his leadership inspiration has continued to shine as the northern star.

The first test of leadership and public-spirited demeanour came when he took over power on 16th January 1996, the Military head of state and kept his word of organizing elections and handing over power to a democratically elected president – resisting pressures from contemporaries to act against his conviction. Happening at the time when military coups were in fashion in west Africa makes his decision all the more riveting.

Fast-forward to May 2018, in pursuit of a better life for the millions of Sierra Leoneans; President Julius Maada Bio led the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to upstage the ruling party and emerged the democratically elected President of the country.

True to type, His Excellency President Maada Bio wasted no time making bold and strategic decisions designed to return the country to its glory days. A clear-headed leader, he unveiled his roadmap and aptly christened the “New Direction” agenda – with Human Capital Development as the cardinal plank of the plan.

If the primary focus of the New Direction Agenda can be summed up in one phrase, it would be a “Citizen-centric Development Plan.” The plan is fixed on improving Human Capital Development, emphasizing education, agriculture and food security and health - with education being the flagship program of the human capital development agenda.

When President Bio, on the 12th May 2018, announced the introduction of free and quality education for both primary and secondary school-age children, in line with his primary campaign pledge, some analysts questioned his sanity while also calling his bluff. Some even argued that it was impossible to commence, let alone run successfully for the tenure of the President. Four years on, the government hasn’t only proved naysayers wrong, but President Bio has also practically given wings to the famous phrase, “where there is a will, there is a way.”

Inheriting a badly damaged economy and assuming office at a time of global uncertainties wasn’t enough to douse the determination of the President to return the country to the “Athens of West Africa.” Far from it, instead, it propelled the government to allocate the most significant part of its GDP towards building the country’s present and future. The sector receives about 22% of the country’s budgetary allocation, far above the global average.

It could be argued that the Free Quality School Education project launched in 2018 has led to an increase in the number of pupils enrolled in schools and a decline in the mortality rate of children. In 2021, more than 600,000 additional children, especially girls, accessed schools with 5,000 additional qualified teachers recruited.

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Four Years on, President Bio’s commitment to service hasn’t waned an inch; instead, his unrivalled commitment to see the lives of Sierra Leoneans improve daily keeps him up at night. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine UK team, he talks about his legacies. While other political leaders are more concerned about the next election, President Bio focuses on the next generation. Much has been seen in his generational

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You are the first Sierra Leonean among the very few Africans to have served their countries as Military Heads of State and democratically elected presidents. This is no mean fit. Can you tell us more about yourself and what prepared you for this critical leadership role?

I was born in and groomed in leadership. And I’ve had the opportunity to lead selflessly most of my life, sometimes grudgingly, but mostly willingly.

I am the son of a Paramount Chief and the last born of my beloved mother, who was God-fearing, strong and industrious. I lost my father at the age of four years, so I was raised by my uneducated mother who instilled the values of hard work, perseverance and humility in me. These values have served me well throughout my life. Despite my mother not having received formal Western education, she greatly valued learning and education, making sure that her children had the opportunities she did not get growing up. With all odds stacked against her, she struggled to put me through primary school, but she was determined to give me the opportunity for a better quality of life. I went to live with my older sister in my final year of primary school, in the pursuit of a better future. I was successful in my Selective Entrance examination for secondary school and gained admission to the prestigious Bo government Secondary School, (popularly known as Bo School), a boarding school for boys founded by the British Colonial government to educate the sons of Paramount Chiefs or nominees of Paramount Chiefs.

I thrived at Bo School, and I had seven fulfilling years acquiring education and some of my valuable lessons in discipline,

teamwork, and leadership. The Bo School has produced many leaders in all walks of life. I am the first person from the school to become President, and the school is over 100 years old.

When I graduated from Secondary School, I wanted to be an academic, an engineer for that matter, but life works in funny ways. While waiting for admission into University, I taught briefly at a School. During that time, I saw an advertisement to join the Sierra Leone Armed Forces Military Academy. Weighing my options, the opportunity to serve my country, receiving cost free education and training and becoming an officer in the army, I decided to pursue the option of becoming a cadet.

I gained admission at the Military Academy, and I excelled in the rigorous trainings. I graduated as an officer with the rank of Second Lieutenant. I proved to be quick witted, calm and dependable right from my first posting serving in various units including aviation security and economic emergency. My leadership qualities did not go unnoticed by my superiors in the army. I was made a platoon commander in record time.

By 1990, a civil war was brewing across the border in Liberia, prompting the West African region to establish a peacekeeping force called the ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group). To support the peacekeeping effort, Sierra Leone sent some of its best soldiers to join ECOMOG in attempting to quell the bloody civil war that was raging. Still a young officer, I was among this contingent sent to protect the Sierra Leone-Liberia border. Unfortunately, by 1991, Sierra Leone had trouble of its own brewing in the East, with a group of rebels known as the RUF (Revolutionary United Front). I and several of my colleagues were redeployed from the border to the Eastern region of Sierra Leone to combat the burgeoning rebellion. In the battlefield, we observed first-hand how starved the army was of resources, training and leadership to face a wellarmed rebel force. As a result, due to the malfunctioning of our outdated weapons we were outgunned and overran by the rebels. This necessitated my determination to be a force for change in a country operating without a plan and mired in corruption and inefficiency.

I realised that you could not start or pretend to even start without an educated population. Because the people are the change agents, they should be prepared. ... when you want to send somebody off on a mission, you must prepare the person and give them the wherewithal.
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Sierra Leone had, since 1968 experienced authoritarian rule and the suppression of dissent under the then ruling All People’s Congress (APC). By 1978, a new constitution made the ruling APC the only legal political party in the country, turning an already de facto oneparty state into one backed by law.

By 1992, I and a group of other young military officers that were fighting relentlessly in the warfront and experiencing the failings of the government hatched a plan to travel to the capital Freetown to confront the brutal dictatorship which oversaw a crumbling nation and plunged the country into decades of political and socio-economic doldrums. The plan was set in motion and I and my colleagues mostly in our twenties took control of the government, deposing the President in a bloodless coup on April 29, 1992. We were welcomed with much jubilation at home and abroad. It was a welcome relief for our people who had suffered years of oppression under the autocratic APC regime.

I had very clear goals as a member of the nation’s leadership during that period. I had no intention of replicating the brutal and corrupt government we had been part of overthrowing or of holding on to power. The main priorities were ending the war, which was raging across the country, restoring the ailing economy and most importantly, returning the country to stable, democratic rule.

But some of the leadership team deviated from our initial plan to return the country to democratic rule and on January 16, 1996 some of us that were committed to our original plan staged a palace coup to remove the Head of State whose leadership was becoming increasingly untenable. I took effective control of administration of the country and began the process of executing the most important tasks of restoring the economy, returning the country to democratic rule and ending the war that was raging across the country. In my three months as Head of State, we stabilized the state enough to organise the first democratic elections in three decades, effectively ending dictatorship and military rule. The decision to hand over power and return the country to democratic rule wasn’t an easy one to make. I had very strong opposition from people wanting to cling on to power, even within my inner circle, from some of my

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trusted peers, family members and friends. But I have always believed in democratic ideals and delivering on my promises, so my strong convictions outweighed the dissenting views of hanging on to political power. So I decided not to cling on to political power and organised the first credible multiparty presidential elections in our nation’s history and respected the votes of our citizens who deserved accountable governance and leadership.

I did not simply do a cosmetic handing over of political power while remaining in the shadows pulling strings. After handing over power to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in March 1996, I retired from the Sierra Leone Army and went to the United States of America to pursue my further education with my young family. I was 32 years old. During my three months as Head of state, I was also instrumental in initiating the first peace talks with the elusive rebel leader, that led to the peaceful settlement of the Sierra Leone civil conflict some years later.

I led at the battlefront and the political front for a short while as a military head of state. And during those times, I had the opportunity to look at the public sector and leadership differently. I usually say I

stumbled into politics. It was not my desire to enter politics at that time. I never had any plan to get near politics. I was motivated by my strong conviction that it is possible to get it right as a nation; the belief that Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans deserve a better future. I must be part of the change that I want to see in our nation.

My journey to democratic political leadership has been a long and arduous one. It was a 22-year journey of life’s ebbs and flows. I like to call it my wilderness years, like the Biblical story of the journey of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt to Israel. Fortunately, I arrived at my Promised Land, unlike Moses. Through it all, my unwavering faith in God kept me focused on the promise.

I was democratically elected as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone in 2018, on the cusp of turning 54-years old. In fact, my inauguration was on the day of my 54rd birthday. Some may say I was too young to become President or a bit too old, depending on where in the World you come from. One thing I knew for sure was that I was ready to serve my nation in the highest office. My leadership abilities had been tried and tested for 22-years since I organised the first democratic elections in nearly 30-years in my nation’s history, and peacefully handed political power to the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in 1996.

My desire to make a difference in the lives of Sierra Leoneans through good governance, accountability and the rule of law was and still is unquenchable. Since assuming office, my government is resolute on driving and leading the change from fragility and corruption to resilience, peace, and sustainable national development.

During your inauguration speech upon assumption of office, you announced that the theme and focus for your national development plan for the next five years is: ‘Education for Development”, signalling your readiness to return the country to its glory days as the “Athens of West Africa.” 4 years down the line, how has this agenda fared?

At the heart of my government’s agenda is Human Capital Development. I believe an educated population accelerates inclusive and sustainable national development. Education is a great enabler for personal and national development.

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My government’s top priority is access to free quality basic and senior secondary education and strengthening tertiary and higher education. Beyond our natural resources, our nation’s most substantial asset is its young and dynamic population, which, like natural resources, must be properly developed to deliver shared economic growth and meaningful poverty reduction and prosperity for all.

As part of our “Education For Development” strategy, my government has developed innovative policies and rolled-out transformation initiatives in the last four years. It has not been easy, but I was under no illusion at the time when we set the Development Agenda. I knew it will not be an easy task considering how long it had taken since we lost our glory as the Athens of West Africa. I concluded that quality education made us a powerhouse in West Africa and Africa in the years following our Independence from colonial rule. I realised that education is even more critical today in our globally competitive world than it was at that time. For effective governance and to undertake development itself, which is a very complex and multifaceted process steeped in different paradigms, I recognised that we must build the capacity of our citizens. I realised that we could not start or pretend to even start effectively building our nation without an educated population. The citizens are the change agents, so they should be prepared to drive change through human capital development.

When I assumed office in 2018, three out of four or five adults in this country could not read or write. That statistic is still valid. Changing this narrative will take some time but we are making concerted efforts to tackle the issue. With such high level of adult illiteracy, my government recognised that the population is not ready to be competitive in the 21st century or be part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

So, for me, it is an existential threat. I must bring education that is fit for purpose, one that fits into the 21st century so that we can reposition this country for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and fully partake in its benefits for national development. Rather than just be an Athens, we must aspire to be a hub of science, technology and innovation.

My vision is for our nation not to be at the receiving end of another Industrial Revolution, having been at the receiving end of the previous three Industrial Revolutions. To become a middle-income

country in the 21st century, we must ensure that we educate our people.

There are several impediments to the successful implementation of our Education for Development plan, but we are making great strides in overcoming them. For instance, many parents could not send their kids to school because they cannot afford $20 to $30 a year to enrol and sustain their kids in school. Under my government’s Free Quality School Education program, the State will be responsible for the education of every child born in this country from pre-school until completion of secondary school.

We are making good on the promises in the New Direction agenda including providing tuition-free education, school feeding initiatives, school bus transportation services in some neighbourhoods, and payment of transition examination fees. We realised that some school children would prepare for three or four years for transition examinations. When it’s time to pay the transition exams fee, the child’s parent or guardian does not have the financial resource to pay the fees for the NPSE (National Primary Schools Examination) or WASSCE (the West African Senior School Certificate Examination), and they drop out. The dropout rate at the transition school level has been curbed since the payments of transition exams fees by my government.

It has been challenging to address all these issues. People wondered whether the free quality education initiative would be possible within our first mandate, but we are proving that where there is a will, there will always be a way.

Education, for me, is a navigational tool for the world ahead of us. And if we are going to task our children with the sustainable transformation of our nation, then we must adequately prepare them. We must

I consistently reassure our citizens that my administration is not governing with the business-asusual approach of squandering state resources. We are investing in the future of our children who will become productive citizens and leaders of tomorrow hopefully in a well governed society.
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do so through quality education that is fit for purpose.

An educated population helps the development process, both personal and national development. In addition, it is also good because we go around the world inviting businesses to come to Sierra Leone; they are only ready to come when we have a prepared workforce. When the population already has the skills and the level of knowledge that is required to move their businesses. Without that, you are not very inviting as a nation. So, as a result of all these things, I thought it was necessary to put a premium on education.

Notwithstanding, my government’s overarching priority to improve human development indicators also includes access to quality healthcare services, improve agriculture and food security, decent jobs for the youth, inclusive growth, and building a resilient economy.

I shared earlier about my humble beginnings, and I could barely attend school. I was the last child of an illiterate woman born at a time of very limited opportunities for education especially for the girl-child. Despite life’s challenges as a widow, she placed strong emphasis on education. Somehow, my mother knew that education was necessary to unlock my full potential. Education played a critical role in my journey, and for me, as you’ve rightly characterized it, and for me, it is not about the next election, but the next generation. This is about the genuine development of our nation. We want to prepare the whole country because education is a leveller. Interestingly, the school that did very well in the country comes from a region that does not represent my political stronghold. But they are equal beneficiaries of the free quality education program. So, what we have made available is for every child in Sierra Leone; it does not matter if you voted for me or not. But I know that we need to give every child a chance of a prosperous future. Therefore, we are levelling the field for everyone. My young daughter is in school, and every child in the country is also in school. And that is what we want to make available; the tools for everybody to embrace personal and national development and become instruments of global change and competitive world citizens. So, education for me is everything.

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One of the strategic objectives of the New Direction Agenda is to change and transform Sierra Leone and provide efficient political and economic management of the state and abundant natural resources for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans. How has your administration fared in the prudent management of resources for the use of all?

As you may be aware, Sierra Leone is very rich in natural resources and effective natural resource management has been critical because we see it as a net contributor to GDP but also as an accelerator for our Human Capital Development (HCD) priorities.

In terms of our actions, the first thing we did was clamp down heavily on corruption and waste. We have been very robust in responding to the menace that led us towards corruption and waste. Not only have we supported and strengthened institutions in curbing corruption, but my government has also restored the autonomy of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to lead in the fight against and control of corruption through prevention, investigation, prosecution and public education.

For over two decades, we had a one-party state and corruption was rife at all levels. You had limited options for real change to the system. What do you do as a productive citizen? Do you vote continuously for the corrupt one-party system until you die?

Unfortunately, a major contributor to our nation’s bleak history, the civil war was the endemic corruption at the time. The status quo was what led to our actions in 1992, as young and productive citizens, to say that enough was enough, there had to be an opportunity for real change for the people. Unfortunately, corruption remained deeply rooted in our society even after the War. Since I assumed office in 2018, we have been fighting corruption decisively across the board. It’s a long and brutal war. When corruption becomes a culture, even fighting it is dangerous. Because it’s a way of life that had existed even before I was born. And some people have thrived in the corrupt system. Our recent efforts in fighting corruption is making it less fashionable because we will go after you to ensure that what is meant for the state is kept and used for its purpose. I keep saying it’s a fight that we must fight. And it’s a fight that we will win.

My government’s efforts in decisively fighting corruption is paying off. In less than a year into my administration, we greatly improved all the financial and economic performance markers for the IMF’s positive approval ratings. And with that, we have attracted credible investors and development partners like the World Bank, African Development Bank and others to support our socio-economic development reforms.

Typically, when you talk about natural resources in Sierra Leone, you have to talk about its mineral resources. As a nation, we have not successfully managed and exploited the full potential of our mineral resources for the benefits of all citizens. We inherited a woefully mismanaged and wholly paralyzed mining sector. Our administration has taken a holistic approach for effective, equitable and sustainable management of our mineral resources for the benefit of the current and future generations. We have made significant strides in developing and implementing the enabling legal and regulatory frameworks to fully exploit our mineral resources potential for sustainable economic growth and transformation. For instance, we have reviewed the Minerals Policy and revised the governance framework to improve accountability and transparency. The Mines and Minerals Act has been revised and its ratification by the Parliament is imminent.

One of our great achievements in the mining sector is the reorientation of our policy stance to make sure that revenues generated from our mineral resources are managed in transparent, fair and accountable ways. We have ensured that the State and its citizens benefit significantly from our mineral

We have ensured that the State and its citizens benefit significantly from our mineral resources wealth. I strongly believe that stakeholders and decisionmakers could do better for mining communities. Mining communities should be paid substantially more to invest in sustainable livelihood and community development projects that would sustain the economic viability and resilience of their communities.
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do better for mining communities. Mining communities should be paid substantially more to invest in sustainable livelihood and community development projects that would sustain the economic viability and resilience

of their communities. Our administration, for the first time in the history of our nation, enacted a law that increases Community Development Agreement (CDA) payments from a paltry 0.01% to 1% of annual revenues in the best interests of mining communities.

Government in the past have not fully considered and planned for the eventual transition of mining communities from being mining-dependent to self-reliant post-mining communities. When mines shut down, jobs disappear, economic activities cease, and communities go into a downward spiral of poverty. We are ensuring that the mining communities transition to economic hubs even beyond the life of a mine.

Also, we have guaranteed not only that mining investments are secure and can be fully supported within a transparent regulatory regime, but that investors can also make a profit and repatriate or reinvest their profits. Revenues have gradually increased from the mining sector because of the enabling policies, control measures, and discipline we have introduced. This is creating direct and indirect jobs with significant impact on local economies around mine sites. It’s a long way to go. But it’s beginning to pay off.

You inherited one of the worst economic situations in the country since independence and coupled with

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the COVID-19 pandemic. How have you managed scarce resources towards delivering dividends of democracy to your people?

My government has undertaken extensive reforms in strengthening public financial management to maximise the value of our limited public resources and to deliver essential public services and sustained development. We have focused on clamping down on corruption and waste, implementing rational fiscal management, managing public debt, building strong macroeconomic fundamentals, and mobilising domestic revenues.

We inherited a system where the public Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) managed their own financial resources independently, which was a breeding ground for excesses. My administration instituted a consolidated Single account where the public funds are pooled together. Managed by the Ministry of Finance, the consolidated single account for public expenditure is helping to curb the pervasive excesses. It has been a game changer for our public financial management.

We were making significant economic development gains as a government, then COVID-19 hit just over a year into our administration. The pandemic has been a disrupter of everything, and the economic and social consequences are far reaching globally. Notwithstanding, it has presented an opportunity for our government to do things differently. Our strategy for our post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts involves discipline in handling state affairs, including effectively managing state resources, macroeconomic fundamentals and inflation.

As a government, our post-COVID-19 efforts include pushing for reforms that increase revenue collection, prioritise health and capital spending, and restructure the management of fiscal risks. We have been deliberate in terms of structural reforms to increase the productivity of domestic firms and strengthen the role of the private sector to support a more sustainable and resilient recovery.

With the limited fiscal space, my government continues to implement sound economic policies and public financial management reforms that are geared towards maintaining a stable economy and responding to the financial and socio-economic shocks brought about by the pandemic.

Our strategy during and after the pandemic also includes bailing out small businesses to save jobs and cushioning livelihoods through

expanded but properly targeted social protection program given the limited fiscal space. We worked with businesses to help absorb the economic shocks triggered by COVID-19. For instance, instead of a hard lockdown at the height of the pandemic, we opted for a soft lockdown approach (2-3 days at a time during which we ramped up contact tracing and disease surveillance) that prioritised lives and livelihood.

With prudent financial management, my government is able to rationalize the use of state resources. We have embarked on different development projects across the various growth sectors including education, agriculture, energy, transport and mining. Our free quality education program receives the largest budget allocation under my administration, which is 22% of our GDP into education. We are supporting about 2.5 million school kids, providing not only free tuition but also buying textbooks for kids, paying for the transition examinations, and buying teaching and learning materials for the teachers.

People have wondered how we have been able to manage scarce resources especially with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our approach has been effective state governance, relentlessly clamping down on corruption and curbing wastages across the MDAs. The resources recovered are ploughed into financing the national development program. This has not been a popular approach for those who benefited from the previous weak state governance model. However, I consistently reassure citizens that my administration is not governing with the business-as-usual approach of squandering state resources. We are investing in the future of our children who will become productive citizens and leaders of tomorrow hopefully in a well governed society if the foundations my administration is laying remains.

Our commendable efforts in effective public

We have been deliberate in terms of structural reforms to increase the productivity of domestic firms and strengthen the role of the private sector to support a more sustainable and resilient recovery.
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financial management have not gone unnoticed by development partners and international investors. We have received over US$ 200 million in grant from the World Bank based on our prudent public financial management track record postCOVID-19. To date, we have entered into strategic partnerships with both traditional and non-traditional investors worth millions of dollars. What seemed impossible, is now happening because of the firm and welldisciplined approach to state governance and leadership.

My government will continue to implement prudent public financial management policies focused on enhancing domestic revenue mobilisation, rationalising expenditures, working towards single digit inflation, maintaining sustainable debt levels, a stable exchange rate, and increasing reserves to support inclusive growth.

You launched three peaceful democratic wars upon election: War on Indiscipline, War on Corruption, and War on Poverty. How well have the government fared in the battleground?

The central cause of the civil war was

which deprived the nation of its dignity and forced its citizens into poverty. Therefore, the war on indiscipline, corruption and poverty is one that my administration is determined to win to improve the quality of lives of our citizens. No Retreat! No Surrender!

Fighting corruption and illicit financial flows is at the forefront of my government’s New Direction agenda in ushering in sustainable socio-economic transformation. Under my leadership, the Anti-Corruption Commission has been allowed to carry out its duties autonomously in the fight against corruption with record improvement in all global and local indexes, surveys and reports. To date, over US$ 3 million in cash, excluding property assets and fines, has been recovered. A portioned of the recovered cash is being used to build a public hospital and the remaining funds used as contribution towards our National Student Loan Scheme.

The Millennium Corporation Challenge (MCC) has us passing the control of corruption indicator on their scorecard for three successive years. The MCC has declared Sierra Leone eligible to develop a compact in recognition of my government’s performance in investing in people, ruling justly, and economic freedom. We have scored an unprecedented 83%. Transparency International rates us highest in their Corruption perception Index. We will continue to build on these successes because, as I have said, the fight against corruption is a fight that we must win.

Poverty has existed among human beings almost as long as we have existed on Earth. Poverty is a disease, but illiteracy is a curse. It is said that the biggest weapon against cyclical poverty is education. I am a peoplecentred leader and the social and economic injustice in the world is what drives my motivation to make a difference.

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At the heart of my government’s human capital development efforts is alleviating poverty to improve the quality of lives of our citizens. Through our major investments in the Free Quality School Education (FQSE) program, we aim to remove the shackles of poverty on our citizens. Our human capital development investments will not show up quick wins, but the benefits will accrue in the future. Through the Free Quality School Education program, we are tackling extreme poverty in an indirect but a more sustainable way; not the quick fixes. Our FQSE program is helping to relieve the financial burdens on families. Through the Program, my government makes provision for school fees, feeding, text books, teaching and learning materials. The financial commitment on the parents or guardian for the school year is greatly reduced, helping to ease the financial burden on families.

Another sure way out of extreme poverty is Agriculture. Agriculture remains the preponderant sector of Sierra Leone’s economy, accounting for an average of 51% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the last decade. The sector also employs approximately 65% of the labour force but mainly subsistence farming. While the country possesses high agricultural potential, yields and labour productivity remain extremely low. Improving the productivity and commercialization of the agricultural sector to attain food security is a key priority for my government. Our strategy to improve agricultural productivity seeks to turn rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity. This requires new agricultural innovations and transforming agriculture into a sector for creating wealth. My government developed and is implementing the National Agricultural Transformation Programme, which seeks to double agricultural productivity by attracting and retaining large investments and supporting smallholder farmers to transition from subsistence farming. We remain committed to implementing programmes and activities to boost rice self-sufficiency, crop diversification, livestock development, and sustainable forest and biodiversity management. Some of the initiatives include a US$ 50 million agriculture credit facility, e-vouchers for input and mechanisation services, and making pre-positioned machine rings available to private sector and smallholder farmers across the country. Imagine if at least 60% of the population is engaged in agriculture in a meaningful way, it will greatly improve their standard of living and help to reduce poverty in our society.

Also, I am convinced that a decisive and sustainable way to alleviate poverty in communities and improve the quality of lives of our people is through female economic empowerment. Women are mostly the primary care givers in the home. I truly believe in the saying that “if you empower a woman, you empower a nation” having been raised and nurtured by strong and industrious women, my mother and elder sister. To drive inclusivity, my government continues to implement the National Micro-Finance Programme (MUNAFA FUND), through which over 5000 SMEs, of which 70% are female-owned, have successfully accessed much-needed finance.

I’ve realised that a nation can only develop for the benefit of all if it has law abiding citizens. With regards to our war on indiscipline, we are improving access to justice, promoting and protecting human rights, and slowly reforming the security sector. At the same time, we have also reintroduced civic education with a view to making citizens more aware of their responsibilities

Your government has demonstrated an uncommon commitment to transparency in governance with its support for independent media and the repealing of the criminal defamation law. Why is media freedom such an essential part of the government’s agenda?

One of the recommendations of the final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) created as part of the Lomé Peace Accord, which ended the civil war in Sierra Leone, indicated the need for independent media and free press. The recommendation for a more modern human rights culture in which all “Sierra Leoneans respect each other’s human rights, without exception”.

Poverty is a disease, but illiteracy is a curse. It is said that the biggest weapon against cyclical poverty is education. I am a peoplecentred leader and the social and economic injustice in the world is what drives my motivation to make a difference.
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That TRC Report has been a north star as the recommendations touched on every aspect of the lives of Sierra Leoneans. The recommendations represent the hopes of our nation’s children and youth as well as the yet unspoken hopes of future generations. The Commission hoped the Report will serve as a roadmap towards the building of a new society in which all Sierra Leoneans can walk unafraid with pride and dignity. It is an important part of our nation’s history, in promoting transparency and accountability in governance.

A free press enriches and energises our democracy. It enhances the participation of citizens in their own governance, and it protects and promotes fundamental rights and liberties. A free press is good for our democracy.

Under my administration, we have made great progress as a nation in respect to people’s rights. My government have repealed seditious libel laws, supported the unfettered practice of journalism, and supported more professionalism in journalism. I am proud to say that no journalist is in prison in our country for the practice of journalism under my administration. As a result of these reforms, I am pleased to note that Sierra Leone has progressed impressively on the World Press Freedom Index climbing 29 places in 2022. We are also a member of the world media freedom alliance.

Because of the bold media reforms that my government has initiated, which culminated in the media viability and sustainability conference held in April 2022, the International Fund for Public Interest Media listed Sierra Leone as one of 17 countries eligible to submit proposals for their maiden round of funding. The funds will enable the development, sustainability, and independence of public interest media especially in developing countries like

Sierra Leone. This is great for improving our journalism landscape.

Also, the 2022 report published by Reporters Without Borders recognises that Sierra Leone’s media sector is pluralist and generally independent and freedom of the press is guaranteed by law.

Interestingly, and to my pleasant surprise, I received an award from the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists in 2021 in recognition of my support to the media and press freedom.

My commitment to democratic ideals is unflinching. My government remains committed to deepening on-going reforms in the media for long term viability and sustainability.

I listened to your TED Talk where you stated, “I believe that leadership is about creating possibilities that everyone, especially the young people, can believe in; own; work to actualize, and which they can actively fight to protect.” You have remained an inspiration to young people in Sierra Leone and across the continent. What are some of your plans to mentor and build these young people into the type of leaders that the country truly deserves?

At the cusp of Africa’s successful socioeconomic transformation is its greatest asset – its youthful population. The Continent’s youthful population offers a unique opportunity to harness the full potential of its demographic dividend. This calls for visionary and dedicated leadership coupled with effective governance to invest in human capital development through quality education and non-cognitive skills development, as well as providing the enabling environment for employment generation. Africa’s young, dynamic population does, however, possess the potential to lead an economic revival on the continent.

My government sees the youth bulge in Sierra Leone as a unique opportunity, hence I adopted human capital development as my flagship agenda. By investing in young people, I believe Sierra Leone can make significant economic, social, and governance gains.

One of my motivations for political leadership is to leave a lasting legacy for

One of my motivations for political leadership is to leave a lasting legacy for the next generation and the generations yet unborn. In as much as I am an inspiration to young people, they are equally an inspiration to me. I am inspired by their creative thinking, innovation, fearless nature and zest for life.
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the next generation and the generations yet unborn. In as much as I am an inspiration to young people, they are equally an inspiration to me. I am inspired by their creative thinking, innovation, fearless nature and zest for life.

I was first exposed to state governance at the tender age of 28 years, with limited experience, only the desire for change to the dire socio-economic conditions of our nation in the 1990s. As President, I consistently seek out the best and most talented young women and men to join our efforts in building our great nation. The future we are building for today, belongs to them after all. I have appointed a significant percentage of talented and capable young people to lead top-tier Ministries, Departments and Agencies in my government. They are stepping up to the challenge and delivering good results for our national development agenda.

I have the greatest admiration for children as they have limitless potential to be productive citizens if harnessed well. This is why I make concerted efforts to encourage and support young people to have the audacity to dream to achieve their highest potential.

Mentorship is critical for the youth, as effective leaders require long gestation period to gather experience, people’s skills, emotional intelligence and character building.

In our efforts for youth empowerment, my government has revised the National Youth Policy and developed a five-year sector strategic plan, demonstrating our commitment to youth capacity building, create jobs, and generate new career pathways for youth. Under this plan, we have rolled out several youth economic empowerment

Employment Project financed by the African Development Bank is designed to train and certify young people in sustainable construction, hotel management and tourism, and sustainable agriculture including aquaculture and fisheries management. Also, my government has invested in alternative livelihood opportunities including training in digital skills for young women, enhancing skills in the media industry including photography, and training in construction-related jobs. We have established youth farms; even during the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of youths were engaged in various farming activities, trained in several entrepreneurial and business management skills. We are working with development partners on employment promotion initiatives to create more jobs for youths. Several other youth training programmes are focusing on providing disadvantaged young women and girls with a digital learning and resource centre where they will acquire skills in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, transformational leadership and social change, and business start-up funds.

Furthermore, I am a great champion for female economic empowerment and inclusion. My wife has been a good partner in promoting female empowerment across the country. The First Lady is promoting female empowerment through raising awareness and

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and in their communities; her campaign against “Early and Child Marriage” ensures that our girls persist in, succeed in, and complete school. Her “Free Sanitary Pads’’ Distribution Campaign to school going girls supports uninterrupted education of the girl child and promotes good hygiene practices nationwide. Her advocacy and mentorship efforts are making significant difference to the self-esteem and aspirations of young girls. Young girls across the country are being inspired to dream of being all they want to be in Sierra Leone – teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, lawyers, pilots, entrepreneurs, etc. As long as they have the audacity to dream big, they can achieve their dreams through perseverance in their education.

Reflecting on this, we are doing commendable things to empower our youths to live dignified lives. Also, my government is committed to promoting a healthy and productive young population. The National Sports Fund was created to promote sports development. For many of our young people, sports has been the difference between a life of despair and crime, and one filled with purpose and productivity; for many it has been the difference between giving in to peer pressure and drug use and living a healthy, vibrant life.

The ability and willingness to adopt new technology is crucial for a nation’s competitiveness. My government is increasingly recognizing the need for strategies tailored to our development needs with the unfolding technological revolution - the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). To take advantage of the unique opportunities

government has invested in more technical and vocational education across the country for skilling, re-skilling, or upskilling young people. We aim to establish science and technology parks to foster innovation through closer collaboration between research and industry to drive innovation. We are nurturing young talents in science, technology and innovation for young people to become critical thinkers, solution givers and problem solvers. My desire for the youth is for them to be partakers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and be at the forefront of emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, and quantum computing. I want young people to aspire for greater things that will make them competitive global citizens capable of leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I want to be the architect of innovation in making Sierra Leone a competitive Innovation Hub, bring lasting solutions to communities and nations.

I embrace this weighty task not just with gratitude, but with modesty. I will support the processes that promote socio-economic growth, and transparent political governance to ensure security in all regions of Africa and improve intercontinental cooperation.

Now you have an opportunity as the chair of the African Peer Review Forum of Heads of State and government; what will be your central theme as the chair?
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Now more than ever before our nations need political stability to drive sustainable economic growth and sustainability and to foster regional economic integration and cooperation. The effective transformation of Africa would require strengthening the democratic ideals that give voice to the populace to demand accountability and results from their leaders. As our nations seeks to develop economically, politically and socially in a fast-changing competitive world, we need to promote and sustain visionary and principled leadership with pragmatic approaches to policymaking in governments and other spheres of society. Pursuing pragmatic rather than ideological or geo-political approaches to policymaking creates greater trust, confidence and cooperation across borders. This will enable us to modernize and strengthen our institutions through enhances transparency and accountability. Accountable nations that make sound policies, provide efficient public goods and services, regulate markets and involve citizens in overseeing how public resources are used, are critical for the Continent’s transformation.

Our collective peace and security require effective and proactive leadership. We should collectively strive to shift towards a more proactive style of leadership, where governments and citizens would be fully engaged in taking the initiative in driving policy changes for example. In shifting towards more proactive rather than reactionary styled leadership, we will ensure that systems are built and institutionalised beyond our political mandates to ensure continuity of development programs. This can be done, for instance through strong and independent development planning agencies that transcend political mandates of politicians.

In a globally competitive and postCOVID-19 world, Africa requires leadership that lends itself to new ideas and innovations for delivering development governance. Being open to new ideas on the part of governments, will mean creating that milieu for an eye-level engagement with citizens.

During my tenure, I will proactively encourage consensus building in our collective efforts in promoting democracy, good governance, peace, security, and stability with a view to preventing constitution-related crises. We need to usher in real change which can inspire citizens to look beyond their immediate individual concerns, working collectively to achieve sustainable development goals that benefits communities and societies, embracing the Ubuntu philosophy of ‘selfhood to others’. We as African should be the change that we want to see in our homes, communities and nations. We should carry our load where its heaviest. I will champion home-grown solutions to our home-grown problems.

We will continue to work diligently in promoting the pan-African ideals to ensure member countries position themselves in meeting the requirements set among its continental peers, and support governments achieve their desired successes, especially in promoting best practises not only in their nations, but in Africa as a whole.

Good governance is at the heart of everything we are doing as the African Union.

We are striving to be useful members, playing our roles for a united and more prosperous Africa. We will all continue to work collectively, helping each other deliver on our individual and collective mandates for a unified and more prosperous Africa.

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JULIUS MAADA BIO A Statesman on a date with Destiny

President Julius Maada Bio was formed from the cradle for leadership. President Bio shines forth as a northern star at the National, Continental and Global levels. A peep into his leadership style, both home and abroad, shows a leader ready to give all for the service of humanity.

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The rarefied air of certain circles in Freetown, especially the opposition camps, would have you thinking that no gain has been recorded by President Julius Maada Bio’s administration in the country. But no visitor has to stray too far to witness extraordinary progress in different sectors of the economy. From education to health, agriculture to ICT, the gains are legion.

President Julius Bio came to power in 2018 with the sole purpose of unshackling millions of Sierra Leoneans who had been enslaved by the years of maladministration by the previous administration. He campaigned and won elections based on leading a reform that would help transform the country from an impoverished republic to one flowing with milk and honey.

Bio took office after a tumultuous election campaign, ending a decade-long rule by the All-People’s Congress (APC). He came on board clear-headed to lead the country’s all-around revival. This explains his government’s massive investment in human capital development through the New Direction agenda. To match words with action, he announced a near doubling — from 11 to 20% — of the education sector’s annual budgetary allocation and set up the student loan scheme. He also

quickly introduced a special incentive for science and rural-based teachers and girls who decide to pursue STEM-based education in the country.

Determined to end profligacy, he cut government expenditure to raise domestic revenue to implement his development agenda. Four years on, the government’s commitment and passion for citizen-centric development remain unwavering.

Frankly, the odds were stacked against the Bio-led administration from the outset. His job was made all the more difficult after inheriting a country whose economy hit rock-bottom in 2017/2018, regarded as the worst since Independence. A year and more into his administration, COVID-19 pulled the plug on government’s effort to revamp the country. As the world gradually emerged from the pandemic-induced economic meltdown, it entered the RussiaUkraine War, threatening global economic prosperity. Yet there is plenty of evidence to show that the Bio-led administration has remained on course towards achieving its mandate and delivering on the provisions of the New Direction Agenda.

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The New Direction Agenda

The New Direction Agenda, the government’s manifesto, is a six-part extensive document – a product of thorough consultation and engagement with relevant stakeholders across the country. The document articulated the country’s prevailing challenges and the government’s plans to address same.

In presenting the New Direction Agenda, President Bio made a solemn promise that the plan would transform the country into “a united, peaceful, progressive, dynamic, confident, enterprising and happy nation where the people have unlimited access to jobs, food, education and health services and where there is equal justice and equal opportunity for all.”

The agenda is gradually building the resources-rich west African country into a Middle-Income nation of the 21st Century.

The Bio-led administration has been diligently implementing the plan’s offerings with visible results to boot.

Human Capital Development

According to the World Bank, Human Capital is the greatest asset of economies on the rise. The most significant Capital is Human Capital. This underpins the Bio-led administration’s commitment to Human Capital Development, which is the central plank of the government priorities.

Inequality in society is without a shadow of a doubt one of the major roadblocks to building a prosperous nation. Powerful nations are built on the dedication and hard work of its citizen and some thoughtful planning on the part of the government. There are various facets of nation-building, among which the most important ones at this moment in time seems to be tapping the potential of its human resource, reducing the social and economic disparity that exists in society and creating an enabling environment wherein individuals can live freely and attain their best in life.

The Bio-led government is addressing the most critical aspect of nation-building with its investment in human capital, through its massive investment in education, STEM education, health, jobs and wealth creation.

The President said, “We are building a country where the citizens will be properly equipped to compete globally, as we march towards the fourth industrial revolution.”

“As a statesman, I am investing in the next generation, not the next election.” I desire to see a nation that provides equal opportunity for all,” he said.

Sierra Leone is Ready for Business

Sierra Leone, with an estimated population of over 7.9 million people (World Population Review), is located on the coast of West Africa between the Republic of Guinea in the north and northeast, the Republic of Liberia in the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and a land area of 71,740 square kilometres. Since the civil war ended in 2002, the country has mainly been politically stable, with significant religious tolerance among its people. Sierra Leone presents opportunities for investment and engagement. The current President, Julius Maada Bio, who ruled briefly as head of a military regime in 1996, took office in April 2018. His “New Direction” administration promised a comprehensive reform plan to revamp the economy and overturn imbalances in the current account, currency depreciation, high inflationary

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pressure, untenable debt distress and high unemployment.

President Bio’s administration launched the medium-term National Development Plan 2019–2023, with four goals aligned with global and regional agendas and investments in education, governance and infrastructure. The plan, focused on human capital development and supported by economic diversification and competitiveness in agriculture, fisheries, and tourism, seeks to facilitate Sierra Leone’s transition to a stable and prosperous democracy. According to the government, this initial five years is part of a 20-year long-term national development commitment aimed at achieving middleincome status by 2039.

Sierra Leone, endowed with substantial natural resources, has long relied on its mineral industry, dominated by numerous iron ore miners, diamonds, rutile and bauxite. Minerals account for over 80 per cent of exports and contribute 2.7% of the GDP. President Bio’s government has reviewed mining contracts signed during the previous administration. It is considering changes aimed at deriving more public revenue from natural resources, a promise he made during his campaign.

Sierra Leone benefits from duty-free access to the Mano River Union market, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the European Union’s Everything But Arms initiative, and the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The country, under the able

fisheries, and has managed the country’s natural resources responsibly.

A Leader Loved at Home and Abroad

President Bio is not only loved at home; he is loved globally. Since his election, he has become a frequent guest at global events and a sought-after speaker on international platforms. The love is partly due to his uncanny ability to show proof and result. He walks the talk. He has also remained the country’s chief investment promoter and brand ambassador, making it attractive for people to nurture an abiding love for the man and the government.

Back home, the president has continued to promote political accountability. From the cabinet to government agencies, the president has made an unmistakable commitment to hold all government appointees to the highest ethical standards - institutionalizing transparency and accountability for effective regulation of all activities of government. The president’s position has helped safeguard public decision making, integrity and fairness. This trend has profoundly impacted the overall political, democratic, and governance structure and improved the government’s acceptability over the years.

Beyond the glitz and greenery of the country, Sierra Leone is a nation on a match to greatness, one policy at a time. With His Excellency Julius Maada Bio on the saddle, the country’s date with Eldorado is no longer if but when having laid a solid foundation for leaders after him to go forth and do great things!

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Mohamed Juldeh

Passion

The erudite and multilingual Vice President of
Sierra Leone, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh,
situates the Bio-led administration’s New Direction plan in the context of the
Sustainable
Development Goals of the United Nations. A former UN official, the Vice President, points to the strategic alignment of the government’s plan to the 17 SDG goals and shares the administration’s many successes across major sectors.
Jalloh: Marked By
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Bio-led administration’s SDG scorecard

So far, we have been doing extremely well when it comes to the attainment of the SDG 17 goals. Because initially, when we carved out the manifesto of this country, most of what went into that manifesto was geared essentially towards human capital development, which of course, you know, when you look at the heart of the SDG, the majority of those goals are all human capital development. So, when we came in, the SDGs became our indicators, which we used in measuring output. I will focus on the various sectors that have to do with human capital development in the SDGs, that is, goals 2,3,4,5,6,7.

Education: This is SDG number four. When we came in, we made education a flagship program of His Excellency. From the initial stage, we decided to separate the Ministries of education. We have tertiary and primary education with different ministers. This is the proper essential weight and focuses on what we want and the kind of improvement we want to make. So His Excellency the President declared free quality education for primary or secondary school kids. So today, we are putting 22% of our GDP into education. A recent publication by the Economic Magazine classified us as number three, with Iceland in the world, just below Norway and Sweden, spending that kind of money on education to GDP. Today, we have 2.6 million kids in school. We are paying school fees. We are buying learning and teaching materials. And then we are recruiting teachers. We had recruited over 5000 teachers because, when we said we wanted to provide free quality education for kids, we had also to give the human resource that goes with it. We have been building additional classrooms and providing continuous training for teachers. That investment has paid-off out significantly. Even the last United Nations annual report, which I had the opportunity to launch, gave Sierra Leone an overwhelming pass mark regarding attaining the SDGs. In education, for example, today, we have more girls in primary and secondary school than ever in the history of this country. We have attained parity in getting girls and boys in primary education at the same level because we have created additional

incentives to encourage girls to go to school and then keep them in school. That is SDG four - it shows you the kind of gains that we have made. We will caption our achievement around education as leaving no one behind; that is radical inclusion. It means that there is a place for girls, there is a place for kids with disability. And that is one thematic focus of the SDG from One to SDG 17.

Health: for example, is the SDG 3; it seeks the provision of affordable and accessible health care for everybody by 2030, which means attaining universal health coverage by 2030. What we have done as a country to achieve universal health coverage is broken down into two parts. One is the provision of free healthcare. When we took over in 2018, our budgetary allocation for the health sector was 6%, and we increased it to 11.4%. However, we are still a little short of the Abuja declaration that says every sub-Saharan African country needs to spend 15% of their budget; hence, we increased it in four years from 6% to 11.4%. We also recruited over 5,000 additional health workers, including nurses, doctors, and midwives. When we took over, for the first time, we invested progressively in free health care drugs, created an ambulance system, and sent an ambulance to every chiefdom in this country. We realised that our focus would be on maternal and infant health. The indicators show that this country has reduced infant and maternal deaths for four years.

The critical thing that was challenging for maternal and infant health in Sierra Leone over the years was access to health centers; when women get pregnant, accessing health centers becomes a problem. It becomes a challenge, which is why the ambulance system plays a significant role. In every chiefdom we have ambulances. So these pregnant women and sick people have the mobility to take them. We also focused on what we call the 1,000 days; the 1,000 days is from when a woman gets pregnant to delivery and then when the kids are in that inception stage. Those are the critical period for maternal health and infant health. We realised that apart from having access to medicine, we also had to invest in nutrition. So for the first time in the history of this country, we had a budget to address malnutrition

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and support pregnant women and children under-five. This is an innovation, and it has never happened before in the country. So, the indicators are there. We have more nurses today, and we are also reducing maternal and infant mortality.

We also have more functional health centres. Still, we are encouraging private sector investment in the health sector. In addition to doing those things, we are also experimenting with new ideas. We realised that there had been a lot of wastage with the free healthcare drugs. So, we encourage private sector intervention in that direction. So, for the first time, We encourage the private sector to participate in pharmacies. We are experimenting with PPP arrangements in healthcare delivery, which has been largely successful. Now, we want to roll it out across the country. We are also developing a complementary model, the healthcare insurance scheme. I am the chairman of the inter-ministerial committee on the healthcare insurance scheme. We are ready to encourage informal and formal sectors to access health coverage. Also, because we talk about access, it has to be universal and affordable. We realised that out-of-pocket expenditure on medicine is still very high. So, we want to reduce it progressively. And I believe with the kind of commitment and the progress we are making, and we will get there.

Food security: To date, statistics show that Sierra Leoneans are food insecure. We are making additional investments to increase security. As a government, we designed the agricultural transformation programme. In the past, the government procured machinery to promote food production, but it was often limited to the capital city and often in the hands of ministers and members of parliament. They keep the machines when they are not farmers. So, we decided to create hubs across the country. This is the same model that is used in Senegal. We created machinery hubs across the districts. And then now, more than any other time, we are making efforts towards attracting private sector investment into agriculture. Agriculture needs to become an economic infrastructure, and for that to happen, you have to attract private sector investment into agriculture so that they can boost food production. So, We launched an agricultural transformation programme, which has been making tremendous progress. Statistics show that since 2019, we have been reducing food importation. Before this time, Sierra Leone was spending about $520 million to import food, which is reducing drastically now.

Water & Sanitation: When you also look at SDG 6, water and sanitation. According to the United Nations report, Sierra Leone has improved access to wash facilities between 2020 and 2021 from 52% to 60%, and now to 64%. This means that we have made an additional investment in that area, making sure that we provide clean and affordable water for the people. We may not have achieved our desired targets in all the SDG focus areas, but we are making progress. But, I am sure that, before the year 2030, the country will have made more strides.

Access to Clean Energy: Looking at SDG 7, which is access to clean energy, when we came in, energy access in this country was 16%. Today, we have reached 31%. And most of that improvement was made because we created independent solar grid solutions. In 2018, only four towns in this country had electricity. Today we have over 49 towns, many of them powered by solar grids. Those solar-powered systems have helped us in several ways. It has not only created access to energy but also what we call local economic dynamics between those places. These were villages and towns where people went to bed at eight. Now, if you go there, people stay up all night. It has created a nocturnal economy. More importantly, it helps us to provide electricity for critical health centres to keep vaccines for kids. So we can store vaccines to maintain their potency.

We used to move these vaccines by motorbikes in small containers. But more importantly, energy will help us because if you have a country where you want to attract foreign direct investment, create industrialisation, and create jobs, then you have to transition from utility energy to productive energy. Because what we have with 16% was utility energy. That means we have electricity for light bulbs, hospitals and to charge mobile phones. To attract foreign investment and create an industrial base, you must transition from utility to productive energy. So, we have been making that investment. As you may be aware, we are eligible for the MCC compact and will invest that money into the transmission. Because the energy sector in the country has three challenges - generation, transmission and governance of the entire industry. But we have been passing aggressive laws to encourage private sector involvement in electricity generation, transmission and commercialisation.

We believe that with that kind of investment, mainly coming from the Americans who have been investing, the DFS in America also supported the South African company

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with a $218 million loan. We recently signed the CLSD arrangement allowing us to buy electricity from our West African neighbours, particularly Côte d’Ivoire. It is a 1300 Kilometer line from Abidjan through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Transcorp manages it. Though we signed an agreement, we are supposed to get 27 megawatts right now. As I’m talking to you, we have 10 megawatts. We are supplying the southern corridor. We are building the transmission line to extend it to the Northern Corridor. And then after that, we’ll take the additional 17 megawatts. So we have 27 megawatts, pushing towards about 50% of energy access. In the energy sector, we are doing very well. It is the key to economic development and social transformation, and you can’t do anything without energy. So that is the progress we are making on some of those.

Zero Poverty: On SDG 1, which is zero poverty, as you know, the poverty level in Sub-Saharan Africa is still substantial. The World Bank’s President recently invited me to deliver a keynote address at the World Summit of fragility. I told the world leaders, including the world bank, that if you want to deal with fragility in African countries, particularly in small economies like Sierra Leone, you have to support the government to make capital investments. If you take the countries in the Sub Sahara Africa, we are now in what we call politics of redistribution. What does that mean? It means whatever revenue we get; we use in providing subsidies. We subsidise food; rice, flour, cement, oil, you name it, simply because there is no electricity. We are also subsidising electricity.

So, this is how we have been providing solutions and supporting the social dynamics of society. So that is how we are coping with those SDGs. And the United Nations annual report gave an overwhelming pass mark to Sierra Leone. Looking at the account, you will see that we have been doing very well.

We believe supporting the media is critical to good governance, accountability and transparency. Since this is a government that takes pride in accountability and transparency, looking at the energy we put into fighting corruption shows that it is only natural that we support the media. First of all, we have to create an environment for every journalist in this country, to be able to practice their profession without any fear or favour.

We not only put the legal framework but also looked further at the business side of journalism. A group of journalists invited me two years ago to speak during their program, and they gave me a topic, but I said no since you have invited me, allow me to choose my topic. During the event, I spoke about the poverty of journalism and the journalism of poverty.

Essentially, what I was telling them, was that if you don’t have the kind of human resource that the sector requires, if you don’t have the legal framework that the industry needs and without the sort of investment that the sector requires, you will not be able to do your work. So first, the key demand was that we expunged part five of the public order act because the President believes in free expression.

Media Freedom, Transparency and Accountability: Our government is, essentially, one that believes in the right to expression. And that we want to build on the democratic credentials of the country. This country has a deep-rooted experience in democracy, and it has been so since His Excellency the President returned this country to a multi-democracy after serving as a military head of state. We have been in the opposition and had the unique advantage of appreciating things.

Secondly, we told them that we are going further to encourage you to attract the kind of investment you need to turn around the media sector. So that they can gradually move out of the poverty circle. We want journalists to be able to practice journalism with an independent mind. So the media investment platform was an opportunity to open up the space for private investors. So that private sector investment can come in. People believe that the television, the radio, and the print media, can become an area where people can invest and then encourage professionalism to emerge out of it. Because one thing that has been undermining professionalism, not only in the media

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I told the world leaders, including the World Bank, that if you want to deal with fragility in African countries, particularly in small economies like Sierra Leone, you have to support the government to make capital investments. If you take the countries in the Sub Saharan Africa, we are now in what we call politics of redistribution.
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sector but, across most sectors in Africa, particularly in the security sectors, is the conditions of service. The more improved the state of service, the more opportunities you create for people. Our interest is to empower the media, which is vital to an open society and deepening democracy. The media is essential to promoting our plan because when you have a resourceful television, radio station, and print media, they are better placed to showcase what we are doing. They are also better placed to ask critical questions about governance. For the first time in the history of this country, we created what we call the government civil society dialogue.

That is a dialogue we created, wherein we called the civil society; let’s look for a new method for engagement. This government believes in transparency and accountability, and we will create a framework for dialogue. So, the civil society will choose the topic, and then we bring all government ministers, and I will participate. I lead the government side. His Excellency officially opened the first dialogue, and I led the dialogue team based on the topics. They first said they wanted the government to showcase the details of expenditure around COVID.

They invited the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, and we were there for the day. We had the ministers of finance, health and other vital heads of agencies, and they all responded to their questions. The second dialogue was around health, education and food production service delivery. They wanted to ask questions about our commitment to three of those three goals. I was there, and we invited the Ministers, development partners, journalists, and others. So, we believe that resourceful media is critical to building an open and democratic society. That is why we support that process and promote free expression because it is vital to the kind of society, we want to build that is open, democratic and transparent.

Youth-oriented development strategy

This is critical and pertinent not only for Sierra Leone but for Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is a young continent, and any government that does not take this issue very seriously is setting the pace for continued social instability. We see that in the Sahel. One thing driving instability in the Sahel is young people without a future and jobs. We offered our young people an education the first day we came in. And then in addition to that, we created separate Ministries for Basic, Tertiary and Technical education because we wanted to design a kind of education model that would build manpower skills to enable those young people to find jobs. The President wanted to send a strong message to young people that this is a government of young people, and he appointed a very young man as the Minister of Youth. He also appointed a lot of young people into this government. We have different types of programs to support youth. Apart from the skills we give them, we are also creating job opportunities for them in all the critical sectors.

The fundamental challenge for young people in this world is job creation. Sometimes, I hear people say that we need to give young people a voice, and I tell them, when you have given them jobs, you have given them a voice. The job becomes the pathway to voice because if you give them a voice without jobs, you have stifled their voice. Apart from the education, apart from the fact that before this time, when young people pass an entrance examination to go to universities because they come from poor homes, they don’t have the opportunity to go to university. So we decided to create a loan scheme for those who have passed their exams. It’s now a policy that every Sierra Leonean young chap knows, that as you have admission to the university, you can go to any bank and borrow money and pay for your education. So by doing that, we are increasing their skills to prepare them technically to enter the job market. And also, when we came in, we decided to create the apprenticeship system.

The apprenticeship system that we copied from Nigeria through the NYSC programme for graduates. We post them to institutions and pay part of their salaries. Most of them, about 40% of them, are retained by the very institutions that take them. So that has been phenomenal. And also, we have opened up the sporting industry. Before we came in, the sport was this country was dead. When we arrived, we put in some investments and kickstarted the Premier League. It

The fundamental challenge for young people in this world is job creation. Sometimes, I hear people say that we need to give young people a voice, and I tell them, when you have given them jobs, you have given them a voice. The job becomes the pathway to voice because if you give them a voice without jobs, you have stifled their voice.
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enabled us to even qualify for the African Nations Cup. So today, we are unleashing the potential of young people in sports.

Gender and women’s development:

His Excellency has consistently said that the future of this country is female. We are not tackling female issues in terms of interventionist policies; we are also building the foundation. When we came on board, we created the Ministry of Gender and Children Affairs to make sure that we focus our energy, particularly at the governmental level, on a single ministry with the mandate to promote gender and children’s issues. Secondly, we are working towards passing the gender empowerment bill. In the four key areas, we are also prioritising women and girls. In education, the investment we are making to get more girls into schools, especially in sciences, has been helpful. Also, for the first time through the program of Her Excellency, the First Lady, we have an all-out war against menstrual pain to address the inability of most young girls who miss school because of their cycle. She provides them with free pads, and it has been

a major campaign by the First Lady and is now a policy action within the Ministry of Education. We are keeping them in school. Today we are parity in the number of Boys and Girls in primary education. These are deliberate policies.

We have also decided that for every girl that continues her education in sciences STEM, the government will give her a free university education. We have created strategies to address sexual violence on the social front. We did the statistics and could locate those districts and regions with high sexual violence cases. And then we concentrated our efforts. So we created an additional one-stop centre to address these issues. In these one-stop centres, doctors, justice officers, and social and psychosocial workers provide social support. And we are coming down hard on those committing those offences. Today, you have a better chance of leaving prison if you commit treason in this country than when it is a case of rape. Rape is classified as an A-plus crime. Even when the President considers pardoning people, we cannot forgive rapists.

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We are redefining Service delivery and governance in Sierra Leone

Where there is no vision, the people perish. In Sierra Leone, the foresighted leadership of President Julius Maada Bio has taken it a step further by matching vision with a strategy for implementation and tracking. In this exclusive interview with African Leadership Magazine UK, the Chief Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa, whose extensive work and experience in the

robust supervision. So my first responsibility is coordinating, facilitating and following up on

As you know, the President goes ments, and someone has to follow up to ensure sustained implementation of these pronouncements; someone has to follow them up and provide mance. Then, I also offer technical al issues. My office also tracks the implementation and delivery of the

part of the Presidency, somebody to head the program part, because you’re talking about supervising ministries, and you need to understand the responsibilities of each of these ministries to provide

I need to follow up when the President goes for example to Parliament during its annual Opening Ceremony and make statements, or the Ministry of Finance makes pronouncements during the budget speech. Someone needs to follow up when we meet at the cabinet-level and conclude on issues. So basically, what we are trying to do in the New Direction, is to make the Presidency more programmatic. This is where the thinking and the vision come from. Somebody has to be there in my capacity to communicate the President’s vision - you can read the President’s vision, and you may not understand it.

The first challenge we had in our administration was to communicate

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the administration’s vision - even among ourselves. So, I’m there to coordinate, facilitate, follow up on the President’s priorities and provide technical backstopping to the Ministry.

A sector or Ministry may come with a smaller idea, and it is in my capacity to expand or modify it to fit into the government’s overall plan. It is also my responsibility to contextualize it and even guide the process, to take it to the cabinet. It doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the law but navigating the bureaucratic process to ensure the idea’s timely implementation. Sometimes I provide support, up to the point of writing cabinet papers for colleague ministers. Yes, because it is the government’s priority, and I want it to move. I can go as far as that. I can go as far as spending my budget to organise retreats for them to ensure things work smoothly. From discussing school feeding programs to issues around ambulance services, I am involved in almost everything related to our administration’s successes. But, the good thing is that I have the background to perform these functions. First, I am a development economist; I have been on both sides of the development divide, at the government and donor levels. I have also been a policy adviser.

Then came the administration, and I am a key team member that articulated the New Direction manifesto. Upon winning the elections, I was made the Minister of Finance. But, first, I was part of the transition team that took stock of what was left behind, and then, I was Finance Minister. Now, I am serving as the Chief Minister. So, in terms of the value chain, I have seen it all. One of the significant weaknesses I saw before coming on board was that the technical backstopping from the Presidency was non-existent. I have been on the other side, and I can tell you that it was non-existent. You need somebody to ask critical questions. I mean, otherwise, ministries and departments of governments will do what they feel like. We are still not there as public sector is vast, but so much has been achieved in the last four years in this regard. Because the government generally is too big.

Before now, there were state enterprises working solo, more or less, but we are doing more now to bring them to the mainstream through proper coordination, monitoring and supervision. So, this is essentially the function of my office. We have just developed a framework for the management of stateowned enterprises, and we plan to roll it out after we must have secured their buy-in.

In line with the government’s New Direction Agenda, your leadership have sought to institutionalize a delivery culture for the public service. What strategies are in place to achieve this crucial agenda?

Deliverology is a new world term but over a decade old - from the days of Tony Blair. We started developing this concept, which is taking hold in most African countries, trying to make the central government very powerful and recognizing the weaknesses in terms of linkages, complementaries, and the like. Our approach of focusing on delivery is not the usual way of doing business; that is focusing on the delivery unit. So, we can understand it is going to be resisted. So, the first thing is to communicate it to the bureaucrats. Let them know that it’s not coming to replace them. When we introduced the word delivery unit, they thought we were coming to take their jobs. So, we did not present it as an entirely new concept but a slight modification of the previous ways of doing business in the public service. So, you take one of them from the system and put them in charge while supporting them with an expert from below. Every Ministry must have one or two very good people; pick one of them.

So what we’ve done in our system is that ministries submit their annual work program, and we go through what we call delivery clinics - Ministry by Ministry, and they tell us what they have to deliver in six months. We go through it and rationalized their submission. Afterwards, we get it on the platform; then, we reviewed it again collectively. We ask them for their focal points, which they must submit. We don’t want to call it delivery units, but that is what we are creating quietly. Using their focal point, I will take their focal point to upload

It is necessary to understand the locations of every process in government so you can timeline them; that way, you can be very realistic to say I can deliver on this in six months or one year. Because the most significant challenge we have is bureaucracy, and you cannot turn the bureaucracy around just like that.
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Celebrating

it on the MDA platform and follow up on them.

People do not like new terms, but that is what we are creating quietly - without calling it delivery units. So the first challenge is resistance to change, which is a big problem. But, this is where we have a huge gap; we do not track delivery on the continent. I mean, it’s like business as usual; the President will say something today, and in the next two years, nothing happens. Ministers will say something, and nobody cares; no one will follow up to know what has happened to the pronouncement. We must have milestones and timelines attached to every pronouncement. We must also provide frequent updates to our principals on implementations. That’s the essence of the delivery units. We must have people close to these leaders to help prompt them and bring service delays or failures to their attention.

Things like, “Mr Minister, you are supposed to have this particular meeting, or you are supposed to call the World Bank Country Director on this issue.” Every organization should have a delivery unit.

Every institution should have a dashboard, and you can go as granular as possible to say things like to prepare and submit a letter. At our level, it is more strategic because we are discussing issues like enacting a bill, like the Social Insurance Bill. So, we are talking about the milestones towards passing the bill, e.g., stakeholders consultation, public engagement and all other stages. As you may be aware, to enact a bill, you need nothing less than about nine stages, including the procurement of consultants and the rest of it. So, first of all, it’s essential to understand these stages before the bill goes to Parliament for ratification.

It is necessary to understand the locations of every process in government so you can timeline them; that way, you can be very realistic to say I can deliver on this in six months or one year. Because the most significant challenge we have is bureaucracy, and you cannot turn the bureaucracy around just like that. But the best way to do it is to do some radical changes by opening it up. We have a lot of our young Africans who’ve got Western education and were living overseas, bright, and intelligent; they are currently at the periphery of things, probably working for some of those small NGOs around the continent. With all their public sector knowledge, they are at the edge of things when they should be in the mainstream because the system is closed and does not allow them to climb automatically. They often come through the project units, provide support or work programs, and do some audits, but they’re not at the centre of things. So, we need to open it up.

How do you promote cultural change within the organisations of government?

You have to be creative and a little bit radical. The guys will stay there while you create structures around them. It cannot be automatic because it is about the mindset. It is about the policy space; when anyone loses his place, they will fight to get it back. So, we had to be smart about it.

In your engagement with ministries upon resumption of office, you emphasized “support rather than supervision”, which is uncommon among leaders. How has this approach helped in improving the service output from the ministries?

In the first instance, you must look at the workable models when courting a symbiotic relationship. For example, you cannot blame the failure of policies on the workers alone. The blame should be enough to go around. In diagnosing the causes of the loss, you also have to look at the supervisor’s actions; what did he do? Because the way people look at supervision is like, have you done this? No, why did you not do it? It’s not about that; you have to understand that when you are a supervisor, you are a mentor, so you can go as far as checking the language, the document and the pyramid. The cause of the failure may require a holistic change of the policy document.

The orthodox thinking is that government should be responsible for everything; that is how the British left us, and we have been very slow to change this concept. You need to map out the responsibilities of the ministries and see which one can best be handled by the private sector.
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So, you take one paragraph, push it up, and then tell them to do this and do that. You have to provide them with the technical backstopping instead of breathing down their neck and dishing out instructions. One shouldn’t always expect them to come to you; sometimes, you go to them. They feel good when you go and interact, discuss and sit down with them to understand their problems. It is a big motivation for them as well. When you brand yourself a supervisor, it is a little bit intimidating - you hear things like, the supervisor is coming, and you see everybody running. That is not what we want to build. We must work, support and crack jokes with them to get the best result. You must meet, socialize, and have a relationship because this is very important.

You were one of the critical authors of the New Direction manifesto and part of the Transition Team. You had the privilege of seeing how things were when the government came into existence. You also served as Minister of Finance for three years before your current role as Chief Minister. Can you share some of the milestones of this government in the last four years? Specifically, note how the Bio-led government has translated policies into action to improve lives on the ground?

In terms of Milestones, looking at our manifesto, as you said, I was very critical in the manifesto formulation, which informed the National Development Plan that clearly articulates what we said we would do. It was a tough decision for us as a party; we had to debate it for a while. I mean, there is thinking that Human Capital development does not bring votes immediately because you are spending on non-voters. When you spend on the child today, he will not give you votes tomorrow. It will take you a generation to feel the impact; it will take the child several years before they can vote.

A six-year-old child you spend on today, it will take you another 12 years before they can vote, and by that time, you are already gone. But these are the mistakes we’ve been doing in Africa. The very critical component of the development is what we have been leaving out: human capital development. So, we said no, we could change the paradigm and communicate to our people. Let us go for human capital development. Thus far, it’s been a very heartwarming result of our intervention. When you speak

with the Minister of Education, I am sure they will provide you with the data. We have seen the most increased enrollment in our schools and teachers’ improvement; our people are becoming more conscious about education because the President says it everywhere he goes, including at town hall meetings. So, when you talk about milestones, education is one of the significant things we are getting right as a government.

But you know, the deficit in education was so huge that even when we make all these efforts, it is as though nothing is happening. But, we are steadfast and think we can always get that one right. That’s one area. The other area we are making strides which is still within the realms of human capital development in healthcare. The mortality rates, including infant and maternal mortality, have dropped significantly over the past four years. These are vital indicators, primarily because of more transparency in job distribution across the country. We have ambulance systems across the country that are being used to take patients from far places to the nearest hospitals. We also increased energy access from about 15% to about 31%, which is slightly higher with the ongoing data reviews. I think it is somewhere around 40% now.

Rural electrification is taking over the entire country. Cities that had never seen electricity are now connected, which is ongoing. This will improve productivity over time. Another exciting thing we have done is the media freedom bill. We have repelled the obnoxious libel law and increased media engagement.

As you know, media laws are closely related to human rights issues. Also, we

A six-year-old child you spend on today, it will take you another 12 years before they can vote, and by that time, you are already gone. But these are the mistakes we’ve been doing in Africa. The very critical component of the development is what we have been leaving out: human capital development. So, we said no, we could change the paradigm and communicate to our people.
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are strengthening the rule of law. When I say that, I mean that access to justice is increasing. Districts now have magistrates and judges more than ever before. So that’s another area we are making significant strides. Even our crop production levels are increasing. For the first time in our history, we have heavy demand for harvesters. When we came up with a policy decision to get the private sector involved, we had a bumper harvest, and there was no harvester.

There was a massive outcry from the public, which means that at least we are getting things right; that is why we have a bumper harvest. Before now, nobody was putting pressure on the government for harvesters because there was no production. But, to put the government under pressure for harvesters means that there is production. It is the excess production that is putting the pressure. So, we will plan for it and secure 50 more next year, which will no longer be a problem. So, that is how I tested that indicator, and it worked. But in terms of translating policy to actuals, let me discuss the challenges. The number one challenge has been communicating the policies. Not only to the bureaucrats, public servants, or civil servants but even your team. You have to engage your ministers and heads of agency and let them know where the party stands on issues and policies. Because it’s not easy for the energy minister to understand why you’re not giving him money for energy delivery, or the Roads man will say, you are giving too much money to education.

So, you have to communicate that to them. We did a lot in the cabinet to make them understand policy priorities. We also need to communicate with the public servants and civil servants. They have different

political orientations, and for them, every government counts. They need to understand the concept of human capital because some still do not understand it. But, we are working on a unique retreat to take them through the entire process again. Even with the New Direction Agenda, we need to keep discussing the implications of the new direction with them. For us, it means doing things differently for better results.

The other problem we had when we came into government was funding. As a new government, when we came on board, the public debts were off-the-roof; the country also had some issues with the IMF owing to disagreements with the previous administration. We also had a strained relationship with our partners, and we faced the challenge of solving these significant issues and returning the country to its feet. Then as the Minister of Finance, we had to engage the IMF because I knew how critical it was to solve those issues. The first seminar we had was looking for ways to restore the relationship. It is unprecedented when the relationship between you and the IMF is soured for you to correct within a short period. Most times, it takes more than two years, but, for us, we did it within eight months.

We got the IMF back to the table in November 2018. The other problem, again, is still in the context of funding. Because when you win an election, you inherit already existing partnerships, like that of DFID and EU. So, how do you realign your vision and priorities to those programmes? So, it took us more than a year before partners started supporting the free education program. It was very challenging for us, upon assumption. I had to revise a budget three months into my tenure as the Minister of Finance to accommodate some of the frequent changes. You also have some institutional barriers. We also have issues with the global economic shutdown. As politicians, when you read manifestos, you don’t do scenario analysis; you assume that everything will be expected. They often say, “all things been equal, but you know that all things are not always equal.” As we are coming out of the pandemic, we now have the Russia-Ukrainian war. It’s a big challenge. So these are the critical things in our context that undermines the smooth translation of policy into action.

We did a lot in the cabinet to make them understand policy priorities. We also need to communicate with the public servants and civil servants. They have different political orientations, and for them, every government counts. They need to understand the concept of human capital because some still do not understand it.
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You are known to be a strong proponent of enhancing the private sector to work alongside the government to deliver solutions and services to the people. How has the Bio-led government-supported private sector (both local and foreign), and what opportunities do you see to grow the private sector in Sierra Leone?

The orthodox thinking is that government should be responsible for everything; that is how the British left us, and we have been very slow to change this concept. You need to map out the responsibilities of the ministries and see which one can best be handled by the private sector. It might interest you to note that we are pushing for the private sector because we are trying to promote efficiency and reduce the burden on the government.

Take the case of Agriculture; Chiefdoms and paramount chiefs initially managed tractors, and for 50 years, we have not gotten it right. But, when we did our policy shift, we gave it to the private sector to manage. We are still not there because our private sector has faced challenges, but the difference is clear.

The good thing is that the tractors are still around. If the Ministry or the chiefdoms had managed it, probably by now, many of them would have been destroyed. When they have any fault, it will be handled by the private

sector player because he makes money from the services. Even in healthcare, we have several aspects of the service delivery that we are trying to privatize, including ambulance management. Why should the government manage ambulances? This aspect can be outsourced. The pharmacies in the hospitals are outsourced on a PPP basis.

The airport is being built now on a BOT basis. These are innovative financing models that we have considered. We realised that we do not have the funds to pursue turnkey projects. The best model was for PPPs, BOTs, off-budget financing and off-balance sheet. So basically, because they can do it better. The private sector can do it better; we have seen it. But, for the Private sector to be efficient and valuable, the government must have strong regulatory powers. So, the challenge over time will be to regulate the private sector, and I think we are well prepared for it.

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Excellency, Dr. President Maa Republic of MML’s concentrate

As the site, a thanked create so Chief

The Greatest Capital Is Human Capital

Curriculum, radical inclusion, STEM, innovations and digitalization were some keywords that featured prominently in our conversation with the Honorable Minister of Basic and Secondary Education of Sierra Leone, David Sengeh. In this extensive interview, he talks about the government’s massive investment in free quality education and how the President’s passion for Human Capital Development is gaining global recognition.

Excerpts:

During the past four years, which critical reforms have the Bio-led admin instituted and what have been the results and impact of the reforms for your sector.

When President Bio invited me to join the new direction, it was evident that for him, it was about building the foundation for the future. It was about how we address situations in the future. But also make sure that we see gains quickly. It was about now and, most importantly, about the future. And when we spoke about basic and secondary education, the immediate questions became, how do we change the Foundations of Education such that the type of education everybody was getting was fit for purpose. Education will enable them to fulfil their potential and participate in the global economy as Civic citizens.

This is very much tied to the SDG 4 goals, and often people say it’s about checking the box. Yes, those boxes need to be reviewed because the world agreed that these are the most important things for us to do. But it goes beyond that. And so, for us, we needed to look back at where we were and then think about what reforms we needed to make to help us achieve these goals and prepare our children for the future.

We looked at the capacity of the Ministry and the education sector; it requires government,

policymakers and learners as well. We did a full functional review of the Teaching Service Commission, teacher, and Ministry and created a new Organogram. We now focus on ensuring that research and data are part of the Ministry’s decisionmaking. The curriculum was not within the Ministry for ten years before this administration. We brought back the curriculum and research department. We ensure that the teaching service commission is set up and distributed throughout the country. And we equipped them to make all kinds of policies; we had about seven teacher guidelines through the cabinet.

Before the curriculum, we did not have a senior secondary education curriculum; we went into the 6-33-4; 6 years of essential primary; 3 years junior secondary; 3 years senior secondary and four years in the Tertiary. But we did not have an updated curriculum for senior secondary. We did not have an updated curriculum for essential education in primary and junior secondary school; we first developed and validated the pre-primary curriculum focused on play-based learning, which is foundational learning. And then, we updated and created a new basic education curriculum for primary and junior secondary school, focusing on what we call the five C’s critical thinking, creativity, computational thinking, comprehension and civics.

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Dr David Sengeh, Honorable Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Republic of Sierra Leone
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It’s not just about literacy; you must understand and use what you say. It’s not just about counting; you have to use that computationally. And it’s you have to solve problems outside the box, and most importantly, with civics. We then created the Civic Education framework and civic education syllabus and manuals and textbooks that were not there. And then, we created a senior secondary curriculum with a curriculum framework that focused on skills and transitions to higher and technical institutions focusing on hands-on learning and stem. And senior secondary education is the first curriculum we’ll be able to develop at that level for well over 20 years. So the most significant transformation within the education sector has come from us going back and saying, We have to look at what our kids are learning.

How relevant is the information they’re getting, and how does it help them participate as civic and global citizens. And now we’ve embedded civics back into society. And for senior secondary education, we’ve developed these main visions for where we want our children to be. They need to participate in the global economy, they need to learn 21st-century skills, and it needs to be equipped with a stem with science, technology, engineering, and math. And we are meeting the kids where they are based on their capabilities. And I often say that this all sounds like it’s too good to be true, but it is true, and it is good. And part of the reason is you engage other ministers worldwide, and people don’t touch curriculum; the curriculum does not get changed.

It’s about policy, politics, culture, tradition, and history. But we know that we need to transform our learning. So we went to the curriculum, we’ve changed from preprimary, all the way to end up-secondary education. That’s one of the main policies. The second policy transformation that we did is what we call radical inclusion. The government started what we call free quality school education. Everybody can go to school tuition-free and take an exam at no cost. We provide core textbooks and learning materials; we provide subsidized transportation; we provide school feeding in communities now; we’ve expanded to 14 districts across the country. We train teachers, and we do a lot in the free quality school education program that the President has. However, we sat back and saw that education was not that inclusive. They were pregnant girls that were being left out of learning. Parent learners were not supported.

There are many out-of-school children, and girls are inhibited based on various things from school. People with disabilities have challenges. And radical inclusion says that we’ll stop at nothing until every child, no matter who they are, boy, girl, Muslim, Christian, sighted, visually impaired physical disability, psychosocial challenges, poor and remote areas, should access school and stay in school. So we combine radical inclusion with comprehensive safety that says not just about coming to school; we need to develop policies that keep you in school to help you transition through school. And what that has led to is we’ve achieved gender parity in Sierra Leone; within a short period since we came over the last four years, we’ve gone from 84% to less. So for every 10 Boys, there were eight girls, and we have expanded that. So for every 10 Boys, they were nine girls, and now we have more girls than boys in school. In Sierra Leone, we have more girls in school, more girls taking exams, and more girls passing exams than boys. And this is within a short period. And that’s what transformational policies do; they remove barriers, which means those most excluded are now included, and everybody can be at their fullest potential. And the one

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interesting thing about radical inclusion was that all these myths existed.

The President was against pregnant girls going to school; he’s the first to tell you that I was against this. And we brought data, which brings me to the third transformation. We’ve done this in terms of the policy using data and evidence. Now you look at various countries, the location you build the school depends on where the politician wants you to build the school where they come, But in Sierra Leone, we have an optimization model. Because we have the GIS location of all schools, we have this aggregated population data demographics, all across 100 by 100 square meters. We have information on all the country’s water streams and updated satellite imagery. And what we can then do is we can say, I want to build 10 schools, or I want to build 50 classrooms. I want to focus on remoteness. I want to focus on poverty or urban, and I want to focus on various parameters. And our model can tell us where you need to build that school. And that’s how we build schools. And we make policy-based decisions driven by data and digitization.

On the data and digitization front, before exams come, it’s free to take go The school is free for the second exam, but parents still have to pay up to $10. And it could take up to 10 weeks for them to access exams; we decided that we would wait; that’s not fair. That’s not radical inclusion. So we built an SMS system. Because everybody can access a phone, 87% mobile coverage. And we could have every child, whether in Freetown or Bumaru, access your results by SMS immediately. The results came for free, you just put your child’s index number, and it sends you the results on your phone. And

those solutions that we build are driven by data, digitalization, and hybrid technology. And when you combine radical inclusion and technology, hybrid technology, you’re forced to provide solutions that work for everyone.

So COVID came, schools were closed, we had online learning with zero-rated access to online that everybody has access to online, we had radio learning 87%, radio coverage in the country. But not everybody has radio access; we print physical materials because paper too is technology. We brought it to those communities without access to a radio so that no one could be left behind. And when COVID finished, we did several tests, and we did not have a learning loss in Sierra Leone. And unlike most parts of the world, the poor and the remote suffered huge learning losses, and those in the cities had learning gains. We did not see that because we’re intentional with our radical inclusion policy and hybrid technology.

One of the key reforms the Bioled government is proud of in the education sector is Radical Inclusion. Can you tell us what the policy is about and why it makes Sierra Leone stand apart.?

Sierra Leone has done under His Excellency’s leadership to drive leadership and transformation not just within our communities and our country but across the region and the world. So as Minister, I chair the Global Education monitoring reports to UNESCO, which is the primary monitoring, to be sure we are meeting our SDG 4. Sierra Leone is on the board of the Global Partnership for Education, GPE, which looks at financing education for developing countries. And Sierra Leone is the chair of the high-level steering committee of UNESCO, the highest body for thinking about the global education cooperation mechanism and the strategy for where the world should go. And by extension, Sierra Leone and His Excellency is the co-chair for the transforming education summit, which the UN Secretary-General is hosting in 2022.

When you look at Sierra Leone, and for the first time in the world, you have one body, one country, one entity that is at the leadership of monitoring education, that it’s at the administration of strategic thinking and prioritization of education. And that it is in the leadership of financing education.

When you look at Sierra Leone, and for the first time in the world, you have one body, one country, one entity that is at the leadership of monitoring education, that it’s at the administration of strategic thinking and prioritization of education.
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And what this does is that the global education cooperation mechanism now is going towards a central corporation that can help us accelerate and figure out transformations toward meeting the SDG four. We are at the critical inflexion point, where if the world does not sit down and cooperate and commit to what we need to do to meet SDG four, we will be far off from our targets in 2030 with the global goals. And at the piece of that is Sierra Leone, where we’re bringing together everybody to say, let’s engage a case example is between June 18 and 21. Now, between May 18 and May 21, we’ve hosted ministers and permanent secretaries and director generals from well over 13 African countries to have a conversation about gender Transformative Leadership in and through education. The gender challenges in education are not an African problem.

Even in OECD countries, the number of women who have access to sports and the number of girls in schools is significantly less than boys. The number of women who have access to STEM education is less than that globally; women are at a disadvantage regarding education. And in Sierra Leone and Africa, we are bringing together these countries to develop a manifesto that will look at a couple of things. We will ensure that gender transformative financing is in our budget; we’ll think about gender when recruiting teachers. And when we bring facilities and resources, we’ll change our curriculum to embed these gender-positive and comprehensive sexuality education that will address all of these issues. We will remove harmful gender normative things, and these are African ministers talking and pushing the boundaries and agreeing on these terms, not because the world and World Bank said we should do it, but because we said we want to do it. But because this is where we think the future is. Because in Niger, they understand that 52% of the population that women are needed for their transformation.

That’s why the Minister was here. Because in Nigeria, the Minister of State for Education believes that we can’t progress without education. That’s why he was here. And we see this level of collaboration and cooperation and vulnerability to say, well, maybe all of these things we were learning and doing were not taking us there. So for us in Sierra Leone, it’s that we’ve achieved gender parity, But now what? Now it’s beyond gender parity. We provide sanitary pads for girls who will not drop out of school. But what do we need to do so that

they stay in school? And some of those questions force us to say we need to build hotels for girls in city centres because we know that in secondary school, girls have to move from their villages to urban towns, but then that’s where they’re exposed to harmful practices because they don’t have money. So we provide safe spaces for them by putting them in boarding homes and secure protection so that governments can afford to give scholarships to those who need them.

The sustained prosperity of a nation depends upon the level and quality of its education system. The President’s commitment to sustainable quality education is not in doubt, having consistently allocated about 22% of the nation’s wealth towards education, way above the global standard of 15%20%. How is this policy unlocking the inherent potential in the country’s young population?

When His Excellency, President Bio, decided that he wanted free quality school education for all children, it came with a need to put the money where your mouth is. Put the money where your policy ideas are. And we did that. And we’ve consistently increased our budgetary allocations for education to the point that even in COVID when most countries contracted the education budget, Sierra Leone is one of the only countries that expanded its education budget. And that’s because the President truly believes that the way we prepare for the next pandemic, address our economic problems, and ensure that our kids have jobs and become entrepreneurs is by investing in education. And that fundamental orientation and thinking come from the President down, where we believe that the investments we’re doing now are for our future.

It’s for a lot of our children. And it’s an investment; we don’t consider education financing an expenditure. I think that’s a significant difference. It’s an investment that we’re doing into our future, the future of our country. Sierra Leone was the first country to say yes; we’ll meet the 20% minimum education budget and support the declaration. And we will continue doing this because we have no choice but to invest in our children.

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Looking at the infrastructure that supports learning, how well would you say that the government has created the infrastructure to support a conducive learning environment?

On August 20 2018, the President launched a free quality school education. Everybody who goes to public school is tuition-free. You get textbooks, and you get exercise books; you get free exams. Critics thought, how will you fund this? This is not going to work. The system is going to implode. We’re four years later, and the system has not imploded. We were able to add 35% additional learners to the classrooms. 10% of the population came to school, and we expanded the workforce, created more teaching positions and hired more teachers. We have been able to add well over 2000 schools. In the schools we had across the system, in 2018, we’re about 8000. Now we have over about 12,000 schools that we have. So we went from 8000 to 10,000 schools in 2019, and now we have 12,000 schools. And that provision of schools and classrooms and learning environments was crucial. We’ll be able to invest in the construction of new schools, particularly in pre-primary, where we did not have prepared programs in Sierra Leone. Before 2018, pre-primary was not part of the education system. And so these kids come to class unprepared and unable to take in your materials. So kids lost

many years because they didn’t have the foundation.

We see the passion and a sense of urgency in the administration’s commitment to the Education sector in the country…

One of the greatest gifts and opportunities is the President’s passion for education. The President can go to open the road somewhere far away. He’s talking about the route, five minutes into his talk, he will end up talking about education for the rest of the speech, and he has to return to his scripted address about roads. And you have to be like, No, we’re not here to talk about schools, we have to talk about roads, but he understands how roads are linked to education. The President can be someone talking about the military and security, and he will go and talk about education because this is about human capital. Hence, the President’s passion fits in with the people. One of the things I do regularly is public education and public education. We can’t transform the country without public education.

I think globally, public education is our silver bullet to global peace and shortening the gap of economic inequalities and removing all the social barriers; we invest in public education. But even more critical than that investment in public education is a general awareness of the importance of public education. And so His Excellency does the public education very well for us. I join him in ensuring that people understand why we do what we do. We bring them on board, and we let them know why it matters that the girls are in school. We also allowed them to understand why they should not pay bribes when registering their kids. Why does it matter to sit with their kid at the end of an exam? Why does it matter that they attended parentteacher and committee meetings? We also explain to them why we should have a new curriculum. Those things matter. People didn’t know before why it mattered. But we want them to understand that it is our only way for national transformation.

The development of human capital in science and technology education from the primary to the university level is the gateway to a scientific, technological, and progressive society. What progress has the Bioled administration made regarding policies and investments to boost

One of the greatest gifts and opportunities is the President’s passion for education. The President can go to open the road somewhere far away. He’s talking about the route, five minutes into his talk, he will end up talking about education for the rest of the speech, and he has to return to his scripted address about roads. And you have to be like, No, we’re not here to talk about schools, we have to talk about roads, but he understands how roads are linked to education.
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STEM education at the primary and senior secondary education levels?

The President, in his wisdom, made me the Chief Innovation Officer of the Country and the Minister of Basic Education. And it’s no coincidence that he linked our digital transformation, data and innovation work with primary education until we can think about how everyone, girls, can access them. Sierra Leone offers free tuition for anybody to access education for 13 years, preprimary all the way to end up secondary.

If you’re a girl, it is 17 years if you’re in STEM education. So any female in this country who wants to do STEM-related causes and engineering, agriculture or education has access to 17 years of free tuition. Now, it is no coincidence that that’s the case. The ongoing transformations worldwide are linked to 21st-century skills related to creativity. And so, in preprimary, primary, and secondary curricula, we have embedded this computational thinking, creativity, and critical thinking in the syllabuses and learning materials. And same within the senior secondary and higher and technical institutions as well. And those parts of our commitments now are to see how we can increase this in the workforce.

The Directorate of science, technology and innovation that I lead as chief innovation officer sits in the office of the President. And the President is our lead person in evangelizing digitization, technology, and innovation. And the link between those two is why we see many more of our kids nowadays want to do science. It is why they are passing science and considering themselves innovators. Because ultimately, we can learn everything we need to know. But the population needs to be entrepreneurs to create relevant jobs and skills. Even when you bring companies and industrialization, they can pick up those jobs that we don’t have to bring people from outside.

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We Are Refocusing Education To Solve Immediate And Future Problems

Education will be worthless if it does not solve immediate and future problems, that is why in Sierra Leona, the government is refocusing its educational model and making it fit for purpose. The government is investing massively in technical and vocational education to meet the challenges of today and budding issues of tomorrow. In this exclusive interview with African Leadership Magazine UK, the Minister for Technical & Higher Education, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie, shares the government’s strategy towards returning the country to its past history of educational excellence in west Africa. Excerpts:

During the past four years, which critical reforms have the Bio-led Admin instituted, and what have been the results and impact of the reforms for your sector?

The input of this administration through free and qualitative education has led to an increase in enrolments, especially in Basic and Secondary education. The numbers for Secondary education are becoming progressively larger. One of the first things that His Excellency the President did was to open up the sector, which was broken down into two sections - Basic, technical and higher education. The emphasis here is on technical education because we have realised that there has been a gap in this sector. Technical education has lost its respectability over the years, and people do not feel comfortable accessing that line of academics. So much has been done, and if you take the institution which started about 1827 - Forabay college, for example, which was the first institution in Black Africa, I would say; it did not expand rapidly into engineering. It was mainly in the Arts and Social Sciences. It did not multiply to sciences as well. It

might interest you to note that while mining is the leading sector in our country, we only started the school of mining about three years ago. Building construction is a significant development aspect for a country like Sierra Leone, with a population growth of about 2.3% per year. The architecture department was only introduced about 2 to 3 years ago. So, in essence, we did not grow as fast as we should have, considering that we started very early. The College of Medicine was opened in 1985. In the past, people come from around the continent to access quality education here in Sierra Leone, but due to the many years of neglect, we have not performed very well, which is what the President is trying to change. The President is trying to modify the education sector to meet prevailing and changing times around the globe. There are so many courses that we are now trying to put into place. So I think his Excellency, the President, has allowed the ministry to reinvent itself - looking at the needs and requirements of the job market and making changes to reflect the job market.

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Sierra Leone was once known as the “Athens of Africa” because of its unique exposure to quality education. How is the Bio-led administration working to return the country to its glory days?

Well, you have to look at it from two perspectives. The first part would be about how to address the needs requirements for the country now, and the second would be, how do you position the students for the fourth industrial revolution? Yeah, so these are the two aspects. And if I look at 7 million people in 16 districts, about half a million people per district, your question is, how do we prioritise to ensure the people get a good feel of our activities? If you look at the health sector, for example, we’ve now opened out training of our own the registered nurse in all the regions. But, previously, you had to do registered nursing training before midwifery. As they have started to do in the UK, you now have a degree program after school straight on that has begun. We started medical school. We will only open out now to dentistry.

As you know, we have had the Ebola scourge and the Corona Virus. So, we are now putting in place a master’s program in public health to ensure that we have suitably trained people to manage the possible next outbreak of any of the public health diseases epidemiological studies. So, we are addressing the needs of the country through education. Even at the second institution in Sierra Leone, Janna University College, we have established a structure for training our people in Agriculture and Agricultural Engineering. Not just horticulture, not just multiplications and things like that, we have to go into complete mechanization to be able to feed ourselves. For a country with such high rainfall and so many rivers crisscrossing the country, we should be able to feed ourselves and our neighbors. So, I think what the university has done and is still doing now is to position itself so that we can address our needs as a country within the shortest possible time. Afterwards, we can look at what else our graduates would need to pursue.

Digitalization is another core focus of the President, so we are repositioning the study in-country to enable our people to compete favorably with others worldwide. And to do so, we have to get more people in technical and vocational options or people that can do things with their hands, apart from what they can see. So we are engaging the World Bank for a small $30 million project to work on electrical engineering and ICT

development at the higher education level, where we are undertaking just HNDs and upwards. So, this will reposition the sector for the future.

What we have been doing in the country in the past three years is to address our needs. And I believe His Excellency, the President, has been able to not only address the significant challenges in the sector but also reposition the sector towards winning ways.

Due to limited investment in research and development, a weak educational system etc., Sierra Leone ranks low in global competitiveness and productivity as with most African countries. How well has the technical and higher education sector prioritised research and development?

I think we have to redefine what we call research because when you acquire higher education in the Western world, you are really doing research to suit their needs. People research nuclear chemistry; others research things that are not transmittable on the ground in Africa. So what the university is trying to do now is to ensure that people will get recognition and promotion for researching the needs of their countries. For instance, you can get everything you need to feed your fish from Cassava, but we have not done enough research to see all that we can get out of Cassava to feed our fish.

Looking at building and construction - we use cement and iron rods for construction, but, in the provincial settings, where the buildings are often one floor, other local materials can be used, but we have not explored that through research. I was most impressed when I went to Nigeria to present a paper during the Science, Technology and Innovation Expo in 2022. I saw that they had done a lot of research into their food forms, such that when you go to

we are repositioning the study incountry to enable our people to compete favorably with others worldwide. And to do so, we have to get more people in technical and vocational options or people that can do things with their hands, apart from what they can see.
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the supermarket, most of the local content you have you can find in the supermarket.

I think that is what our country needs to do first. But we have also shown that our skills are not weak.

In 2014, we had the Ebola pandemic, and afterwards, we built competencies and discovered the Ebolatype virus in fruit-eating Bats. What I am saying, in essence, is that you need to get a solid science base for you to be able to thrive in areas like this. It might interest you that we have developed one of the vaccines now used in Congo if you have the Ebola virus. We have a solid science base but had weak investments in the past, but we are now repositioning that. So, the investment is better when we are addressing our needs before we look at the needs of the rest of the world.

diploma, or higher National Diploma. So, we believe that if we go on significant advocacy for people to feel convinced that it is not only those that go and get a degree master’s in engineering or any of these fields that are required by the nation.

We must let them know that the country also needs those who can do other things with their hands. And we are slowly getting it right. Hence, we opened two technical university cities this year. When people believe that you will end up with your certificate alone or you cannot go further, they feel left out and do not want to pursue programs in technical and vocational schools. But when you know that you can get an HND, an associate degree, and a degree in these options, then the numbers that go to the technical school will increase and get bigger and bigger. Now we have some standardized exams are the TVET sets for students. Now we will put what’s called the National vocational qualifications, NVQ. So, when you go and do standard exams, you take the WASSCE: West African Senior School Certificate Examinationas is done in West Africa; we will have the National Vocational qualification.

Technical and vocational training has been described as a significant panacea to African youth unemployment. How well has the country leveraged the benefits of technical and vocational training?

I would genuinely say that we are still a work in progress. However, I will say Sierra Leone is repositioning itself today to benefit from technical vocational options.

Let me put a few things together; we have classified institutions; there are about 300 institutions or that TVET level; there is a significant gap in that the distribution is weak because 54% are in the western area.

And just a handful of the provincial cities must be corrected. We have got support to do what they call a national qualification framework. In other words, if you’re doing animal husbandry here, it should be the same as in other places. The examinations you take should also be standardized, as long as you’re talking about a certificate,

A student can attend a technical university even though you have not opted for the WASSCE. This is going to be of comparable standard to any of the other examining bodies. But more importantly, we will review what you can do, apart from what you can regurgitate.

In Sierra Leone, we realised that there was a gap, and we started by developing the Qualifications Framework. With that qualification framework, we can then know the output of each position and how you will be classified. I think, in Sierra Leone, whichever institution you open, some people want to go to it. We do not have a case like in some parts of the West Indies, where people don’t want to access the institutions. Here, the desire is strong. The question is, everybody wants to see how they can get to the tertiary level. That is why technical universities are now being set up so that when you start from two or three, you are doing dressmaking and can go all the way to the university and earn a degree in dressmaking.

In Sierra Leone, we realised that there was a gap, and we started by developing the Qualifications Framework. With that qualification framework, we can then know the output of each position and how you will be classified. I think, in Sierra Leone, whichever institution you open, some people want to go to it..
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Unearthing the untapped Agricultural Potentials of Sierra Leone

With over 54 million hectares of arable land; 3800 millimeters of rainfall – highest within the ECOWAS sub-region, Sierra Leone presents a unique opportunity for investments in Agriculture. In this exclusive interview with the Minister of Agriculture, Abu Bakarr Karim, we talked about the country’s untapped Agro investment potentials and the Bio-led administration’s efforts towards attracting FDIs into the sector for sustainable development.

Can you tell us more about the country’s “National Agricultural Transformation Policy 2019- 2023”?

First of all, I want to welcome you, and I’m happy to be here to share our experience, particularly as a ministry. Let me use this platform to appreciate His Excellency the President for the tremendous work that he has done within a very short time. When we took over governance, the first thing we did as a ministry was reviewing our activities, which led to the formulation of the NAT 2023 - the National Agricultural Transformation Programme, primarily focusing on key value chains. Because we had to align the Programme with the president’s plan, thereby promoting agriculture as part of the human capital development programme. We developed the programme with a focus on four key priority areas. One is rice, as you know, is essential to our economy. It accounts for about 70% of the consumption.

In Sierra Leone, you can have three or four meals daily, and they will be rice. Over the years, we have invested much into importation rather than production. Looking at what we have in terms of natural resources, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to produce for ourselves. We have over 5.4 million hectares of

arable land, of which less than 15% has been utilised. We are endowed with a huge amount of rainfall, on average about 3,800 millimetres, which is probably the highest within the sub-region. We have over 12 rivers criss crossing the country. So, we are looking at ramping up production to feed ourselves and stop the over $200 million that we spend annually on the importation of rice. We spend over $400 million on the importation of foodstuff, and 50% of that amount is spent on rice importation.

His Excellency’s major focus is reducing the importation of rice and other foodstuffs. With our ecology, we need to focus on the production of our main staple food, and rice ranks first on the list. We are also looking at Tree crops. As you know, tree crops are economic crops that can support our farmers and our country. And in that respect, we are looking at things like cocoa, cashew, coffee, oil palm and lots more. We all know how important these crops are now worldwide. And in the area of coffee and cocoa, for example, as much as we do not have the volume compared to countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast, we have a niche in terms of quality. Recently we came third in terms of the production of organic cocoa. So, it shows they can develop these cash crops for the export market if we intensify

Hon. Abu Bakarr Karim, Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Republic of Sierra Leone
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our efforts. You may have heard of the Stefenolia Coffee, which many have said is new, but it’s not - it’s origin is Sierra Leone due to our excellent and resilient climate. So we are looking at something like that because, as a niche, it really will help with the right type of investment to promote that. So, we still have a lot that can be done in these areas, which presents a unique opportunity for ready investors worldwide who may want to leverage these potentials. And then I’ve spoken about oil palm; we all know that oil palm is a massive industry now worldwide. And the interesting thing is that Malaysia, today, the world largest producer of oil palm, got the gem plasm from Sierra Leone. So, we believe that continuing to invest in the agro sector will help improve our economy. We already have two or more FDIs within this space, and they are doing very well, but we have room for more. Another key area is livestock. Livestock is a key area because there’s a nutritional value chain that can not be ignored.

The requisite protein for humans is largely derived from these animals; that is why they form part of the ecosystem. Apart from the nutritional aspect, there’s also the financial component. So, that’s one sector that we have been trying to push and promote to bring in the required investment to sustain the agric master plan of the government.

So much has been done. However, we are doing more to ensure that we deliver on our promise to the country regarding agriculture. We will continue to promote and open up the space for more investment because the opportunities are limitless.

For example, no company produces dairy in Sierra Leone. So, for those looking to explore the sector, this is one important sector to consider. And if you look at the sub-region, I’m unaware of anyone doing it in the manor river union. Suppose you

look at the population of manor river union with a population of about 50 million. In that case, it already gives you a market, added to the African continental free trade Programme’s provision, making it easier to serve more markets from the country. If you look at our population, you may underestimate it and say it is small. Still, we present some of the best launchpads for any investor looking to trade within the ECOWAS subregion, which has over 200 million population and is already a market.

The other key area is forestry and biodiversity. What we want to do is also help in promoting tree planting and related activities; because the ecosystem is significant to us, we have to protect it. But, at the same time, rather than export, we also look at processing. We have some Investors coming into that space, but we need more people who will come and look at the ecosystem and work in production rather than export.

During the past four years, which critical reforms have the Bio-led Admin instituted and what have been the results and impact of the reforms for your sector?

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In the first place, in 2018, we looked at the implementation strategy after the formulation of the NAPS 2023. And for us to implement that, there are vital aspects that we need to consider. And this cannot happen without looking at policies; therefore, in terms of reform, we had to look into a policy shift in terms of what we will do for the sector. I think the first reform, The first critical reform, was looking at a bottleneck that would have prevented us from attracting FDIs to the industry. For sustainability, we needed the private sector to be very much involved. As a government, we will provide the enabling environment for them to operate. And one such one was the establishment of two agencies through an Act of Parliament, the seed certification agency (SEEDSCA) and the National Fertilizer Regulatory Agency (NAFRA) that are essential for two reasons. One is that we decided, as a government to transfer the responsibility of inputs to the private sector, we decided, as a government, to hand that over to the private sector. Still, at the same time, our central role would be regulatory to ensure we get the right results. We will also ensure that whatever is grown as seed meets the requisite standards, not just within Sierra Leone but also for the international market.

At the same time, we all know these are chemicals in fertilizers. And therefore, if you’re bringing them in-country, you want to ensure they conform to the acceptable statute by best practice. The other area was also creating more incentives for private sector players that are coming into the sector. For example, if you invest over $5 million, you are not required to pay corporate tax. There are no customs duties for Agricultural equipment and implements. There are also opportunities for tax waivers, tax breaks, etc. So, as a government, we have created an enabling environment for investors to come in and

meet their needs. One of the things that probably will come to mind most times will be issues with land acquisition, which is usually a big challenge. So, as a government, we work very well with our communities who own the land. The Chiefs are the custodians of the land on behalf of the communities. But, we do not leave the investor in the hands of the communities. We work with them to ensure that it’s a win-win situation for the community and investors.

According to the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, the sector will remain untapped and underdeveloped until countries begin to pursue value addition to agriculture exports. What is the government doing to discourage exports of raw materials and encourage value addition and creation?

We have to ensure that we support things like expansion of mechanisation because, in the end, you need to produce enough for domestic and export markets at the same time. As I said, we’re bringing the private sector encouraging greater mechanisation to put more land under cultivation. We’ve bought some machinery that we have distributed to the 16 agricultural districts to support agricultural activities. And we’ve also brought in innovation to help us, and that is by establishing platforms for subsidy distribution. We provide things like fertilizers and agrochemicals through an E-voucher system. That way, we believe we bring transparency and accountability into government activities in the sector.

The government has advanced strategies to make the country a global agri-business hub, with tarifffree access to growing international markets. How has this fared?

We have fared very well in providing tarifffree access in the sector. As a government, what we have mainly done is we’ve removed quite a lot of the tariffs that subsidies that support the production of products. One of such is the zero GST on rice importation. But then, we believe these are some of the reasons we need to focus on production because we’re losing quite a lot just doing that, and I think establishing an economic zone will help. One of the critical challenges we have is processing as part of the value chain. Once we have SECZ, which is favourable to agriculture, it will

we are trying to prioritise water management. Over the years, we have depended on rain-fed agriculture. With the vast amount of land and the rain pattern that we have in the country, we have to begin to look at irrigation as a model for yearround farming. So, the extensive irrigation system will help for multiple harvests.
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help fast-track development in the sector. And in that respect, we are working with the African Development Bank toward developing this vital zone. Thankfully, President Adesina himself, an expert in agriculture and working with our dear president, has got a project to establish a rice industrial cluster zone across the country. The cluster zones will be an industrial zone for agriculture. We also have other areas we are predominantly looking at creating as corridor zones for agriculture. One area that comes to mind readily is the Tama boom area, which is vast and has a large expanse of land in excess of about 200,000 hectares of land, with about three rivers crisscrossing. It used to be the rice bowl or breadbasket of the country in the 70s, which we used to export. So we believe the area alone can become a central hub with a suitable investment.

Agriculture holds the key to massive jobs and wealth creation in the country; how is the Ministry harnessing creating an enabling environment for businesses to grow and create more jobs for the country’s young people?

Indeed, agriculture employs almost 70% of the workforce; therefore, the sector must attract more and more. I think over the years, the challenge that we’ve had is getting people working, or creating jobs, wherein the challenge will be there even in terms of implementation of work. But, what we’ve done entirely with the support of donor partners, was that we’ve got some FDIs that are working and creating jobs. Also, as a government, even the mechanization aspect of what we’re doing has led to creating more jobs. We are now putting more lowland under cultivation. And that means that within those communities, we’re also creating job opportunities for our youths. And one of such initiatives that are propelling job creation, especially in the rural areas, is the establishment of chiefdom youth farms. So within all the 192 chiefdoms in the country, we’ve established youth farms of 100 hectares each. These farms are managed by the youths in collaboration with the youth ministry. And we’ve supported that. The other thing we’ve done is to encourage them to become entrepreneurs in their own right. And therefore, we’ve developed a scheme to enable them to put together their work plan, or their businesses plan, working with us. So, we are only with them to provide the needed technical backstopping to support them. And this

way, it creates an opportunity for more jobs and encourages our youth to be part of the agriculture development trajectory.

According to the World Bank, agriculture accounts for about 60.7% of the country’s GDP, yet the sector remains untapped. What investment opportunities are there in the industry, and what strategies does your Ministry have to promote investment in the sector?

Well, I mean, the investment opportunities are here. First, when an investor wants to come, he would like to know if we have the requisite land available for what they want to do. And then what we’ve done to encourage is provide the requisite information to guide you. So, we are doing soil analysis, a nationwide soil test that gives you an indication. So, for an investor in the sector, attender is essential information you will need. You will need specific data to help you make an informed decision. So, as a ministry, we’re working on a range of things that will provide the requisite information for an investor. I’ve already talked about the opportunity in terms of waivers. The investment climate in itself, primarily for us, is for you to look at crucial investment areas you would like to explore - including dairy, livestock, and rice production. As a government, we’re ensuring that the environment for investment is conducive. An investor would like to know one fundamental question about the repatriation of investment. As a government, we’ve created the domain for you to be able to repatriate your funds.

One of the things I did not mention is that we are trying to prioritise water management. Over the years, we have depended on rain-fed agriculture. With the vast amount of land and the rain pattern that we have in the country, we have to begin to look at irrigation as a model for year-round farming. So, the extensive irrigation system will help for multiple harvests. And all these areas, like Tomabom, have three rivers crisscrossing around. So, our challenge, for the most part, is flooding. Investments in these areas alone will yield significant opportunities for multiple harvests. So, there is a lot within the sector, and we are pretty open to any investor that wants to come in.

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X-raying Sierra Leone’s Blue Economy

Earlier this year, His Excellency Julius Maada Bio, the president of Sierra Leone, was awarded Champion of the African Blue Economy for providing political leadership, improved regulation, enforcing the rule of law, and promoting investments in the country’s blue economy. The award, presented by the Executive Management Committee of the Africa Blue Economy Forum (ABEF), also added that the president has consistently promoted sustainable fishing through programs aimed at curbing unreported and unregulated fishing in the country.

According to the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Hon. Emma Kowa Jalloh, the New Direction administration, has made tremendous progress in the fisheries and marine sector in the last four years. While speaking with the African Leadership Magazine UK team in Sierra Leone, she stated that “we carried out a lot of reforms and made sure we put things in place that will act as a deterrent for those engaged in unregulated fishing in our waters.”

The honourable minister continued, “so far, we’ve achieved quite a lot. And the administration’s new direction, we’ve increased revenue generation from what it used to be in 2017. We raised it from $9 Million to $11 million in 2018, and we are confident that it will continue to grow, looking at all the reforms we have put in place. And we are also managing our waters to ensure we don’t overexploit the resources.”

Journey thus far

We’re focusing on the small-scale sector now. We’re focusing on aquaculture, and fish farming, because we’ve got very fertile land. And we’ve got areas that are predominantly good fishing ground, some coastal areas. So, for example, we have areas that are very good with lobsters. We have also implemented proper management measures in the country for the first

time. We’ve also reduced the number of licensed vessels that we’ve got in the country. So, for example, for the bigger ships that we had, we’ve increased their license fee dramatically. So even if they bring it into the country, we will be able to raise or make money from it. So, at least, that has reduced the fishing efforts drastically in the country now that we live in. We ensure that these vessels are not polluting our waters and wreaking havoc. Also, for the first time in the country, we now have what we call “closed season,” from the first of April to the thirtieth of April. So you’ll find out that we’ve got more eggs during this period, and the fishes are spawning. So we leave that month so that they can grow. So, during this period, we are close to industrial-scale fishing, but we allow the artisanal fishers to feed the country, that is, the small-scale fishers. So for March, we stop exports. These fish are reserved for the country’s consumption during the close season.

The Future

We plan to do aquaculture in the interior parts of the country, that is, the provinces. This strategy is to reduce the pressure from captured fisheries, but at the same time, it will create more jobs for our women and youth. Also, we’ll be working with the smaller scale industry. In future, we are also planning for a fish harbour. We’ve got a grant from China, which will now create the platform where we will have the fish market, office space for fisheries and energy and so forth. Investors are welcome to invest in onshore facilities, such as the cold room chain, among other services. And then, of course, we’ll expect our neighbouring countries to bring their vessels for repairs once this is created. So it will generate a lot of jobs. But at the same time, it will put Sierra Leone’s fisheries on the map within the subregion. And it will create many areas for exports, canning, tuna canning, sardine canning, and so forth.

Hon. Emma Kowa Jalloh, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Republic of Sierra Leone
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Capitol Group –Sustaining over 100 years old legacy of business excellence in Sierra Leone

Beyond being the first Cocoa exporter to be certified as Organic in Sierra Leone and creating over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the country, Capitol Group has since its inception in 1998 has continued to sustain the rich history of business excellence that dates back to over 100 years. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine, the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Foods, Hamza Hashim talks about the company’s legacies and commitment to jobs and wealth creation in Sierra Leone, excerpts.

A vibrant private sector is the engine of growth which generates decent jobs and creates increased opportunities for more inclusive and sustainable economic growth in a country. What is your company’s mandate and how has it contributed to Sierra Leone’s economic growth and development particularly over the last 4years?

The last four years has seen our largest growth as an organization, it has been within this timeframe that we started production of the first local fruit juice product and established the first cocoa processing plant in Sierra Leone. In the process, we have created over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout our value chain both upstream and downstream. Our mission has always been “We nurture lives whilst empowering farmers.” We chose nurture lives because we desire an impact that goes beyond our end consumer, and in multiple ways. We are proud that within the jobs created are those of over 5,000 farmers all over the country. We do not only source fruits and cocoa beans from Farmers, but we also work closely with them by providing inputs, trainings, and guidance. This

ensures higher yields per farmer and improved produce quality which translates into higher incomes for the farmers. We have partnered with different communities to develop more than 1,000 hectares of cocoa farms with improved varieties, this will increase the country’s production of Cocoa by 10%.

Our development journey started with being the first Cocoa exporter to be certified as Organic in Sierra Leone, a step which led to the full certification of all of Sierra Leone’s cocoa exports as organic securing high premiums in European and North American markets. In November 2022, we opened our Cocoa processing plant, where we will produce Cocoa Mass and other chocolate products for both local consumption and export. We are expecting to increase proceeds from cocoa products export by more than 20%, Sierra Leone will be able to export cocoa products to the international market and also support the creation of a regional confectionary industry.

A successful business model is one that can provide solutions to the needs of people. What was the motivation to establish your company in Sierra Leone,

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There is growing consumer awareness of health and wellness worldwide and although slower in West Africa there has been significant increase in this awareness in recent times. In Sierra Leone, this has certainly boosted the demand for nonalcoholic beverages coupled with an increase in the number of middle-income consumers. Before Sierra Juice, the only affordable option for recreational or thirstquenching beverages were carbonated or alcoholic drinks, imported fruit juices are very expensive and inaccessible to the majority of Sierra Leoneans.

On the other hand, as Sierra Leoneans, we are proud of our great tasting fruits but most of those fruits were not even harvested due to lack of markets.

We identified the gap and the opportunity and capitalized on it by creating the first locally produced juice brand which we called “Sierra”. Within two years of operation, it has become the preferred beverage for many because there was a need for a beverage option that is enjoyable, healthy and affordable to a wider consumer base.

We applied the same principle and value concept to cocoa and chocolate products, while we import relatively expensive chocolate-based products, we export our raw beans at much lower prices. We saw a clear need to pioneer the first cocoa processing plant in Sierra Leone.

How many years have you been operating in Sierra Leone? Can you tell us about your experience in establishing and operating your business in Sierra Leone?

Capitol Group was founded in 1998, however, I come from a family line that has been doing business in Sierra Leone for more than 100 years. After graduation, I joined our family business in 2005, and since then we have founded more than five successful businesses spanning across the agriculture, logistics, tourism, and energy sectors.

While each market and each sector have its own opportunities and challenges, there has been a continuous positive trend on multiple levels. One of the most important

enablers of doing business in Sierra Leone is the friendly environment from both the population and the government. Both the urban and the rural communities we operated in regarded our activities as a positive development and embraced us. In fact, I personally believe that the credit for our success goes to the patronizing of the nation. However, since the manufacturing industry is nascent in the country, one of the hard-learnt and costly lessons is that you need to be a 360 degrees company. The lack of supporting industries mean

i.e., what need did you see and how is your business fulfilling that need in Sierra Leone?
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you have to be able to do internally a lot of the services that would ordinarily be outsourced. This threat has become an opportunity for us as we have become more vertically integrated, enabling us to become more resilient and adaptive to global disruptions.

round very soon. We have launched our transformation Plan and started discussions with multiple financial and development institutions, we believe we will be able to conclude this round by end of 2022.

What is your company’s mediumto long-term goals and how do you plan on achieving them?

One of the long-term goals is to export at least 30% of our production to the neighboring Guinea and Liberia within the next 5 years. We have been working on increasing our production capacity by installing a new juice processing plant which will increase our production sufficiently to satisfy the local market and beyond. In the short term, we are introducing environmentally friendly packaging which will not only reduce our footprint but give our products a longer shelf-life. For our Cocoa production, we intend to add processing steps that will allow us to produce Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder, and chocolate-based confectionaries. Beyond Fruits and Cocoa, we are determined to pursue essential food products that can be produced from locally grown agricultural produce. This is imperative given what we witnessed in terms of food sufficiency during the Covid19 pandemic. Our commitment to Farmers continues, to strengthen our outgrowers base, we have been working with multiple local and international organization to gather data about farmers, the distribution of fruit and cocoa production in different regions, the efficiency and quality of production of the Farmers. This exercise will help us optimize our fruit and cocoa supply chain.

To pursue these goals and more, the company is intending to go into a funding

The private sector is an enabler for job creation especially for the burgeoning youth population. How many direct and indirect jobs has your business created? What has been the socio-economic impact on local communities, and the country at large?

We have created over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout our value chain in our Cocoa, Fruit juice, hotel and logistics companies. In our Cocoa and Fruit business in particular we target a female gender quota of 30% and youth quota of 30%. Before our interventions, the agricultural sector was dominated by smallholder subsistence farmers using poor agronomic practices, these Farmers have seen an increase in their incomes by 150% in the last 10 years. We also provide literacy training for our farmers and encourage the creation of SMEs along our value chain to ensure sustainable incomes and occupations.

His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio’s New Direction Agenda (2018-2023) recognises the need to create a positive enabling environment for the private sector. What are the main areas that the government of Sierra Leone has provided support to you to grow your business? Also, what areas do you think the government can improve to support you and the private sector in general in the country?

Since His Excellency President Bio won the election, he made it very clear that he believes that the private sector is what can create a sustainable economic growth. To this end, his government has introduced multiple incentives as laws in the subsequent finance acts covering Corporate Tax Holidays, Reduced Custom Duties on equipment, machinery and raw materials, and Reduced Corporate Taxes for provinces-based companies. They have also made it easy to bring expatriate staff while ensuring that local expertise would be developed. The Ministry of Trade and Industry provided all the support we needed

We have created over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout our value chain in our
Cocoa, Fruit juice, hotel
and
logistics companies. In our Cocoa and Fruit business in
particular
we target a female gender quota of 30% and youth quota of 30%. SIERRA LEONE Celebrating 60 | Timeless Edition | African Leadership Magazine SERRIA LOEN.indd 60 29/10/2022 17:33

to join the Ecowas Trade Liberalization Scheme which allows us to export duty free to ECOWAS countries. Fuel is one of our main costs, we relied heavily on our inhouse power plant, however, today we run substantially on the grid, reducing our costs drastically.

Yet, the work is far from done. A systematic change would require further investment in infrastructure and human capital. His Excellency is a staunch believer in both as pillars from this transformation.

The government is focused on its support to private sector investment and public private partnerships in key growth sectors and development of value chains. What investment opportunities do you see ahead in Sierra Leone and how can the private sector and the government work together to make that a reality?

I do believe that the private-public partnership is the way forward even in unorthodox projects like Agri processing as it can be linked directly to food security whilst still having a high-income potential. On the other hand, there is a great potential in the areas of waste management, energy generation and distribution especially of renewables, government digitization, infrastructure projects including housing,

market-system-enabling projects, logistics and transportation, communication, mining and of course tourism.

Sierra Leone has been blessed with lot of resources which were not properly utilized due to the war and its impact: a fertile land, a beautiful coast, abundance of minerals, and an underdeveloped public services.

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WE HAVE MADE FREE, QUALITY HEALTH CARE A NATIONAL PRIORITY

The health sector is a cardinal part of the human capital development agenda of the Bioled administration. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine UK, the honorable minister of Health and Sanitation shares the government’s extra-ordinary commitment to the provision of quality health care service to every citizen of the country.

Excerpts:

During the past four year, which critical reforms has the Bio-led Administration instituted, and what has been the results and impact of the reforms for your sector?

Several government reforms and policies have impacted positively on the health sector. For example; Major legislatives victories enacted through Parliament

The Breast-Feeding substitutes act – prioritises and encourages breast feeding as the main source of nutrition for infants in the early development phase of life.

Allied Health Services Act provides the requisite structure for recruitment, deployment, and retention of critical health staff.

Single Treasury Account (TSA): After the TSA reform, the government of Sierra Leone’s budget allocation to the Health Sector was increased from mere 7% in 2018 to 11% in 2019. It have recently been increased to 11.6% in 2022.

Government spending on health increased from Le87.3 billion in 2020, to Le138 billion in 2021 and

Le41.6 billion in the first 4 months of 2022 alone.

This is the first government that ever honoured its financial commitment to supporting the free health care initiative. Initially, we paid about 10% of the Free Health Care drugs in 2018, 20% in 2019 and 30% in 2020. But for the COVID-19 pandemic, government had plans to pay 50% of the Free Health Care drugs. It would interest you to note that even the government that declared free health care did not spend a single cent on their idea.

In the past 4 years, government has made budgetary provision for recruitment of 5,000 health care workers. Over 300 have already been recruited. This has increase skill mix of staff at health facilities, improving quality of care as well key health indicators.

Government has also embarked on a project aiming at refurbishing all district hospitals in the country. These hospitals will be provided with additional ward capacity as well as increased space to hold new equipment.

Dr Austin Demby, Minister Of Health & Sanitation, Republic of Sierra Leone
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Free Quality Education: This has increased the number of children going to school and benefiting from the sexuality education, which helps the children to understand their sexual changes and ultimately reduces teenage pregnancy and its consequences for maternal mortality.

The President in his recent speech during the National Health Summit organised in the country, stated that, “the government has increased the health care budget and will soon spend in excess of Le70 Billion in infrastructure upgrades of 100% of all major government hospitals across the country.” This is a massive investment. How well is the government committed to see this through?

The government of Sierra Leone has demonstrated strong commitment to this project by commencing infrastructural work on 16 hospital, and already 15 of the 16 contractors have received a total of 24.7 billion leones, equivalent to 35% of total project cost. These contractors should complete all 16 hospitals by December 2022. Work is at or ahead of schedule in most of the hospitals.

As a further demonstration of government commitments, these hospitals will subsequently be equipped with modern medical equipment for quality service delivery.

So YES, government is indeed committed to seeing this through.

How is the government faring in meeting the Universal Health Coverage as put forward by the World Health Organization?

The provision of equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare for all without undue financial hardship to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as defined in target 3.8 of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), is now a national priority

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A national strategy for attaining UHC has been developed

Health Sector Summit organised to rally all stakeholders behind the implementation of UHC strategy, to which all stakeholders are committed.

Currently, we are using the Primary Health Care Model as a vehicle to achieve UHC. We have identified Karene and Bonthe Districts for the UHC pilot. We have completed a number of assessments and trainings, all in a bid to kick start full blown implementation.

World Bank; The government is working in Partnership the World Bank and Partners in Health to implement UHC in five districts

for five years. The Bank has expressed confidence in our ability to implement programs by increasing our budget envelope from $40M to $60M

Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria; the Global fund has also expressed confidence in our ability to drive programs that are critical to UHC at the national level. A additional $50M was included in the 2-year funding envelope to address AIDS, TB, Malaria and health systems strengthening for a total allocation of $157M

Hospital-on-Wheels; The President launched the Hospital-on-Wheels project with four fully equipped modern buses that would take high quality medical care to remote locations that do not normally have access to the level of care provided in the buses. The buses would be the centerpiece for conducting multi-disciplinary outreach health fairs in remote locations

Life Stages Model; The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with its stakeholders have identify the life stages model as its strategy to attaining UHC by addressing health needs of all life stages. Preparation for the implementation of this model is at an advanced stage, and soon we will see it implemented at all 1,500 health facilities in the country.

SLeSHI: A Secretariat for the Sierra Leone National Health Insurance Scheme (SLeSHI) established and already a roadmap for it implementation ongoing.

I can therefore say given the support that we receive from government and its partners we are doing very well.

The country has successfully fought Ebola and COVID-19, among other disease outbreaks. Sierra Leone was applauded for its national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. How has all these experiences shaped the country’s readiness for future outbreaks?

Even though Ebola and Covid 19 has both similarities and differences our experience from managing them has taught us many lessons for responding to future outbreaks.

Firstly, with clear government leadership at the highest level, we have adopted a wholeof-government-and Partners approach to the governance structure of our outbreak preparedness and response. This was so effective that Sierra Leone was one of the

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last countries in Africa to detect a case of COVID-19. We successfully battled 4 waves of infection with limited cases of hospitalizations or deaths.

We are strengthening the health care delivery at all levels, including community, primary, secondary, tertiary as well as referral systems.

We used the EVD and Covid 19 experiences to further strengthen our health systems especially with regards surveillance. This government established the Directorate of Health Security and Emergencies. We also established central and regional public health Laboratories to improve turn-around times for diagnoses.

We laid a new Bill in Parliament, the Public Health Bill that would repeal the archaic 1960 Bill with a modern Bill that would strengthen the nations Public Health as well as establish a new National Public Health Agency. The Agency would provide the institutional home for Prevention, Preparedness, and Response to all future Public Health emergencies

The country has improved on its health management information systems, including digitalization of its electronic integrated disease surveillance and response system. At the same time, we have introduced electronic case-based disease surveillance, which serves as an early case detection mechanism. Using these structures, we were able to detect and prevent potential outbreaks of Marburg and the resurgence of EVD from Guinea.

For management of future disease outbreaks, we now have point of entry personnel, equipment and testing facilities to screen and detect diseases at all border crossings.

Together with our partners, we are strengthening not only our national level laboratory systems but also district level laboratories to improve our response rate for any future epidemics. We are also recruiting more health workers so that we can readily respond to epidemics without seriously disrupting essential services.

According to a report by PwC, Medical Tourism costs the continent over $2 billion in revenue. What is Sierra Leone doing to improve services delivery to retain some of this spend that would have gone to other countries?

Sierra Leone has been spending significant proportion of its health budget allocation on overseas medical services. Sierra Leone spent about Le 10.4 bill (for 56 patients) in 2020, Le 15.7 B (for 64 patients) in 2021 and Le 2.5 B (for 17 patients) in first 4 months of 2022 for overseas medical treatment.

This is as a result of inadequate or lack of specialized medical expertise and

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infrastructure in the country. To address this, the government is engaged in building the capacity of national health facilities to improve diagnostics and treatments and at the same time engaged in public private partnerships.

Paediatric Centers of Excellence; Two new paediatric centers of excellence are being constructed in Freetown and Kono at a cost of $25M each. When completed, these two institutions would be major assets for patient care to both Sierra Leone and the West African region

Private sector investments; there multiple interested private sector investors who want to partners with government to tap into the incredible potential that this industry presents. Discussions with these partners are ongoing and, in some cases, fairly advanced stages. The results would be felt in the next few months.

Ultra-modern health Village at Kerry Town; Sierra Leone is building an ultra-modern health village at Kerry town, near Freetown. This project includes 150 bed general Hospital that will provide diagnostic imaging services including; Endoscopy, X-Ray, MRI and CT Scan, a national blood bank, cancer diagnostic and treatment centre and purpose-built warehouse. This project will also construct 40 flats for Doctors, 50 rooms for Nurses, a training facility for medical, nursing and other allied health professionals, a 36-room building for people accompanying patients and a helipad.

Modernizing Connaught and 4 Regional Hospitals; The government has recently started a project aimed at modernizing the main referral Connaught hospital and the 4 Regional hospitals. The project has started at Connaught Hospital where already

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some medical wards have been renovated. This project also includes equipping the wards and specialized units with modern equipment’s to help improve patient experience and confidence in the services at the facility. Staff welfare will also be improved through monetary and nonmonetary incentives.

Equally, the government has established postgraduate training college, where local doctors are trained in different specialties such as surgery, pediatrics, family medicine and obstetrics/gynecology.

During the National Health Summit, the President closed his remark by calling on all the attendees to “reimagine the future of health care in this country. Let us imagine a future of accessible and affordable quality healthcare for every Sierra Leonean and plan and work on making that happen.” How well has this call been received by all?

The health summit was well received by these partners and even signed the aide memoire as expression of their commitment to implementing the Plan of Action. To demonstrate government’s commitment to improving health care delivery, very

senior government officials, including their Excellencies, The Vice President and First Lady, Parliamentarians, Ministers of government and the private sector, participated in the health Summit. The Ministry is working on implementation of the Aide Memoire with strong monitoring and evaluation of progress.

Subsequently, the Ministry and partners have developed an implementation plan for the next 18 months with its monitoring framework with ambitious targets to fasttrack the attainment of the UHC.

The Sector Coordinating structures have been revigorated and we now see rekindled spirit among us all to achieve these.

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From your Ministry’s perspective, how far is Sierra Leone from achieving the SDG 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” and where are the areas in need of investment to expedite progress?

Sierra Leone has made very modest gains in maternal, child and infant mortality. To address the contributing factors, we are recruiting more health workers to provide care and improve access to communities, we are strengthening our Community Health Worker programme to be able to provide basic services as well as health promotional messages and referral in hard to reach communities, health facilities are provided with regular supply of essential medicines, we are also improving our hospitals to provide quality care and, we have started training specialists in the fields of paediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecologist.

We have built 5 new oxygen production plants with three more to go. Two of the current plants are in Freetown (34 Military Hospital

and Connaught Hospital) and three in the Provincial towns of Bo, Kenema, and Makeni. When the additional plants arrive and are installed, we will have a national network for the distribution of oxygen that assures that every medical facility has access to medical oxygen.

Areas in urgent need of investment include:

National Ambulance services: This links primary care with secondary and tertiary services. However, it is still underfunded and so it responsiveness is poor. We are in consultations for more funding to support this very critical element of the health systems.

Even though we are providing drugs, these are not yet enough for all aliments. We need to increase our portfolio of drugs so that more conditions can be treated.

Staff-welfare is a critical challenge. More staff, especially at peripheral facilities do not have decent accommodation. Less than 10% have quarters, so we urgently need to provide decent accommodation for these staff so that we can retain them at these remote communities.

Even though government is improving equipment at hospitals, the peripheral health facilities that serve majority of the rural population are still poorly equipped.

We will continue to strive for attaining the SDG 3 goals but without these critical investments, we will find it difficult to maintain the fast track lane we want to take for attaining SDG 3.

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Credibility, Trust for Leadership, Has Increased Sierra Leone’s Global Acceptability

In international relations, the trust and credibility of leadership trumps size and geolocation of countries. Sierra Leone presents a unique example of how leadership plays a crucial role in global acceptability and respectability. In this exclusive interview with the honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. David J. Francis, he tells us more about the country’s towering status on the global stage and how leadership is making all the difference. Excerpts:

What are Sierra Leone’s key foreign policy priorities, and how far have you achieved these priorities?

Every administration comes in with a clear view of how to reposition the country; from that perspective, you construct your foreign policy priorities. So, we were very clear on the five core priorities for the New Direction government of His Excellency, Dr Julius Maada Bio. And those priorities are derived from section 10 of the national constitution of 1991. But also, those core priorities are translated as our core national interests. The priority of the President was to re-brand Sierra Leone. Because when we came, Sierra Leone was regarded as one of the most corrupt country in the world. Sierra Leone was treated as if it were an insignificant state. So, the President’s priority in in April 2018 when he assumed office was to re-brand Sierra Leone and put the country on the global stage. We had to focus on ensuring that our country was credible and respected in the international community of states.

We also had to ensure that it earned a right standing among international development institutions like

IMF and the World Bank. When His Excellency’s administration assumed leadership in 2018, our key development partners in the country were keen on a new administration with clear development priorities that they can work with more amicably. There were vast excesses from the previous government, so as a nation, we had a huge international credibility gap. So, it became pertinent to re-brand the country and reposition it well on the global stage. The second priority for us was to use that positioning and re-branding to make Sierra Leone the investor’s destination of choice, secure trade and investment opportunities, to fast-track inclusive developments, economic growth, employment and job creation. Because when you reposition the country and re-brand it, everybody wants to come. As they say, investment capital is shy; it does not go to maligned countries. If you have $10 to spend, you go to a safe and secure, credible place.

The third priority is to promote the success story of Post-war Sierra Leone, focusing on reconstruction and the lessons learnt. We need to share this with the rest of the world. We are no longer defined by our past but by what we do now and in

Prof. David J. Francis, Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Republic of Sierra Leone
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the future. We have a unique story to share with the rest of the world that you can come from the ashes of war and demonstrate resilience through that process. And that resilience gives you hope. So, we give hope to Ukraine today that it can be done. We give hope to Afghanistan that it can be done. We give hope to Yemen and all the other war-torn countries. And that fourth priority is to position our country to contribute to international peace and security. We have been recipients of peacekeeping and know what multilateral cooperation for maintaining international peace and security has done for Sierra Leone. So, we are making a conscious effort to promote the same on the global stage. Through the ECOWAS and the African Union, we can work for the maintenance of international peace and security. That is why in the current crisis in Ukraine, we have not been neutral; we have promoted our national interest.

And we are very clear about our support for international law and upholding the values of the UN Charter. We are very clear about that. And the fifth priority is promoting the interests and catering to the interests of Sierra Leoneans abroad. So these are the essentials of what we call the core elements of our national interest.

It is not often that a small country with a population of over 7 million receives the kind of respect and role that Sierra Leone has gotten on the global stage. Seventeen years ago, Sierra Leone was not allowed by the African Union as the chair and coordinator to lead the reform of the UN Security Council. So, Sierra Leone has that platform to lead the continental advocacy for the reform of the United Nations Security Council. And by the way, the last time that the United Nations was reformed, increasing the UN Security Council from 11 to 15, was in 1963. We were given this role because they have realised that we have an incredible role to play, coming from war and becoming a successful state. We have become a model for post-war state reconstruction and peacebuilding.

Sierra Leone currently provides leadership for the C-10 with the mandate of promoting, canvassing, and defending the common African position on the UN security council reform. How would you describe this role?

So, I’m delighted to inform you that earlier this year - 2022, we met at the African Union, where the President presented the report of the progress made thus far to the Union of heads of state. That platform also translated the decision and agreed on a whole range of decisions as to how we can continue to promote the advocacy and campaign for the reform of the UN Security Council. So, the common African position is unequivocal. The heads of states have agreed that based on the L Sweeney consensus and the side declaration, we want to advocate for two permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council with all the privileges, including a veto if it’s maintained. But also, for five non-permanent seats in the non-permanent category.

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So, our message is unambiguous. And what I can tell you today, Africa is the only region in the world that has a common position on how to democratize the United Nations how to address historical injustice. Can you imagine? That is historical injustice. So how can we talk about democratization and representation when key regions of the world are not represented in the key organ that makes international peace and security decisions? And by the way, I’m sure you know that the UN Security Council, nearly 70% of all the issues discussed before Ukraine, revolve around African topics. Still, you don’t have an African representative in the permanent category.

That is historical injustice. So, Sierra Leone has been given that opportunity on behalf of the African Union to promote the reform of the Security Council and make it fit for its purpose in the 21st century. We are talking about 1.2 billion people cut out from such a vital decision-making table. We believe that the time is ripe for a change. Primarily because nearly 70% of the issues revolve around Africa; so, for me, it’s really to make the United Nations more representative and to democratize it by bringing alternative voices.

Sierra Leone is leading the charge on behalf of the continent. So, that’s a continental responsibility given to this small country. And as I always say, Sierra Leone may be small in size and population, but we are a big country.

This is a unique opportunity in the history of Sierra Leone. Our country is today the candidate of the African Union, the West African regional organization, ECOWAS, endorsed candidate for a seat in the United Nations Security Council, in the non-permanent category for 2024 - 2025. This is unique in the sense that the last time Sierra Leone was at the UN Security Council was about 50 years ago. And that time, Sierra Leone had the opportunity as part of the rotational Presidency of the UN Security Council to hold the chair of the UN Security Council presidency. So, the membership of the Security Council will allows us to promote our national interest on a global stage. So, Sierra Leone today is going to the UN Security Council as a clean slate candidate, meaning that we are not in competition with any other African states. We are part of the three African states representing the continent of Africa at the UN Security Council in a nonpermanent category.

And as you know, when you’re on the global stage, you have credibility and respectability and are treated as an important member of the international community. We will be in the same space with the United States of America, the United Kingdom, European Union member states and the Russian Federation. That is huge in terms of gravitas and international reputation. Sierra Leone will promote it’s national interest as well as the Continent’s aspirations. Because when you are there, you can do many things, including, first and foremost, sharing our experience that we have come through war. But look at us. We are a resilient country. We can give hope to the world, especially in conflicted societies like the Arab-Israeli situation, Yemen, and Libya. We want to bring that hope to the UN Security Council.

Sierra Leone has emerged as the sole candidate for the UN security council seat in the non-permanent category for 20242025. What does this mean for your country, especially so that you were represented on that seat 50 years ago?

It also makes it possible for other international financial and global governance institutions to look favorably to Sierra Leone. And we know from research that all those developing countries that have been part of the UN Security Council increased their development aid and foreign development assistance from 35 to 85%. Sierra Leone wants to also tap into those opportunities. Importantly, it will present a unique platform for our President to share his wealth of experience as an essential leader with the rest of the world.

Sierra Leone currently serves as Chair of the African Peer Review

We have been recipients of peacekeeping and know what multilateral cooperation for maintaining international peace and security has done for Sierra Leone. So, we are making a conscious effort to promote the same on the global stage. Through the ECOWAS and the African Union, we can work for the maintenance of international peace and security.
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Mechanism Forum in addition to other international recognition on crucial international fora such as CSP 7, ATT, ISA, WTO and TRIPS. What are the benefits derived from some of these recognitions?

President Bio was, in February of this year, 2022, unanimously endorsed as the chairperson of the African Union African Review Peer Forum of Heads of State and government, which is one of the most important governance mandated committees of the African Union. The President is today the only African head of state chairing two important African Union committees. The C10 for the UN security council reform and the chairperson of the peer review mechanism. So, Sierra Leone and His Excellency the President firmly represent the continent on various issues. So, what are the benefits? It provides bilateral benefits in the sense that because Sierra Leone is doing all of these things when I go as foreign minister, they know that the country is promoting a liberal progressive agenda. So, they are always very easy to help us. In the 11 months that I have been Foreign Minister, we’ve raised more than 1000 scholarships to support our three new universities because we need the faculty and staff to do all of this. But also, the scholarships are at undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels.

So, it means for existing universities we will be able to provide more capacity building and faculty training for them. It also means that the scholarship training programs will support His Excellency’s human capital development agenda. In addition, at the bilateral level, we have also agreed with some countries on visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and service Passports Holders. You don’t negotiate that if the country is not respected.

Because when they know that President Bio and Sierra Leone are on the world stage, they are always inclined to be able to do bilateral and multilateral agreements. So just visa-free travels, we’re trying to progress them. We want it to benefit ordinary Sierra Leoneans who can also go to these countries on a visa-free basis. For example, we’ve also used the opportunity in our engagements with the United States to remove the visa ban imposed some time ago, especially the B-1 and B-2 visas, so that Sierra Leoneans can travel in and out of the country. I can go on and on. In the United Kingdom, at a time when the United Kingdom announced that it has drastically cut its foreign aid and development assistance from 0.7% to 0.5%. That is saving about 4 billion pounds sterling. We engaged with the government of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in May 2021.

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And we agreed that the United Kingdom government will continue to treat Sierra Leone as a priority country and that we will not be affected by the 8% cut in development assistance. That is due to the credibility and standing of the President. The same for the Arab Republic of Egypt - they provide training assistance for us. More recently, Sierra Leone was removed from the list of priority development countries by the new German government, but today, we have been reinstated just a couple of months ago. And now, Sierra Leoneans can submit their Schengen Visas at the German Embassy in Freetown rather than traveling to Conakry or Accra with all the costs, implications, etc. So that is for the bilateral levels. On the multilateral level, the more they see that Sierra Leone is performing credibly, the more member states are going into reciprocal agreements with the Foreign Ministry.

When we support a country, they can then ask the foreign minister, what areas can we help you? It’s not very often that member states ask to support you because usually, you go to them, but it is because of the credibility of the President and the country. Today, we are co-chairs of the UNESCO education summit in Paris with all the global leaders. So, Sierra Leone is family on the international stage. And that translates into the second foreign policy priority: Sierra Leone is the number one investment destination of choice because when people see that this is a credible country, they want to do business with us. And by the way, Sierra Leone is the fourth most peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Global Peace Index. So, we know that we’ve been on the global stage, we are able to rebrand and showcase the country, added to the fact that we are going to the security council, which is a huge leap diplomatically.

Tell us more about the Foreign Service Academy?

The Foreign Service Academy is one of the signature projects of His Excellency, Dr Julius Maada Bio. Because we realise that for a small country to be on the global stage, you must have a training facility that looks inwards to train your career diplomats. The practice has been to send our career diplomats abroad for training, which is capital intensive. Sometimes, we get training assistance and scholarships, etc. But no country can ever develop if you cannot do it yourself. So, this is our DIY deployments. So, this foreign service academy will be able to train our career diplomats nationally. But in return, the vision of this Foreign Service Academy is that we can use it as an opportunity to provide executive seminars, bespoke training programs on an income generation basis where we can provide opportunities for the universities here in the country to run executive seminars on leadership, entrepreneurship, and security sector governance, etc. So, my understanding and ambition as a foreign minister are to ensure that this Foreign Service Academy generates its income rather than depend on the government for subvention. In terms of continent, this will be the 13th Foreign Service Academy and one of the most prestigious.

I’m very proud to be the foreign minister, co-presenting on behalf of the chief diplomat, the President. What we want to do is to use the Foreign Service to attract soft power to Sierra Leone. The vision of the Foreign Service Academy is to have quarterly training. Every quarter we will have 20 Africans from different parts of the continent come and train for a week or one month on a particular program on security sector governance, post-war peacebuilding, reconstruction, and transitional justice for which we have been globally recognized. We will also include Global Entrepreneurship and, most importantly, human capital development, which is one of our central agendas. So, through that process for us, we provide Sierra Leone as a platform that other Africans can come quarterly, four times, and when they return to their countries, they become ambassadors of Sierra Leone. They can tell the story that Sierra Leone is not only the most beautiful country in the world, but, that we are a liberal and progressive government that has made progress in the area of the abolition of the death penalty; and the repeal of the criminal libel law that

The Foreign Service Academy is one of the signature projects of His Excellency, Dr Julius Maada Bio. Because we realise that for a small country to be on the global stage, you must have a training facility that looks inwards to train your career diplomats. The practice has been to send our career diplomats abroad for training, which is capital intensive.
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has been on our books for more than 55 years. They will also tell the world that we have made progress in the areas of gender, and women’s empowerment. In addressing early child Marriage and domestic violence, among others. We want to promote those success stories globally, and this academy will help us actualize them.

A lot more people trust the leadership of the country. How are the diplomatic engagements contributing to attracting investment in Sierra Leone, building on the high trust quotient of the administration?

I’m happy that you mentioned the issue of trust. Normally, when we talk about trust, it is often targeted at the national level and based on state and society relations. Trust and distrust between the government and governed. But this has now translated to the global level, which is enormous. No self-respecting investment or company will come to a country where they do not trust the leadership. So, it starts with trust. And what I can tell you confidently is that the President as the chief diplomat has been the main instigator, travelling across the globe and engaging with multilateral and development financial institutions, like the IMF and World Bank, etc. He has met with the European Union, the United Nations, and other bilateral organisations. He has also engaged globally with major companies and multinationals to present the case for Sierra Leone.

So, when you have a sitting head of state travelling extensively to promote his own country and engaging with the international business community, it presents trust. The second aspect is that Sierra Leone is the fourth most peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody wants to come to an insecure country.

So, since the war ended, Sierra Leone has become a successful case of post-war peace building a state reconstruction, which is globally known. Since the end of the war, we’ve had four successful elections, relatively free and fair. And it includes the transfer of power from an incumbent government to an opposition political party, which is rare in Africa. So, we’ve consolidated the peace. That

is why the President has embarked on a liberal progressive agenda as a government. The international business and investment community want to know what is happening politically. They want to know that their dollar money is protected. That the regulatory framework is there. Beyond the trust and peaceful situation in the country, we also have a sound regulatory framework. So, they know that when they spend $1, it is protected. And when they spend it, they know that they will make profits on their dollar investment. Sierra Leone is a place of opportunities.

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Building Economic Resilience Through Sound Fiscal Policy

Sound fiscal policy and deliberate government strategies has contributed to Sierra Leone’s economic recovery programme post-pandemic. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine UK, the Honorable Minister of Finance, Dennis Vandi, speaks about the government’s efforts to FastTrack economic growth and development, amidst global uncertainties. Excerpts.

During the past four years, which critical reforms have the Ministry of Finance instituted and what have been the results and impact of the reforms on the broader economy?

We came to the office at a time of many challenges, economic uncertainties and financial vulnerabilities worldwide. The pandemic, and the war in Ukraine and Russia, are militating against the economy’s growth. However, we have used measures to preserve the economy over the period. We built on the experiences we had gathered fighting Ebola.

We invested in early planning, putting together systems and strengthening public service delivery, inclusive decentralization response and safeguarding the economy and livelihoods. So, we built resilience around the economy to achieve specific reforms we have been implementing over the period. We introduced reforms for the private sector, the economic response program that we prioritised in 2020 during the COVID. As a result, we had to get a supplementary budget. We also digitized revenue generation to be able to shore up our revenue. Working with the National Revenue Authority, we undertook those reforms to increase generation. We also introduced reforms in the public sector management over the same period. These reforms were also extended to the health and

education sector, which were the priority sector for us. As you know, the tourism sector is the worst hit, so we had to introduce some reforms to help us fast-track our economic recovery program.

With the global disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, economies are struggling to recover. They must build back better, which means resilient soft and hard infrastructure, taking climate mitigation measures into account. What are the Bio-led administration’s strategies to rebound the country’s economy and, simultaneously, build resilience for the good of all citizens?

The foundation of our PostCOVID recovery program was the Economic Response Program, which is the COOP. In that economic Response Program, we had the private sector-led programs that we developed in the agricultural sector to maintain adequate stock of essential commodities. The Bank of Sierra Leone also came in with a program that provided about $50 million, about 500 billion leones, for important items. Similarly, we had programs that we developed to continue the operation of the government to provide safeguards to about 2368 workers in the tourism sector and the hospitality industry. We also developed a microfinance program, the MUNAFA program,

Dennis Vandi, Honorable Minister of Finance, Republic of Sierra Leone
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in which we supported the livelihood of the Medium and Small Scale Industry players over the period. And amongst the beneficiaries were predominantly women - over 4000 of them. During the COVID response period, we also invested in opening roads to link farmers with the markets for their goods. And we also had the agricultural project that led the private sector to provide fertilizers, inputs, and machinery to farmers to enhance agricultural production.

What are some of the government’s enabling policies that drive foreign direct investments (FDIs) and domestic resource mobilization?

On Foreign Direct Investment, our approach has provided a conducive business environment for domestic and foreign direct investment. We introduced some fiscal incentives, as well as policy and regulatory reforms. We also invested in critical infrastructures to support business growth. We also strengthened institutions for investment facilitation. Like the fiscal incentive, we targeted various finance acts, regulatory frameworks, and bilateral agreements with tax exemptions, tax deferrals, etc. We also provided waivers for businesses, which were necessary. We also offered fiscal incentives considering the background and linkages across our growth sectors in agriculture, mining, fisheries, manufacturing, and ICT. They also had a policy and regulatory framework developed via the industrial approach to help mobilize resources and increase productivity in the growth sectors. In addition, we have developed a special economic zone, mapping the activities that will be done in the Economic zones. We are also exploring PPPs as the pathway for greater private sector involvement in the growth sectors.

African nations’ capacity challenges to mobilize domestic resources are primarily around weak tax administration, inefficient tax collection, financial noninclusiveness and illicit financial outflows.

Domestic revenue mobilization is crucial for public financial management and creating the fiscal space needed for our development operations. Over the past four years, the National revenue authority has undergone structural reforms and transformation. And it has instituted tax reforms, policies and strategies, technical assistance, and capacity building. And as a result, we have improved domestic revenue mobilization, strengthened tax administration through tricky pathways, legislative reforms, public education, and partnerships, automation. And legislative reforms fully implemented the fiscal management and Control Act that supported the single Treasury account that we developed over the period and facilitated the enactment of the mining and extractive industries. We’ve legislated and placed to apply fiscal terms to all mining companies. We’ve developed a policy to rationalize duty waivers and exemptions. We have also rolled out an electronic cash register to collect revenue and many other reforms over the period. And we are the national Revenue Authority.

The Bio-led administration inherited a battered economy, from high external debts to ruinous policies. Four years on, how would you say the government has repositioned the economy?

What has the government done in the past four years to mitigate these challenges and create adequate avenues for domestic resources mobilization?

We inherited a situation where we have consistently worked to strengthen our economic fundamentals. We took over with clear evidence of macroeconomic instability at that time. And the 3-year extended credit facility we were operating with the IMF was off target. But we have managed over the period to look at what went wrong and what we should do to overturn those difficult days for our country. In the first 100 days, the President has come out with some legislative or policy measures. One concerned duty-free and the exemptions. Secondly, we had another executive order or some policy order that took over the direct assets of state-

We have had a lot of public financial management regulations standing alone on each platform from which the rules and laws were developed. We have consolidated those regulations for a more precise understanding.
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owned enterprises to pay taxes and refund debts services made on behalf of the government over the period.

And additionally, we place a temporary ban on issues like the export of timber and the processing of wood nationally. And then we decided to look at the wage bill, at least to trim it down to a level that could accommodate some financial prudence. So building on those orders, as a country, we worked and secured the IMF program back on track, and we are still on our way. As of now, we’ve just concluded almost the fifth review from the IMF. And we looked at structural benchmarks and tried to liberalize many things in terms of fuel. Privatization has gone on over the period, and we are driving the private sector to take leadership in our economy and the government to take the back seat. We looked at the Public Finance Management rules and tried to review the acts that will stand the test of time. These reforms have comforted donors, both multilateral and bilateral, for them to support the government in our economic growth drive.

With limited resources, how can the government still meet the compulsory free education for all initiatives of the Bioled administration?

People thought this would never happen in Sierra Leone. And His Excellency the President ensured that this is something that can occur and which has placed Sierra Leone on the Global Map. The government has supported the implementation of our free quality education. We started with 20% of the domestic revenue resources that we mobilize to support Free education, And I can safely say that we are about 22% as of now. We pay for teaching and learning materials and school fees. We pay examination fees, etc. So having shown

commitment, donors and partners have looked at what the President has done over the past years. Today, there are supporting projects and programs like school feeding, even at the point of supporting teaching and learning materials to support Free quality education. So it’s a program that we will continue to seek efficient pathways to address the effect of the shocks it brought to the budget. It is now being considered and owned by specific donors. And it’s a program that has led the country’s education system. Recently, we hosted some foreign nationals from about ten countries that met with the Minister of Basic Education to discuss the progress that we have made by our government. Countries are coming here now to understudy or learn from Sierra Leone’s experience about what His Excellency the President has done for Sierra Leone. At this moment, it will be difficult for many critics to imagine what is happening. But, the future has a story to tell.

In the past four years, what has been the progress on improving public financial management, for instance, through sound budgeting and effective resource allocation towards priority growth sectors?

It’s exciting over the past four years. We have had a lot of public financial management regulations standing alone on each platform from which the rules and laws were developed. We have consolidated those regulations for a more precise understanding. The public financial management systems have not been reduced over time, and we are currently looking at the banking systems. We are about to launch the financial inclusion system, which deals with the banks that can relate and do transactions in record time. We have developed the E-platform for even procurement over the period, which is now workable. We have looked at duty-free exemptions and digitized duty-free exemptions. We have used the ASYCUDA Plus Plus system in national revenue mobilization. We plan to execute and implement a one-stop-shop for the clearance of goods.

We invested in early planning, putting together systems and strengthening public service delivery, inclusive decentralization response and safeguarding the economy and livelihoods. So, we built resilience around the economy to achieve specific reforms we have been implementing over the period.
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We Are Committed To Making Sierra Leone A MiddleIncome Country By 2039

The Bio-led administration’s commitment to transforming Sierra Leone into a middle-income country by 2039 was key to developing the country’s Medium-term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019–2023. The document was founded on a strong political commitment to deliver development results that would improve the welfare of Sierra Leone’s citizens. The plan charts a clear path towards 2023 en route to the goal of achieving middleincome status by 2039 through inclusive growth that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. For the next five years, the Free Quality School Education Programme is the government’s flagship programme to provide a solid base to enhance human capital development and facilitate the transformation of the economy.

While speaking to the African Leadership Magazine UK, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Hon. Dr Francis Kaikai, highlighted some of the country’s efforts to implement the Medium Term National Development Plan. He maintained that the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development is responsible for planning and coordinating the activities of government and line ministries to ensure that all government line ministries work in line with the government agenda, which is the medium-term national development plan for 2019 to 2023.

In the last three years, the medium-

term national development plan has effectively mobilised and integrated input from all relevant stakeholders towards achieving the country’s vision of becoming an inclusive and growing middleincome country by 2039. The ministry is a rallying platform for state and non-state actors, including development partners, to collaborate to deliver diverse but integrated activities toward this vision. It was the uniting function and capability of the mediumterm national development plan as a national coordination platform that essentially ensured resilience in the delivery of the government’s flagship projects, even in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic.

The significant achievement of the medium-term national development plan since 2019 is strengthening development cooperation. Despite the massive challenges, the ministry coordinated strategic investments in line with the program - in 2019, it coordinated 104; and in 2020, 86; in 2021, 70 public investment projects were funded through the national budget, respectively. Those funded by donor agencies in these years were 392 in 2019, 29 in 2020, and 311 in 2021. The total value of these projects was estimated at over $671 million. The principal actors in the delivery of these projects include government institutions at central and local levels, development agencies, NGOs, CSOs, the private sector and research institutions and members of the academia.

Hon. Dr Francis Kaikai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Republic of Sierra Leone
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Consequently, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other fiscal challenges, the government’s leading flagship human capital development program was able to ensure that more than 800,000 new pupils were enrolled in primary after the launch of the free quality education program in 2018. Gender parity was maintained at the school level and closely achieved at the junior and secondary levels from 2019 to 2021. The scale of efforts in the health sector witnessed improved calls in measuring key mortality indicators by the end of 2019. Maternal deaths by 1000 live births dropped from 1165 in 2013 to 717 in 2019. According to our data, under-five deaths per 1000 live births fell from 156 in 2013 to 122 in 2019; and infant deaths per 1000 live births reduced from 92 in 2013 to 75 in 2019.

In social protection, government and development partners worked together to provide significant assistance to deserving segments of the population from 2019 to 2021. Yeah, 9000 youths are supported in

various livelihood activities, including cocoa coffee, rice cultivation, and non-other farm activities, such as garbage collection, disposal, and carwash operations, all with appreciable gender consideration. Additionally, 36,000 households benefited from the government’s cash transfer program, in which more than 10,000 persons with disabilities were primary beneficiaries at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic and its related activities. The other accomplishments of the medium-term national development plan, of course, can be seen in the remaining seven clusters of the national development plan data reported by the line ministries, departments and agencies of government accordingly.

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Sierra Leone: The Investors Gold-mine

African Leadership Magazine UK spoke to the Honorable Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Edward Sandy, alongside members saddled with the responsibility to promote trade and investments in Sierra Leone and they discussed the vision and mission of the government

Sierra Leone is open for Business

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confectioneries for even soapmaking. A vast amount of export is part of what comes from palm oil, either in the form of the fatty acids or the other components, which is exported through the ECOWAS trade liberalization scheme to the West African countries. For soapmaking. Nigeria largely depends on what comes from our palm oil as byproducts. For soapmaking. If you go through the export volumes, you will see how much of that is going to other West African countries. We are supplying Ghana, Senegal, and, I think, The Gambia. The last time I was in The Gambia, in our interaction with the Minister of Trade, he encouraged us to reach an agreement that would allow our

when you look at even the pricing. So these are the areas that we will look at.

A group of people came here and invested in cane sugar production. And that cane sugar is now used to manufacture ethanol sold locally and exported.

Aquaculture is also picking up. So, these are some of the advances that we’re making. And I’m sure anybody who wants to invest will want to look at the fishery, agriculture, mining, and other sectors. We are looking at the potential of extracting aluminium from bauxite. The potential is enormous, and the country is open for business.

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Sierra Leone has an underrated trade characteristic

We’re also looking at rail and port infrastructure to service the mining community’s interests correctly.

Currently, we do not have efficient evacuation systems for our mines. So, we’ve taken the view that when circumstances permit, we, as a government, will promote an integrated railway, which would reduce barriers to entry for both agricultural companies, mining companies, and pretty much any other company. It will also increase surpluses, reduce production costs and rapidly increase transit time. Trade is about low transaction costs, in addition, to the speed of transaction, speed of transit, and so forth. We have the potential as a country.

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5 Facts about Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is home to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary located in the rain forest of the Western Area National Park

The world famous cotton tree is not only the oldest such tree in Freetown but experts also believe that it may be the world's oldest one.

Freetown was home to the first institution of higher learning in modern sub Saharan, Africa after the collapse of the university at Timbuktu Fourah Bay College opened in 1827

Tiwai Island in Sierra Leone is one of the few remaining tracts of ancient rainforest in West Africa

Established in 1670, Bunce Island, an uninhabited island located around 20 miles up the Sierra Leone River from Freetown, was one of more than sixty slave trading forts on the West African coast

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In Sierra Leone, Political and Presidential Will makes the difference in the fight against Corruption

According to Afrobarometer, corruption prevalence rating in Sierra Leone has reduced from 70% in 2017 to about 40% in 2020, which is about 30% reduction in three years. This unprecedented upward movement in ranking is mainly due to what the leadership of the Sierra Leone Anti-corruption Commission, describes as a good measure of political and presidential will to fight corruption. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine UK, the Commissioner-General, Francis Ben Kaifala, shares some of the gains recorded by the commission in the last four year, Excerpts.

For the past three years consistently, Sierra Leone has moved fifteen places upwards on the CPI, from 129 in 2018 to 115 in 2021. How was the government able to achieve this feat? What critical policies and reforms have supported this?

Leading the anti-corruption commission in any country is one of the most challenging jobs for a commissioner. So, the first thing is, that I have been very lucky. Because as I’ve always told Africa, because I also sit on the African advisory board on corruption; we have to separate the political will from the Presidential will. These two must be separated because you need a president who believes in the fight against corruption, is ready to lead the battle; and is prepared to serve as an example to ensure that you achieve it. And then you can go to the political will which is more about the Parliament, the judiciary, and the public and civil servants. So, one of the reasons why our story has been good and we have been able to change the trajectory in the

fight against corruption in Africa, is because we have a president who promised to fight corruption. When he was elected, he appointed me to lead the fight and provided the enabling environment which includes allowing me to introduce the reforms that could work; strong laws and also be able to implement them without interfering into the day-today work of the commission. So, it is a combination of many factors. We have done one of the most robust anti-corruption reforms in West Africa, the 2019 Anti-Corruption Amendment Act, which strengthened the fight against corruption. The Parliament had to be willing for that to happen, if not, it wouldn’t have passed. But you also have a situation where the people are genuinely fed up with how the country has been run. So, they rally behind the fight against corruption. So, four things, the presidential will, the political will, strong laws, and the people. Most importantly, the courage of those who are leading the fight.

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The private sector is a critical stakeholder in the fight against corruption and can play a crucial role in assisting the government with plugging leakages and tackling corruption. What is your agency doing to enlist the support of the private sector in the fight against corruption?

There are two sides to corruption: the demand side and the supply side. And the demand side is usually those in public office, the gatekeepers who are in charge of licenses, recruitments, policies, programmes, law reforms, and things that could favour the private sector. So, they are the ones who demand the supply. So, what we did was to engage both sides of that conversation, to understand that, there will always be the demand, but, when the supply is not there, the request has to subside. So that will mean they will have to live on more honest means, if you are not giving them the bribe. If you go for a license, for example, to the National Telecommunications Company, to apply for the 5g license, and you’re not willing to pay bribe, at the end of the day the country will not run without telecommunication. It’s just for you to hold out a little bit. But also, you have to know that we are your partners, we are partnering with you to ensure that there is a suitable environment for business and for success. So, bring it to our attention, we will be able to get the other guys to understand, hey, we are watching you and things that happen. But also, we are going to demonstrate to you that will mean business. So, the one or two examples, like people who are reported or things like that, if you see how brutally we deal with them within the framework of the law, you will be forced to have a rethink. So, it’s a combination of those conversations, the variety of the policies, and concrete actions taken to instill confidence into the system that it is not business as usual. And of course, there is a president who acts on it, he is ready to remove you from office if there is evidence that you engage in corruption. So that has built the confidence in the public and private sector. We have had a massive reduction in the prevalence of corruption in the country. Afrobarometer says corruption prevalence has reduced from 70% in 2017 to about 40% in 2020with is about 30% reduction in three years.

Some analysts have said that weak institutions are also primarily responsible for the near absence

of a robust and sustainable fight against corruption. How is Sierra Leone building strong institutions as a panacea for corruption in the country?

Yes, I agree. Although we need strong humans, to take care of the affairs of institutions. The institutions themselves have to be solid and robust, recognized by the government and the presidency. So, one of the things that have been happening a lot within the past four years is institutional strengthening through legal reforms, proper legal and regulatory framework, signing of memoranda, and preparing things that can make them work without necessarily depending on humans. There are a lot of reforms and strengthening that have been happening. And of course, capacity building. You need to recruit the right people who have the requisite experience. If the judiciary and the judges don’t have the backbones, to give decisions that are optimal, it will not work. So the government has been strengthening them. Other necessary reforms include ensuring that people are paid well or reasonably enough to do their work.

Some analysts have argued that it appears more attention has been placed on prosecutorial strategies rather than preventive strategies for corruption. What is the model in Sierra Leone?

In Sierra Leone, we have a model that combines four pillars. Our Anti-Corruption fight is built on four pillars, investigation, prosecution, public education, and prevention. They all work together without overemphasizing the other because all of them are important. And it is true many countries think and sometimes that is what

We conduct a lot of investigation, but we have not over-emphasised it because we understand that an ounce of prevention is better than tons of remedy. So, the real backbone of the fight against corruption is not prosecution, but, prevention. And that is what is working very well. We do a lot of nonconviction-based asset recovery,
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is regarded as the strongest point in fighting corruption; running after people, arresting them, and of course getting results in court. But that is what I call a typical fire brigade kind of fighting corruption; the house is already burning, and the ambulance is coming from five miles away, and before it gets to the destination, the house is already burnt down. But, the strong part of fighting corruption is prevention, which is like placing fire extinguishers at every corner. In Sierra Leone, for example, we do a lot of corruption risk assessments. We do what we call systems and processes review. We check systems. We also do a lot of public education and outreach even myself. That is why I’m very active on social media. People can reach me and i can reach them too directly. I can tweet things, I can put things on Facebook, I can put things on any platform that gets to them, so that they understand what is happening. So, in most countries, for example, in Nigeria, you will hardly see the head of the EFCC engaging the media, or generally engaging in public education. In Sierra Leone, we do a lot of that. I go right around the country and do town hall meetings. I do public lectures in almost every university in the country. I engage our team, and other level staff to do public education.

We have integrity management committees in every ministry, department, or agency, which is like a small ACC in every institution; including Statehouse here, they have an integrity management committee. Which is like a small anti-corruption commission within the Statehouse that points things out to them. So those are the fire extinguishers that we put in. Even though our prosecution rate is very high, our success rate in court is very high. And we do a lot of investigation, but we have not over-emphasized it because we understand that an ounce of prevention is better than tons of remedy. So, the real backbone of the fight against corruption is not prosecution, but, prevention. And that is what is working very well. we do a lot of non-conviction-based asset recovery, where people who are investigated find out if it is more optimal for us to go after the asset. We don’t have to go to the judiciary. If he took $1 million, we request for our $1 million to be returned. And the country was very unhappy with it. But by the time they saw the billions that we recovered in three years; they were more positive. We recovered in three years; twice what others recovered in 18 years.

So, for 18 years of the existence of the anticorruption commission, , we have recovered over $3 million in a short time, direct cash, not houses, vehicles, cars, or promises. This

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is direct physical cash from the corrupt, and we give it back to the government. So, return was when the country realised that this was a winning strategy. For example, in 2018, we got about 20 convictions in court. The combined fines were LL137m ($9.88m). That same year in one case alone, we recovered over $500,000. The combined cases were over $1.5 million. So, it sent the message. And that is why I believed in results. So, for example, I was the president of a network of anticorruption institutions in West Africa; I just handed over to EFCC Chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa of Nigeria, few weeks ago. And that is what I have been telling Africa, our approaches are the problem. We believe that all roads should lead to the judiciary. But we also know that the judiciary is the problem in Africa. So, the anti-graft institutions have to develop strategies around this. I am not saying that we should not emphasise going to court. We do a lot of going to court. But there’s more to fighting corruption than going to court.

Africa has to understand and accept this; I have these conversations often with leaders across different levels. Now, what? Well, of course, corruption is a crime against the past, the present, and the future generations chloramine eats up the future. In Sierra Leone, what has been achieved within a short time is because we devised a new strategy. We can try to quantify what this represents, what it has saved the country over the last four years. This helped to unlock wealth that would have gone into the corrupts’ pockets, but has been unlocked for the benefit of present and future generations of Sierra Leoneons? We collected getting on for $4 million from the corrupt, which, for a small country like ours, is huge. Because, these are funds that somebody took, we investigated, and established who took it, and we tell them to pay it back. Also, for the first time, we have government agencies returning unspent funds, because of the robust systems we put in place. If they cannot spend it, then, they don’t handle it, because they know somebody is watching.

It has saved the country billions of Leones. We have not done a direct data quantification of that amount, but we are sure it is huge amount of money. And another thing that has happened, projects are now completed. In the past, somebody is allocated money to build

a bridge, or road and they end up not doing it. The President has maintained a no-nonsense approach to project delivery. And that no-noses approach is implemented by our agency, because, we have the power and the determination to take action. It is helping the country to construct hospitals, roads, and bridges. In the past, people take these contracts and the monies. They divert these funds for personal use, but now, they know that there are direct and real consequences as a result of the stance of the President.

Every year, during international Anti-corruption day, President Bio addresses the nation on corruption. It does not happen everywhere in Africa. So, when you have a president do that every year, it is a reminder to all the citizens that this man is different.

we do a lot of corruption risk assessments. We do what we call systems and processes review. We check systems. We also do a lot of public education and outreach even myself. That is why I’m very active on social media. People can reach me and i can reach them too directly.
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Free Press, Digital Inclusion, as key to National Transformation –

The Sierra Leone example

Building a Free and Vibrant Media for national transformation

Let me put this into context. As a then-candidate, President Julius Maada Bio was the most criticised and maligned presidential candidate when he contested for the presidency in 2012 and 2018. He was ridiculed and characterised, but he insisted that the media has an important role to play in the national development efforts of the government. So, when we were putting together the New Direction Manifesto, he put media freedom at the heart and Centre of the programme by ensuring the repeal of the 55 years old criminal libel law; at the same time, it triggered the muchneeded investments in the media sector. During that time, we have several arguments. We maintained that once we repeal the laws and unshackle the media, we will bring the Sierra Leone law in line with 12 others, which were already in breach of international obligations. The other argument was that we would be able to attract the much-needed investments into the sector. The third argument was that we would be able to attract women to play a role in the media space. So, we catalogued these deliverables, and once he became President, we were charged with leading that initiative; I was able to build a coalition of the willing from the civil society, the media, the media reform Coordinating Group, Sierra

Leone Association of Journalists, and other stakeholders. We used a multistakeholder approach, and at the end of the day, we had an unrelenting political will, even though, across the country and in the cabinet, there were apprehensions, fears and concerns; but the President’s commitment was unwavering. So, I had to soldier on when we did the final repeal, and it enjoyed cross-party support in the legislature. So that’s the secret behind this. In 2021, we ranked 75th out of 180 countries; this year, in 2022, we leapt 29 places up, and we are now in the 45th position alongside other big countries with impressive media freedom. So, we are very proud of this. I must say that this is primarily due to the personal commitment of the President. He also believes in the available data that shows that progressive and prosperous countries do not have restrictive media laws.

As part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations following the end of the Sierra Leone Civil War, media freedom was raised as a critical issue. Some pointed out that this was part of the reasons for the war. So, there was a recommendation for the criminal libel laws to be repealed, but successive governments did not want to do it. A bold and audacious leader needed to undertake this task, someone with a larger-than-life vision. Beyond the TRC recommendations, successive

Hon. Mohamed Rahman Swaray, Minister of Information and Communication, Republic of Sierra Leone
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National Human Rights Commission reports have also cited that as anathema to a thriving democracy. Again, consecutive governments have come and gone; nobody did anything about it. It took the visionary leadership of President Bio to do it.

Supporting Media Business and Enterprise in Sierra Leone

So, we did not just repeal the law but also looked at the welfare of journalists. So, we introduced the Independent Media Commission Act 2020 quickly to address the fears and concerns of those who felt that with the repeal, there would be Amagadom. So, there are safeguards for practitioners and public members in the independent media commission act 2020. But more importantly, the act prescribes minimum codes of conduct for media practitioners.

And at the same time, basic minimum wage requirements for every media practitioner are the very first time it is happening in the country. Again, this is because President Bio believes people need to get living wages to be able to put their best foot forward in whatever career and professional, they find themselves. So, their employers contribute to the National Social Security benefits beyond just being paid living wages. Because we have a generation of very bright journalists, who are now aged, without any form of Social Security, the current practicing journalists will have social security benefits when they grow old. Recently, we organised the media investment and viability conference because we had promised the media to organise this important event during the repeal process.

My business was to bring it to fruition. So with support from the BBC media action, we could pull that off. And I’m happy to note that during this year’s World Press Freedom Day, Sierra Leone was the poster child of that conference. We were one of 17 countries that have now been asked to send proposals from our media outlets for funding from the international forum for Public Interest media. So, we are beginning to go places. Beyond the Independent and Public Media interest organisations, other organisations that work on media resilience or media viability and sustainability have also shown interest in the country. They are approaching us to see how we can work together.

A digitally inclusive Sierra Leone that leaves no one behind

The Ministry of Information and Communications is at the heart and Centre of ensuring that the President’s vision of digitally inclusive Sierra Leone comes to fruition. The President is a pan-Africanist. He’s always noted that Africa missed three industrial revolutions, and we must not miss out on the fourth industrial revolution. That is why under cluster

3.5, in the national development plan, the Minister of Information and Communications is charged with ensuring that we enhance the competitiveness of Sierra Leone using digital platforms. We have enacted all the enabling legislation that we should as a country, as a government, to bring greater predictability into the sector. We have reformed moribund laws. For example, we currently have in Parliament the electronic communications law. We have enacted the cybersecurity and crime bill, among several others, to ensure that we have the enabling environment for investments. The regulations will also help for predictability and also boost investor confidence. Beyond that, when His Excellency became President, one of the first trips to Asia and China was to give impetus to this vision. He was able to attract a $30 million concessionary loan at 1% interest rates to ensure that fibre is taken to the five remaining districts of the country. Again, as part of that same project, we are ensuring that all the councils in the 16 districts are connected so that it can bring efficiency. As part of the ongoing project, we are also metal rings in all regions to enable citizens to take these fibers to their homes. The project will significantly improve our digital footprints and index.

Again, when we took over, we enacted the universal access development as a regulation. We realise that mobile network operators are not working on taking services to places where the subscriber base is low; we have those who do not necessarily have the resources to buy big data and significant credits. So, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that in this digital era, we need to leave no one behind, particularly in areas like financial inclusion. As a response, the President put what is called the universal access Development Fund in place. That fund contributes 0.75% of every mobile network operator in the country before gross earnings. This is used to take digital ICT services to communities that could otherwise not be able to access these services. This is another way we ensure digital inclusion because we are taking the tough right decisions. The development partner sees us as honest, sincere and faithful to these commitments. The World Bank, which pulled out of Sierra Leone around 2014 because of how its funds were being managed, is happily back, following over two years of strategic engagement. We are currently doing a program, which is a $50 million grant for digital transformation. The grant ensures that we can transform how we do business. The government is supported to roll out the government services to ensure that we increase Internet access across the country. Our Ministry is doing much to ensure the actualisation of the President’s vision of promoting a digitally connected Sierra Leone.

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Sierra Leone: From Resource Curse to Resource Grace

As a resource-rich country, Sierra Leone, under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio, is making concerted efforts to move away from a resource curse to resource grace. The President’s unparalleled commitment to redistribute mineral resources for community and people development is yielding results and giving more to mineralbearing communities. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine UK, the Honorable Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Timothy Musa Kabba, talks about renewed government’s efforts to prioritise community and country development and promote transparency and accountability in the country’s extractive industries. Excerpts:

companies operate. In 2001, the first mining company that survived the war, Sierra rutile, came into

President Bio introduced the New Direction government in 2018, we had undertaken a significant

Hon. Timothy Musa Kabba, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Republic of Sierra Leone
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reforms by 2019. The country has recently introduced its first Mineral, Artisanal Mining, and Geo Data Management policy. These are novel policies for the country. And they informed the review of the existing mines and minerals act, consistent with the African mining vision and the ECOWAS mining protocol. Before President Bio formulated the policy, we held a nationwide consultation. It has been heralded as a progressive and competitive law that seeks to promote and protect the private sector’s interests and accentuate the people’s interests. The law has been reviewed and is before parliament for ratification.

Mining is one of the leading export sectors in the country. Since the start of the Bio-led Administration, what is the government doing to strengthen the policy, legal and regulatory frameworks to harness the full potential of the mines and minerals sector to attract credible and long-term investors?

The Mines & Mineral Act is the entire policy because it informs other regulations. There have been severe environmental issues and concerns. And for that, His Excellency has established the Ministry of Environment, which supervises the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the environment better while we extract our mineral resources. And so, there is a very effective environmental law. And also the contribution of the mining sector to the people directly. In the 2009 Mines and Minerals Act, 0.01% is allocated to the communities for direct community development. His Excellency’s leadership has now inspired a 1% freight on board of all solid minerals to be given directly to the communities. And that is very significant because governments take 3% royalty.

So, it means the community will have 33.3% of the equivalence of Royalty that goes to the community directly paid to the community for their development. And also, reports have shown that there is discrimination against women in the mining sector. And so, this new law has now catered for protecting women and all the vulnerable populations in the mining enclaves. And so that is a novel position. Perhaps it is only Law in West Africa that has a whole chapter that tends to protect and promote the interests of women in

mining. That is very significant. And also, diamonds from countries like Sierra Leone have always been associated with financing conflict elsewhere.

As members of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, EITI, we have taken a step ahead by making it incumbent on mining companies that all equity bearers with 5% and above must declare their beneficial ownership. That is, to enhance transparency and accountability in the sector, and public disclosure of ownership. And also, we have increased the contribution directly from the single Treasury account of what goes back to the communities after government obtains a 3% royalty from the companies. So 20% of the Royalty is ploughed back into the districts where the mines are located. That is also very significant. And we have also, for the very first time, put in the law 10% free carried interest for the state. Under the new Mines and Mineral Act of 2022, every company mining in Sierra Leone must give the government 10% Free carried interest in the concession. That is also very significant. Previously the government received nothing,

The government has strengthened the local content agency laws and policy to boost the participation of Sierra Leon businesses and expertise in the mining sector. We are at the moment pushing for 60/40 as our initial ambition because mining requires high tech. And it requires some special investment, knowledge and experience. It’s capital intensive; you don’t want to impose on the companies that they should give 60% of their labour to Sierra Leoneans when those skills are exceptional, and we may not have those skills in the country. We are trying to work with the companies for knowledge transfer, primarily recruiting women. Because we want women to be mainstreamed in the mining sector. Women have special skills, and we believe the mining sector requires finance, law and some of the legal issues in the industry.

We believe that women have the wherewithal to handle

Sierra Leone was known for its diamonds and rutile, but not bulk minerals such as iron ore and bauxite. So by 2009, iron ore became a very significant part of the inventory of minerals that we produce. We discovered about 12.8 billion metric tons of iron ore.
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that properly. And so, we want women’s participation in the mining sector to be top-notch. And also, we are reviewing the precious mineral trading aspect of the mining sector, and we are now studying the law to enable the government to get more revenue from the sales of minerals. And also, we are part of the Kimberley certification process, which means all diamonds and precious stones from Sierra Leone are certified. We are working with partners to strengthen the integrity of that process so that when diamonds and gold leave the shores of Sierra Leone, wherever they find themselves, people know they are not from the conflict zones. And we have also introduced the online portal system, where we make public disclosures of all contracts and their contents to the public. Because we want people to understand the importance of the mining sector, but also to dispel the asymmetry of information that had existed, that the mining sector is characteristically corrupt. We are trying to enhance transparency and accountability and to make the country’s mining sector a gold standard for the region.

Sierra Leone is blessed with abundant natural resources. How is the government harnessing these blessings for all Sierra Leoneans?

We have a perfect knowledge of our geology. And so this alludes to the information you’ve been getting from my colleague ministers and other stakeholders that Sierra Leone is endowed with a lot of mineral resources. That’s true. But having the proper legal and regulatory framework is essential. Because of the abundance of these minerals, there’s a tendency for corruption. There’s a tendency for general maladministration in the sense that we may not be able to secure what is required or what the people expect from our minerals. So we’ve enhanced our geological understanding of Sierra

Leone to put us in a better place for negotiating. And so we have secured a nationwide geophysical survey. And we also have the extractive industry Revenue Act, which has been administered by the Minister of Finance, which tends to regularize and stabilize the country’s fiscal regime to enable governments to derive much benefit from the mining sector in terms of taxes.

As you know, tax evasion and tax avoidance are widespread in the mining sector. So, to avoid that avoidance or evasion, we have brought in this single document, the extractive industry Revenue Act, which tends to stabilize all fiscal concessions. And that also tends to prevent discrimination in imposing taxes on companies. So I think the effort made has been very significant in the past four years. We have enacted that act, the extractive industry Revenue Act, and also the mines and mineral act. All of these reforms will tend to derive the most for the people of Sierra Leone.

Weak policies, corruption and instability have been described as the bane of resourcerich countries. How have the government managed some of the inherent challenges of natural resources?

When His Excellency the President took over the reins of power, he made it a priority to look at some of these contracts that had been issued. The review has improved the sector. For instance, the Iluka concession of Sierra Rutile; Iluka announced quite recently that it would demerge from the concession, stating two reasons. One, during the concession acquisition, some corrupt practices were suspected. And so that is why an asset acquired for over $250 million, after a year, was impaired to $50 million. It shows that when they acquired the asset, there was a lot of corruption in the sector. That is one of the reasons why the company was, in fact, in distress until the President’s intervention in that situation. He gave the company a concession to allow the company to sail through the difficulties of COVID-19. And also, I will tell you; perhaps I’ll go down in history as the poorest mines minister because we have raised the bar so high that everything we speak about is about the people, not personal. I always tell people I have no commercial relationship with

Gold is significant today, of course, for national reserves. And so, there are dozens of minerals revealed to us by this geophysical survey. But this is not the be-all and end-all. More work must be done, and we still need boots on the ground. And no survey can exclude standard geological exploration efforts.
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my boss. We’ve never talked about money. So the mindset under the Administration of His Excellency is not a cash cow for the government or political cronies. Now, we have allowed the mining companies to operate in a very Clement environment. We have increased the people’s benefits and participation in the mining sector. So I am satisfied that the leadership has created this transparent and accountable space to extract our minerals. I believe with the reforms and his administration, the mining sector is set to deliver a more fantastic deal of benefits to the country’s people.

What policies are in place to hold companies accountable for community development, especially for resource-rich areas of the country?

We have the community development committees, which draw their membership from the mining companies, local government, traditional stakeholders, and the Ministry of Mines and mineral resources. This multi-stakeholder committee is set up to implement projects and utilize funds allocated to these communities by the mining companies. Fortunately, His Excellency’s leadership has inspired the mining companies to respond

positively to community interventions and community development. Millions of dollars have been invested in education. Schools have been rapidly built in the country in response to His Excellency’s New Direction Agenda for human capital development. Health centres have been built all over the country. And some companies have volunteered to pay more than the statutory requirement for community development funds. And so what we’ve done is to strengthen these community development committees and work with the companies to ensure that the resources in these communities are appropriately utilized for community development. It will surprise you that some companies are constructing roads that government from the National Treasury cannot afford to construct. And they are building schools that the government cannot afford to make. Let me give you an example. In one of the remotest areas in this country in the Eastern Region, a particular exploration company responding to His Excellence call for human capital development built a $1.2 million school in the middle of nowhere. Eleven structures, with over 24 classrooms, are computerized with Solar power for the community. We recently opened another school in April by His Excellency, which also cost over $100,000. Health centres

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are coming up from everywhere in the country. But that’s not all.

I mean, if you look at the Royalty that comes to government, it may never be enough; that is why we are encouraging PPPs to achieve the complete participation of the state in the extraction of our natural resources. That is why we have started by requiring that companies give the government 10% Free carried interest. These 10% Free carried interest will now provide the government with extra revenue, and government has within the law the possibility of increasing its equity to 35%. We are also looking at working with the companies for mineral beneficiation. We believe we beneficiate our minerals, expand the value chain, and more Sierra Leoneans will participate in the mining sector. One company in the North, Marampa Mines, is adding value to iron ore. It has made the Marampa iron ore, the signature of iron ore of Sierra Leone, as it’s called the Marampa blue, for its premium 65 plus iron content in its iron ore product. So it’s; basically, the government is increasing its stake in the mining sector, improving people’s lives, and looking forward to the beneficiation of minerals to increase revenue and create more jobs for our folks.

The government launched its first nationwide Airborne Geophysical Survey Report in 2021; what does this mean for the country’s mining sector potential?

It means a lot because these geophysical surveys further revealed and substantiated the massive mineralization of the country. It has shown that our prior knowledge of this country’s endowment of iron ore is underrated. And so, the geophysical survey has now established the extension of the concessions and the deposits and revealed that Sierra Leone has untapped Kimberlite pipes and ducts. This is very important because Sierra Leone has always been known for diamonds, even though we have increased the number of large-scale mining companies extracting diamonds from Sierra Leone underground. This survey has shown us that we can bring in more companies because we have more potential. And it has also revealed to us the presence of rare earth metals.

The world is transitioning from fossil fuel to renewable energy, and rare earth metals play a significant role in the battery industry, which is the future of power. Sierra Leone is among the few nations in the world mining is endowed with these rare earth metals. So more work has to be done to enable us further to tap into these rare earth metals. The new Geosurvey

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are precious metals, I mean, rare earth metals that are of significant importance to the battery and renewable energy industries. And the geophysical survey result has also shown us that there is gold everywhere in this country, except for Freetown.

Gold is significant today, of course, for national reserves. And so, there are dozens of minerals revealed to us by this geophysical survey. But this is not the beall and end-all. More work must be done, and we still need boots on the ground. And no survey can exclude standard geological exploration efforts. But what it does is it minimizes the risk because the geologists already know that there is mineralization. So what we need to do are depth, quantity and quality. And so that has abbreviated the period of exploration. But what it does to us as a nation is that besides our knowledge of the mineralization, when we go to the table to negotiate, we negotiate from a solid position because we are very confident that we have the minerals. It’s a matter of small exploration work to make informed technical and economic decisions on the concessions. So this should be a glory to the President for championing this nationwide geophysical survey which has put Sierra Leone on the map and reduced the risk in the minerals

to you will be about the opportunities available. As you said, the GSLV has shown potential. Of course, it requires a lot of investment and people coming in to, you know, take up the offer.

Can you share with us, in a nutshell, some of the investment opportunities for those who descend investors who want to put their money in Sierra Leone in this sector?

First, we have created the enabling environment championed by the laudable reforms of the President. With the progressive reforms, we are now open to more investments in the sector. We have investment opportunities in diamonds, gold, rare earth metals, and mineral sands. Sierra Leone is also very much endowed with minerals such as Titanium oxide. Incidentally, we have 30% of the world’s purest reserve of Rutile. We also have Coal Tar, and all of these are minerals essential to the world’s energy transition. So there are a lot of concessions in the country that are free, that will require some little investment. The landscape, I mean, in terms of investment, is quite friendly. And the laws are working. The rule of law is supreme in Sierra Leone.

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Marampa Mines Raises The Bar For Iron Ore Production In Africa

Marampa Mines Limited (“MML” / “the Company”) in Sierra Leone is an iron ore mining company with 1.7 billion tonnes of resources grading 32% Fe. The Company extracts and beneficiates the ore to a 65% Fe high-grade iron ore concentrate branded Marampa BlueTM, and exports it globally. Having created thousands of jobs at the mine and making a positive impact on the local economy, MML has built a resilient project and is embarking on another major expansion program that will ensure lasting benefits for local communities and the country.

The Marampa mine surrounds Lunsar, the largest town in Port Loko District in Sierra Leone’s Northern province. Gerald Group (“Gerald”), the oldest and largest privately held global metals merchant, redesigned and upgraded the defunct mine and processing facility in 2018 to produce high-grade 65% Fe iron ore concentrate, branded Marampa BlueTM. The project was commissioned in January 2019 before shutting down in September 2019.

Taking a long-term view to investments and actively engaging with all stakeholders is part of Gerald’s approach to advancing its goal for a more sustainable metals

trade by delivering responsibly sourced metal to customers. It is in this context that in 2021, Gerald and the government of Sierra Leone (“the GoSL”) agreed on a new way forward for the Marampa mine. After 18 months of the mine being under Gerald’s care and maintenance, Marampa Mines Limited was created in May 2021, owned 90 percent by Gerald and the remaining 10 percent by the GoSL. An MLA was signed and ratified by Sierra Leone’s Parliament in December 2021. To date, over US$200 million has been invested in the Marampa project since Gerald’s involvement, including the recent 3.25 Mdtpa expansion project commissioned by President Bio.

Improving lives and economic opportunities

“Iron ore mining knows no shortcuts, and our commitment to Sierra Leone is to take iron ore grading 32% Fe and beneficent it in-country to our high grade 65% Fe iron ore concentrate, Marampa BlueTM. Our goal is to create a resilient and world class iron ore mine through continuous investment and improvement, access to sustainable energy and leveraging Gerald Group’s global

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capabilities,” said Craig Dean, Gerald Group’s Chairman and CEO. As for the local economy, “We have always had a very strong relationship with our host communities and want to ensure they have a share in the mine’s success,” Mr. Dean added.

Since the restart of mining last September, production of 65% Fe iron ore concentrate has ramped up and the number of employees has increased from 180 in May 2021 to over 2,000, including subcontractors. The restart is also having a large impact on local businesses and creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and vendors, increasing confidence and economic prospects in the region.

MML is also making a positive impact downstream as the energy transition is driving an increase in demand for high grade iron ore product, such as Marampa BlueTM, a key feedstock for steel mills looking to cut emissions and increase productivity. Combined with MML’s initiatives to reduce its own carbon footprint to contribute to a cleaner iron ore and steel supply chain, it is responding to increased demand from downstream users, and enhanced regulatory requirements from governments looking to deliver on ambitious global climate goals.

Investment and innovation to build resiliency

Last year, MML implemented for the first time in the mine’s history, a new

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streamlined export and marine logistics system that uses its private Thofeyim River Terminal (“TRT”) and allows loading of Capesize vessels from a transhipper vessel, the ‘TSVIO’. The logistics involves the haulage of product over 40 kilometers by road and marine transport using river ships over 70 kilometers to an offshore transshipment point at Freetown Harbour. The Company is also implementing the digitalisation of systems for MML’s finance, supply chain and maintenance functions, including mobile devices for staff and remote monitoring capabilities for plant operations and shipping to enhance efficiencies at the mine.

MML is expanding project output to 7 Mdtpa of Marampa Blue™ by the end of 2023 in an investment program of up to US$300 million with the support of Gerald Group. As production doubles, achieving economies of scale, it is anticipated that Gerald will be granted operational access to Pepel Rail and Port infrastructure, further reducing project costs, and improving overall efficiency as well as the project’s carbon footprint.

of energy in the country. This could in turn help to generate alternative, nonfossil fuel energy solutions to power host communities and spur regional development.

As per Gerald’s focus on gender diversity, MML’s early work on increasing the ratio of women in its workforce is paying off, with 17 percent women directly employed, and the Company’s objective being to grow this ratio further. MML is also focusing on maintaining and training a minimum 90 percent-strong Sierra Leonean workforce, even with the expansion underway. Finally, goods and services are procured locally as much as possible, strengthening local businesses and creating additional employments.

MML is also building a 70-hectare vegetable and livestock farm at the mine site, managed by Hawanatu Sam, a graduate in environmental studies who joined MML in September 2021 as Environmental Superintendent. MML Farm employs mostly women and will supply the project and beyond with locally produced foods, imparting locally critical farming skills and job mobility.

Partnership with a solid foundation and focus on growth

A comprehensive ESG action plan for sustainability

As MML operates and expands with Health, Safety and the Environment as a top priority, the Company is looking to improve its cost and sustainability position through a strong Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) program focused on key areas of climate change, gender diversity, investment in communities, and education.

On climate change, the Company is actively exploring options to access renewable or low carbon intensive sources

When President Bio visited the mine in May 2022, he shared his sense of hope and confidence in the continued success of Marampa Mines and for new inward investment in the country’s natural resources sectors, saying, “We will do everything necessary as a government to have a very healthy and open relationship with our investors, one that fosters goodwill, and from which investors can register healthy profits enabling reinvestment in the business.”

Having entered an exciting era of growth and partnership with the people of Sierra Leone, the government and MML are sharing a common purpose. Although operational challenges abound, the foundations are there for the project to make a substantial and lasting contribution to the GDP of the country, and its economic and social development. The result will be a new and much stronger position for Sierra Leone in the global iron ore market and the mining industry in general.

“We know that iron ore is a critical mineral for the energy transition. As a responsible miner, we are also building a road map to change how we operate from a traditional extractive sector company to the kind of sustainable mining company that we envision, one that generates long term value for all stakeholders,” Craig Dean, Gerald’s CEO.
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Transport Sector Snapshot – A conversation with Hon. Kabineh Kallon

Transportation is a critical contributor to economic growth and development. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine UK, the Minister of Transportation and Aviation, Kabineh Kallon, he talks about the Bio-led administration’s agenda towards repositioning the sector for efficiency and greater services delivery. Excerpts.

The Bio-led government has now been in office for four years. You have been at the helm of the transport ministry for four years as well. As we talk about a new direction, what are some of the key reforms instituted so far that differentiates this Ministry of Transport and Aviation from that of the previous government?

The Ministry of Transport and Aviation’s mission is to develop policies and provide policy guidelines for delivery of safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable Maritime, Land transportation and aviation systems throughout the Republic of Sierra Leone.

For key reforms instituted by His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio’s administration, I will start at the institutional level. At the ministry, there had never been a technical wing. What that means is that there had never been professionals in the ministry who were responsible for policy conceptualization and operationalization into workable programs and projects. The ministry was limited to mostly procurement of vehicles for government officials. It also means that only civil servants were at the ministry. These civil servants constantly move. And when they move, they move with their knowledge and institutional memory.

The first thing we did when I came here was to establish a professional wing staffed with professional transport engineers, transport economists, and project management professionals. This team is responsible for research, policy development and implementation, and project management.

Within the mandates of this team, we have developed a performance tracking system for all agencies within the ministry. We are now able to talk about any project undertaken by any of the agencies, we can better monitor their performances, and better coordinate their activities across the ministry.

Second, because of this team, we just validated a National Transport Sector Policy that I will soon take to cabinet and parliament. This Policy sets the agenda for the next five years for the ministry and it covers all the three modes of movement. Instead of waiting for development partners and/or private investors, with this policy, we will have well developed specific projects and programs that fits into the national development strategy.

Third, we have expanded the way we manage government vehicles beyond just procurement. We have passed a Fleet Management Policy aiming at improving the way public vehicles are used.

Hon. Kabineh Kallon, Minister of Transport and Aviation, Republic of Sierra Leone
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with requisition of vehicles to disposal of completely worn-out vehicles. As part of this Fleet Management Policy, we have also established a vehicle loan scheme for public workers. Instead of government buying vehicles for employees, we are giving or guaranteeing a loan to the employees to buy their own vehicles. Because they use those vehicles to do the government’s job, we subsidize them by paying for half the procurement cost. All other costs are borne by the employee. Since we launched the program eight months ago, we have saved government Le 2.5 billion in procurement costs, and over Le 2 billion in maintenance and lubricant costs.

We have also institutionalized a yearly workshop that brings the entire ministry together including all agencies within the ministry. In these workshops, annual work plans are developed. This ensures ownership of the work plan by the agencies, and synchronization of the ministry’s activities.

This ministry of Transport and Aviation is different, in a good way, from that of the previous government.

The movement of goods and of people is quintessential for economic growth. There is international movement, and

Sierra Leone, most movements of cargo, and of people are via road transportation. Starting transportation within Freetown and other cities, what steps, under your leadership has this ministry taken to improve the movement of people and cargo? How about intercity movement? And even rural connectivity to urban markets?

I agree with you that this ministry is the heart and the veins of the economy. The survival and growth of the economy depends on how effectively and efficiently goods and people move within the country and internationally.

Let’s start with Urban mobility. About 500,000 people move into and out of the capital city Freetown daily. This is done on mostly mini-buses that we call locally as “poda poda”, on motorbikes, and on motor trikes. This industry is very unstructured, and informal. We recognize that people spend up to an hour where they should spend maybe less than half that time. And we also recognize that the available modes of transportation are insufficient. So, we have four problems. Firstly, a very informal and unstructured public transport system; secondly, an insufficient number of public transport facilities; thirdly, poor quality of the existing ones; and fourthly, huge traffic congestion on our roads leading to the city.

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To address these problems, this ministry together with a development partner, is implementing a project entirely focused on urban mobility. First, we are reforming the entire public transportation system. We are removing government from service provision to public service regulation. This regulator will define routes, give operating licenses to transport services providers on specific routes, and coordinate providers to ensure that no route is left unserved, and no route is congested. To address the supply shortages, the government is procuring 280 high-capacity buses to put on our city roads. About 30 is already enroute to Freetown and orders have been placed for 50 more. We are in negotiation for 200 more from private financiers on a public-private partnership (PPP) model. Funding for 100 high-capacity buses is already achieved. These buses will be given to private operators to operate under the supervision of the regulator. This means that the sector must be transformed to a semi-formal or a formal one.

We recognize that this reorganization will unsettle the market and drivers could be nervous that they will lose their jobs. That’s why we are organizing the very

drivers into cooperatives and the buses will be given to these cooperatives. These cooperatives will be assigned routes and they will have monopoly over those routes. During peak periods, priority will be given to these buses. They will have a dedicated lane, and they will operate on fix schedules. We are going to have enough buses to ensure that there is a departure at every bus terminal every 15 minutes during peak periods.

Private bus operators will also be able to operate but within these cooperatives. These privately procured buses will be subjected to minimum standards to ensure quality and safety.

To mitigate traffic, within the same Sierra Leone Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility (IRUMP) Project, some civil works are currently being done at key intersections. These includes building market spaces for traders that occupy important road intersections, foot bridges for pedestrians and so much more. If you pass through key streets like Sani Abacha Street for instance, the congestion is caused entirely by people. These reforms will ease such congestions.

What we are doing in Freetown is a pilot for the entire country.

On inter-city connectivity, we are in the process of inviting private operators to start providing bus services. Like I said earlier, we will define the routes and bundle some routes so that all routes can be served, not only those routes that drivers see as profitable.

Let’s talk about road safety. Several factors contribute to road safety perils and hazards. In his campaign manifesto, the President identified road safety as a major strategic objective. Under your watch, please outline some of the key policies and strategies undertaken so far to address road safety. Specifically, what have you done to mitigate adverse road safety incidents both in cities and on highways?

Improved safety on our roads is indeed a manifesto promise.

The Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA) is the agency within the ministry that enforces safety laws and collects safety related data. Last year, the agency

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recorded a total of 2439 crashes. Of this number, half were due to vehicles unworthy to be on our roads. Breakdowns resulting in stationary vehicles along the highways is a major safety peril. To address this, we have contracted a globally renowned vehicle inspection company to regularly inspect vehicles for road worthiness. They are currently constructing their testing facilities all around the country and will start operations by September this year. All vehicles, especially trucks will be subjected to regular inspections, and if a vehicle is found unworthy, that vehicle will not be licensed to operate.

We have also embarked on intense driver education. A major reason for accidents, and for congestions is drivers not following traffic rules. In fact, I declared this month as safety month, and there is a safety hour on TV and radio stations where our staff regularly discuss safety matters.

We have also established a first ever in the country all automobile training schools for drivers and university students. This is a PPP partnership with AFP.

We have constructed an ultra-modern garage providing services including Spraying, repairs and maintenance, Sales of genuine spare parts.

Within the IRUMP project I referenced earlier, we are reintroducing signalization at our intersections. Very soon, we will see traffic lights at four intersections and many more will follow. This we hope will introduce some sanity on our city roads.

Also, within the IRUMP project, we have awarded a contract for the designing and building of four pedestrian footbridges geared towards enhancing pedestrian safety

The SLRSA as we speak, are enforcing speed limits on our trunk roads especially along areas of human settlements. The SLRSA has sign an MOU with the SLRA for identifying areas prone to accidents for corrective measures. The SLRSA will also be involved, going forward, in designing roads to include traffic safety measures.

We have just made it a policy to establish a first response team at the SLRSA. This team will be equipped with Ambulances and all other first response gadgets as well as emergency medical professionals. They will be stationed along the highways and in the cities.

Let’s move on to international transportation starting with the aviation industry. What are some of the remarkable changes that have occurred within this industry under your leadership as the Honorable Minister of Transport and Aviation? How has or will these changes affect airlines and air travelers? What are the specific effects on the country or the economy?

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented and slowed the economic development progress of governments worldwide. In spite of this, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio’s government has made great advances in the Transport and Aviation Sector.

We have created a lot of reforms in the aviation industry since taking over the reins of governance in 2018 both in infrastructure and policy. On the latter, we reviewed and amended the omnibus Civil Aviation Act in 2019. The amended Civil Aviation Act of 2019 establishes the legal basis for the implementation of Aviation safety and security standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). This enabled the Republic of Sierra Leone to improve on her aviation security ratings from 64% to 71.6%, which is beyond the regional average of 65%. In addition, we were able to get airport council international (ACI) to conduct a safety assessment on the Freetown International Airport Lungi with a bid to improve the level of airport safety and compliance with ICAO standards and recommended practices and also help the nation prepare for the certification of the Freetown International Airport.

Additionally, my Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority in partnership with International Civil Aviation Organisation launched the Safe Fund Project in May 2019, aimed at assisting the country to resolve its aviation safety deficiencies and strengthen its oversight capabilities in a sustainable manner.

In the same vein, in October 2019, I presented two protocols and one

We have also established a first ever in the country all automobile training schools for drivers and university students. This is a PPP partnership with AFP.
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convention that were ratified by Parliament to the ICAO Secretary General for the development of international civil aviation and the enhancement of Civil Aviation in Sierra Leone.

Domestically, our Ministry was able to persuade the government to remove GST on all aviation charges in an effort to make air transport more affordable and accessible to all Sierra Leoneans. We secured private funding from the SUMMA group to transform the Freetown National Airport into a modern International Airport. This transformation if underway and is about 40% ready, but it will be completed under His Excellency’s first mandate.

We have also improved the connectivity of Freetown to the outside world by having additional air liner carriers to Sierra Leone. Very soon, an Air Sierra Leone will be in the skies.

These changes in the aviation sector has come with great achievements including improved security for the airlines, certification meaning the airport can attract more airlines bringing the costs of travel down, tourism will most definitely improve, creating income for the people of Sierra Leone.

The beauty of this city is the fact that it lies between a mountain and the sea. But that means there is not a suitable space for an airport in the city. So, we have the airport on the other side of the Sierra Leone River. This presents a huge burden for international travelers. Besides the risks, it costs USD 40 to cross the water now. What have you done to remedy this situation? Do you have any plans at work?

Two ferries (MV Mahera and Bai Bureh) were rehabilitated to ensure quality

and safety of ferry services to various destination.

We have signed a contract with Negma, a Turkish company to provide four ferries on a PPP arrangement. As we speak, they are in town putting their team together. They are bringing state-of-the-art, double ended ferries for this operation.

Sierra Leone’s economy largely depends on imports. And like all over the world, over 90% of all of Sierra Leone’s imports come by sea. That means maritime transport is very strategic to economic development. What are some of the key reforms undertaken under your leadership that aims at improving the maritime sector?

On the policy front, we have domesticated the International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention relating to sea fearers. This is the first of such international laws being domesticated in Sierra Leone. This ratification has removed several barriers in regulating the maritime industry. We will now be able to train sea fearers and create employment for them. This will improve our image as open registry.

Also, for the first time since 2005, Sierra Leone passed the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) audit. This achievement has prevented our only multipurpose seaport to be written at the Advisory List of the ISPS as one of the unsafe and insecure seaports. So, we have avoided, eventually being blacklisted by the international community.

Also, we have erected a new berth, length 275 meters, at the Freetown port. The potential benefits of this include 25% increase in cargo; 20% increase in vessel calls; and 50% increase in handling capability

There is limited inland water transportation. However, this is one of the riskiest modes of transport in the country because of their very informal structure. What have you done to improve maritime safety in inland water transportation?

The Sierra Leone Maritime Authority (SLMA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Aviation distributed five

These changes in the aviation sector has come with great achievements including improved security for the airlines, certification meaning the airport can attract more airlines bringing the costs of travel down, tourism will most definitely improve, creating income for the people of Sierra Leone.
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thousand (5000) solas type-approved life jackets free of cost to the riverine districts of Sierra Leone. This has helped saved about 500 lives yearly since the distribution of the life jackets to the communities.

To improve safety at the Tagrin Ferry terminal, the ministry undertook improvement works on the terminal’s waiting hall to meet customer’s need.

The Administration has secured five Zodiac Search and Rescue Boats to serve the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration. The Search and Rescue Operations is now with a modernised state-of-the-art Radio Communication system that covers the entire country's terminal stations, including coverage on the Search and Rescue Boats. We have established the first ever Search and Rescue Centre and Regional Headquarter in Bonthe, a coastal town in the southern Province of the Republic of Sierra Leone

Let’s talk about private sector participation in the transport sector. How and where do you see private sector participants in the areas within your ministry? What are some of the investment opportunities available to the private sector?

It is a hall mark of this ministry that the private sector should be involve in all aspects of transport operations ranging from design of transport infrastructure to running of motorbikes. As I said earlier, public transport operations will be done entirely by the private sector. This will include the construction of the bus terminals and operating the buses themselves. There is heightened demand for bus services with very little buses available. This presents good opportunities for the private sector to invest in the industry. We need alternative transportation mode in and around Freetown.

The government is poised to cooperate with any private investor who would want to invest in such ventures. There is need for alternative transportation to our hinterlands especially by water. The government is looking at reintroducing the railway transportation. These are all areas where private participation is germane.

Mr. Minister, you and I agree that this is work in progress. If given the opportunity, where will this ministry take the country to in the next 3 to 5 years?

We have just completed a Transport Policy. In that policy, we highlighted several of the things we want to achieve within the next five years. I will highlight some for you.

• A Freetown with a robust and resilient public transport system fully operational by private individuals and running on strict schedules on dedicated lanes.

• A decongested downtown due to majority of the populace using public buses.

• A coastal water transportation ferrying people around the Freetown Peninsula, from Waterloo to as far as Number 2.

• A National airline improving intra-regional and international connectivity.

• A first response system for road transportation.

• A ferry to and from Lungi every 15 minutes.

• A modern Lungi international airport

We have made significant headways on some of these projects and initiatives. These promises will fully be achieved in the next three to five years under the leadership of His Excellency The President.

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DSTI: Shaping the space for Digital Play in Sierra Leone

As the ongoing digital revolution is transforming economies and driving innovation across all economic sectors, Sierra Leone appears to be firing-on-all cylinders towards achieving IT-enabled development in the country. The Julius Maada Bio presidency is digitally transforming all elements of the continent’s economy – from education to healthcare, agriculture to telecommunications; the government is deploying innovative solutions and inclusive finance strategies.

For the country to achieve its full potential, the Director and Chief Operating Officer of the country’s Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, DSTI, Michala Mackay, has said that the agency is committed to supporting the New Direction Agenda of the President toward using Science and Technology to underpin development in the

“What we have done primarily as an agency is to serve as the hub for the public and private sector agencies in the country; to see what solutions can be deployed to make lives and livelihood better for our people,” She

The agency had also retooled its strategies to align with the government’s overarching objective, which is human capital development.

According to Mackay, “Early learners are a focal point for development in any country, especially developing country like Sierra Leone. So it was important for us under the human capital development incubator that we hold at the DSTI to see what interventions we can come up with to improve literacy and numeracy skills.”

Before the commencement of the intervention, the DSTI working with the partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had to undertake a baseline survey to identify and map the prevailing issues in the country.

“So out of 340 schools that participated in the baseline survey, it was nothing to show for the many years of investment,” she added.

With the full support of the President, the DSTI is gradually unlocking the innate potential of the country’s young people. The agency empowers the country’s young people with the necessary digital competencies.

According to Mackay, “we are working with five local services that came up with different interventions under the education innovation challenge with different teaching models were brought to grad school.”

Continuing, she stated, “the interesting thing is that even though we were hit with COVID, it did not stall the interventions because us an opportunity to adopt other means of teaching.”

“For instance, we used the radio to keep our children in the learning space and ensure that they don’t miss their exams. Because we wanted to see what these interventions may have changed, we did a midline survey after 18 months into the project, and it was interesting to see an impact – which was an improvement in the reading and numeracy skills, especially of the girls and the boys alike, she maintained”

Little is written about Africa’s role when you consider the historiography of the internet and digital innovation. Although illiteracy among adults

Michala Mackay, Director and Chief Operating Officer, Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), Republic of Sierra Leone
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in sub-Saharan Africa was 34.7% in 2019, innovation on the continent has taken different forms thanks to the richness of its culture and lifestyle. Africa’s computing history dates back to 1921, when South Africa took delivery of its first tabulating equipment from the then ComputingTabulating-Recording Company which later became IBM. Subsequently, several units were deployed to the country, and by 1959 IBM installed the first actual data processing system in Johannesburg. A few years later, The Africa Centre d’Informatique du Rwanda received Africa’s first computer in 1980. This paved the way for internet adoption.

Today, Sierra Leone is fast becoming the ideating hub for innovative ideas and concepts in the continent. From Drone interventions in health and Agriculture to internet-enabled services that solve daily problems, the country is set to lead in the digital space.

In line with the country’s push to maintain its place in the digital space, the President, on his recent trip to Vietnam, signed a partnership deal with the country’s largest ICT service provider to support its digital economy.

While counting the gains of such partnership, Ms Mackay maintained, “Firstly, we have to take cognizance of the fact that we are limited with a human resource. And if you have partners with more experience than you do to provide the relevant technical support, then there is always a plus going into these kinds of partnerships. It also allows you not to make mistakes others have made because they have more expertise and experience than you do and must have made more mistakes that you can learn from.”

“Partnerships of this nature also help keep you focused because while there’s a lot that is on the to-do list, you only have so much capacity. So working with that kind of expertise, you can focus and distil the services.”

“How do we use tech to support agriculture, food on the table? How do we use tech to support education, building, and human capital development? And most importantly, how can we use tech to support innovation in health? Of course, when you look at Sierra Leone’s neonatal and mortality rate, we must sit down as a country and see how can we use innovation and technology to means to ensure not only that we track our pregnant women, for instance, in the country, but also be able to monitor the medical services that have been offered to them throughout the

given to the children from the point of birth to age five, she averred”

While maintaining that technology is no longer an option but a must, Ms Mackay, highlights the agency’s contribution to promoting deeper IT penetration in the country.

In her own words, “If you look at the data, most of the population in Sierra Leone over 60% are youth right and of that number, 50%, a non lettered. So digital skills are important for our people. So what we are doing from the Directorate is to partner with other institutions like UNICEF and other partners to see how we can create digital learning hubs across the country. The hubs are safe spaces, where you can go and have access to free digital services, but, not for random internet surfing, but, to be able to learn to improve on your digital skills.”

Continuing, she added, “these hubs also provide past exam question materials for potential students; you do a real-time test after studying these questions. Also, we have created the centres so that you have YouTube; for instance, I want to go into construction. We want them to go to these learning centres and access courses online that will teach them the fundamentals of construction or other skills they want to develop. But of course, support them with facilitating workshops, practical sessions.”

Today, Africa’s mobile service subscription figures are skyrocketing. Sub-Saharan Africa’s six hundred fifteen million users are expected to subscribe to mobile services by 2025. Sierra Leone is preparing its people to lead the continent as it races to retain a sizable share of space in the global scheme of things in the journey to the 4th industrial revolution.

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We are promoting Access and Green investments in the Energy Sector

As Africa looks to play a leading role in the global energy systems transition to a netzero future, Sierra Leone appears ready to shape the conversation as it leverages its vast hydro and LNG potentials to promote energy access in the country. In this exclusive interview with the Honorable Minister of Energy, Alhaji Kanja Sesay, he shares some of

reason why they were taken away from the parent ministry, to make them semi-independent bodies. And then you have the Regulatory Commission. The EWRC, as the

projects in the pipeline to achieve this target. By October this year, we should be able to connect the Western Area generation project,

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which we have completed with support from DFC, an 83 megawatts addition to our installed capacity. And then we are almost concluding negotiations for another investment, which is about 160 megawatts. And then another project, a 28 megawatts hydro project, is reaching financial closure in the next few months. Then we have the Bumbuna phase 2 because we had completed Bumbuna phase 1, which is 50 megawatts at its peak and about eight megawatts in the dry season. We want to increase that by 143 megawatts. And hopefully, by the end of this year, 2022, we should be able to secure funding for that. So when you add all of those definitely will exceed 350 By the end of 2023.

Investments in Green Energy?

The President has consistently talked about green investments in the energy sector. It is the way we want to go. The government is encouraging more investment in green energy because that is the way to go. Right now, unfortunately, our two primary sources of supply, especially here in the western area, are Fossils and HFO. And then in Bumbuna, we have the hydro, which is environmentally friendly. So that’s a good mix. But we are moving towards increasingly going green when it comes to energy. So we are encouraged to invest in solar, hydro and LNG. The Western Area project I told you about earlier is LNG based. So it’s Green. You also look at the hydro project, the Becombo, which is a massive hydro project. The Bumbuna phase 2 project is also a hydro project. That is the way we are going. And this is what we are encouraging to the point that when investors come to us and propose what he wants to do, if you come to me and talk about HFO or dieselbased generation, I will tell you that is not where we are going as a country. I will also clarify that we will refer you to direct your investment to the green sectors, like solar, hydro and LNG. There is a lot of appetite for mini-grids. And the objective here is the fact that we have a fragile network throughout the country. President Bio says we cannot wait until the entire country is networked. While we are waiting for those remote areas of the country that do not have access to the primary grid right now, let’s give them isolated solar sensors. And this is now driving the appetite for minigrids all over the country. Very soon, we will increase investments in these areas because, as evidenced by a recent study done by the USDA, it shows that we have about 500 potential mini-grid sites across the country. And we’re now looking for funding for all

of those. So that while we are waiting to connect people to the National grid, we can now provide electricity in the short term to those places.

When we took over many of the districts, many of the 16 communities in the country did not have electricity. President Bio immediately said that was not acceptable and that we must find a way to solve the problem. And therefore, he gave instructions to the Minister of Finance and I to look for funds wherever we can to ensure that we provide electricity for them. So one of his flagship programs, which he encouraged us to do, is the electrification of seven district headquarters towns, which did not have the basic electricity infrastructure. That is to say; when you talk about electricity, it has two components transmission lines and generation. Before you talk about generation, you have to talk about the transportation of the energy itself, and they did not have even that basic infrastructure. So we’ve looked for money using government resources, and today we have networked those seven towns. We have almost completed the networking of those towns and will start to look at the generation component very soon.

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Zoodlabs: Pioneering Innovative Investment Strategies In Sierra Leone

Operators build infrastructure with a view to improve and expand services. In Africa, however, there has been a tendency due to traditional business modeling for them to then use this infrastructure as leverage to secure competitive advantage and to exclude and deter smaller players. This is a great model for the operators, but it hurts the country and ultimately the end user. Furthermore like all of us in the sector, mobile operators have to stick to mobility and concentrate on their core business.

We have taken a very different approach. Our mission is to help connect millions of people in Africa through the best internet connections possible. Our mandate from the government of Sierra Leone is to expand connectivity and affordability in the country.

To do this we have had to build a whole new infrastructure system, which I like to call a new “middle layer”.

Previously all the operators in Sierra Leone were working with a

transmission capacity of 20 gigs. We have built an “open access” transmission and distribution fiber network with a transmission capacity of 350 gigs. This allows anyone to offer internet connectivity to homes and offices, cheaper, faster and more reliably.

Achieving this has not been easy. The easy way would have been to come here, enjoy the businessfriendly environment, make almost zero investment in capital equipment and be up and running in days rather than the months our investment has taken. But we knew we had a better way of delivering the service and we were committed to delivering on that possibility so we have taken the harder but more long-term route.

Sierra Leone is an interesting place: greenfield and filled with opportunities and amazing people. What I believe was perhaps lacking in the past though was the will to change and improve the lives for ordinary citizens.

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We now though have an administration that is determined to change the status quo. Seeing this, and having experienced the business environment firsthand in the nineties and then in the 2000’s from a far, decided this was the right time to begin investing here.

This is now our second year of operating in Sierra Leone and we have successfully bankrolled two major infrastructure brands: www.ZoodLabs.com and www.metrocable.io. Sierra Leone has enormous growth potential .There is plenty of talent and people eager to learn and upscale themselves, and the government has positioned the right framework to attract authentic businesses and investment opportunities that are impact-oriented and will have a positive effect on the country.

Its step to privatize the operations of the marine landing station in the country, for example, was a laudable signature statement that technology, innovation and human capital development are at the heart of President Bio’s administration. Previously, the government here had been at the center stage of operationalizing service delivery. But President Bio’s administration is taking a completely different approach by encouraging private sector-led delivery. This is rapidly attracting private sector participation and investment in areas such as fin-tech, Agro-tech, e-health care, e-education, real-estate, water and sanitation and the domestic production of fast-moving consumer goods.

The Sierra Leone market is on a path to rapid transformation and it really feels that the country’s time is now. The President and his leadership are steering the investment climate in the right direction. This is exactly what you need to effect real impact: a willing investor, an open-minded administration and a socially-aware business direction. There are few places left in the world that are like Sierra Leone, where you can develop a sustainable business model that will achieve the profit point goal line and create impact at the same time.

Having the right infrastructure is key for any country. To move a country forward you need electricity, clean water for all and - almost just as importantly in this day and age - accessibility to affordable and reliable internet connectivity. Currently in Sierra Leone 18% of the population has

access to the internet but 80% of these users are consuming data and information on hand-held devices. This is an amazing leap forward and the mobile companies have done an Steller job achieving this. However that’s not enough for the country, and particularly businesses, to develop and expand.

I am certain that with the commitment of the government of Sierra Leone in building a solid private sector-led economy, and in creating the launchpad to start converting the opportunities that

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the 4th industrial revolution is presenting, our investment vehicles are now helping set the stage to accelerate Sierra Leone’s national digital transformation agenda.

We as an organization build and operate one of the largest state of the art FTTx networks in this part of the world. Transmission through fiber is faster, more reliable and cheaper. This is what will drive more penetration and give access to more citizens to learn, play and be entertained. It will also aid access to young people to online learning. It is one of our most important beliefs that where you are born should not be the determining factor on what you can do with your life. Access to learning is key to any society’s growth and providing access to affordable and reliable internet connectivity is an important part of helping deliver that.

Through a solid public-private partnership, ZoodLabs signed a 15-year agreement with the government to operate and commercialize the only subsea cable infrastructure in the country. In the first 18 months of our operations here, the business has optimized the sub-sea infrastructure to align with the global operating standards. The infrastructure capacity has already been increased from 80G to 500G with a 100% uptime in the last 12 months and counting.

Today, we have also invested in the deployment of the largest privately-owned fiber-optic network in the country. This is a state of the art 750 kilometre transmission and distribution network increasing broadband access to 70% of the Freetown’s urban and rural communities for the first time in the history of Sierra Leone.

We view our partnership with the government of Sierra Leone as a strong

example of exactly how Sierra Leone is now ready and open for business. Since the start of our market roll out, our brands have created hundreds of direct and indirect job opportunities for professionals in the technology and engineering communities. We also employed a solid outsourcing model to enable other businesses in our ecosystem to capitalize on the growth opportunities.

And we have sought to do this in a way to achieve this in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable way. Our decision to deploy a full green multi-tenancy fiber-broadband infrastructure in Sierra Leone will save the environment approximately 350 tons of co2 emissions per year. Together with our partners – Cross-Boundary, USAID, the Shell Foundation, Powerhive, and Netis – we have also allocated more than $2,000,000 in capital investment to produce captive renewable energy of up to 1.2 megawatts, making our submarine fiber optic and metro infrastructure the first fully green network in the sub-region. This is the largest privately-funded sustainability project in Sierra Leone and it is something I am very proud of.

In the next 24 months, we will achieve 100% Fiber Broadband coverage in Freetown’s rural and urban communities, with a longterm view to expanding our infrastructure in more communities in Sierra Leone and the sub-region. We would like to wake up one day and proudly say our partnership has resulted in 90% penetration and access to the information highway for the country.

The result for Sierra Leone and its economy will be dramatic. More people will have affordable fixed connections in the next three years than they have in the last 10 –with the key word being affordable. This will help facilitate entrepreneurship and also will lead to a sense in the country that finally “we are on par with the rest of the world”, which I am confident will be infectious and will in itself help drive confidence and innovation.

Sierra Leone is ready and looking for the right and authentic investment opportunities to harness the potential of this hidden paradise. I am proud and delighted that we are part of the transformation that is happening in this country and excited by all the opportunities the following years will bring. I am optimistic that we will impact many lives, and be a company that helps change the future of Sierra Leonians significantly for the better.

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Sierra Leone: Glitz and Green of the Lion Mountain

Sierra Leone is gradually becoming the continent’s best tourism destination. Home to rare birds and threatened species such as the pygmy hippopotamus, Diana monkey and chimpanzees, Sierra Leone rainforests and tiny exotic islands attract eco-tourists and sports fishers.

The unique beaches have become a prime attraction, with white, sandy beaches and safe seas that are calm, clear and warm to swim in.

Sierra Leone is also closer to Europe than other more developed beach destinations, such as the Caribbean, the Maldives and Mauritius, and in the same time zone.

The country is looking to compete with other west African tourism destinations, owing to quality leadership and strategic marketing.

Sierra Leone’s tourism potential remains largely untapped. The diverse ecosystem offers attractive white sandy beaches, a tropical forest, scenic mountains, and exciting wildlife. There are also historic islands with a wide range of activities, including swimming, bird watching, fishing, and hiking.

The decade-long civil war (1991-2002) impacted the tourism sector and destroyed valuable infrastructure. With the ensuing peace, stability, and purposeful leadership, the industry has been experiencing consistent annual growth averaging 28 per cent. However, international arrivals declined significantly with the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in 2014. Nevertheless, the sector quickly rebounded when the country was declared Ebola-free in 2016, and arrivals increased by more than 500 per cent in 2018.

Opportunities exist to stimulate and attract investment in this sector. Having identified tourism as one of the diversifying growth sectors alongside agriculture and fisheries, the government formulated a national tourism policy and a national ecotourism policy to serve as blueprints for the sector’s sustainable

development and seeks to attract 20,000 international and 30,000 domestic ecotourism visits by 2025. The government now provides visas on arrival and has reviewed the high costs of travelling to the country. The airport infrastructure has been upgraded, arrival facilities expanded, and security improved. The private sector could engage in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing hotels and the construction of new large-scale hotels, both in the beach areas and the tropical forests. The overall government objective is to increase revenue and jobs from tourism by promoting the country’s international image and cultural heritage, improving the policy and legal environment, developing historic sites, skills and infrastructure, promoting marketing, diversifying tourism products, and attracting investors into the sector.

The tourism industry has significant potential for growth as the country showcases its tourist sites and natural resources. Building human capacity in the tourism and hospitality industry provides prospects for investment in this sector.

Opportunities

Companies can invest in building resorts, hotels, and restaurants along the stretch of white sand beaches and providing tourism services, including touring, sport fishing, bird watching, and hiking.

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Harnessing Sierra Leone’s Tourism Potentials

Behind Sierra Leone’s 400-kilometre coastlines, immense natural, cultural, and historical tourism resources are strategic and deliberate government policies to promote sustainable investments in tourism. The country’s vast tourism potential has been left unharnessed and under-tapped, but president Julius Maada Bio’s administration is changing the narrative.

Sierra Leone is immensely endowed with natural beauty and an abundance of natural resources. From rich history and heritage to wildlife and natural beauty, there is a huge potential for tourism to contribute to sustainable economic development. What is your Ministry doing to promote tourism in Sierra Leone?

Indeed, Sierra Leone is very much outstanding in its natural endowment with more than 400 kilometers of coastline with high potentials for tourism development. The coastal areas hold significant rich heritage in terms of history. Sierra Leone played a significant role in the abolition of slave trade serving as the first free settlement for freed slave, hence our city is called FREETOWN. Our religious tolerance is second to none and there are countless inter-marriages across the Country.

Additionally, Sierra Leone boasts diverse and exotic wildlife which has prompted my Ministry to embark on wildlife tourism. Efforts have been made in collaboration with the Kenyan government to assist in the provision of technical expertise to support our tourism sector. We have variety of wildlife including piggy hippos, bush elephants, leopards and the largest number of western chimpanzees in the sub-region. The country is also rich in variety of pristine eco-tourism sites and some of the world’s most excellent beaches ideal for watersport activities.

Beyond the beaches and other important aspects of the country’s tourism, the country’s culture is also an important tourism export, how is the ministry under your leadership harnessing the benefits of this very important aspect of tourism?

Sierra Leone is a living museum. For instance, when you visit Freetown and its environ, you will have the opportunity to see iconic heritage sites particularly relating to the abolition of slave trade including areas which used to be occupied by early settlers. The Cotton Tree, Old Kings Yard Gate, St. Charles Church, Bunce Island, Banana Island, Tasso Island etc. Under our tenure, the Cultural Division has been able to do stock take all the heritage sites nationwide and we have been able to harness our cultural heritage organizing number of key activities notably, National Cultural Festivals, Agro-Tourism Week, Training of Artisans and Craftsmen, Restoration of Cultural and Historical Sites and the granting of Sierra Leonean citizenship to African Americans tracing their roots to Sierra Leone via African Ancestry.

The tourism sector is one of the worst hit by COVID-19 across the globe. How is the country tourism sector recovering from the impact of COVID-19?

Firstly, the government was very proactive in its response to Covid-19

Hon. Memunatu B. Pratt, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Republic of Sierra Leone
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pandemic due to the experience we had as a country during fight against Ebola. This helped to reduce the number of infected cases drastically.

Unfortunately, the hospitality sector was the hardest hit. Cognisant of the impact on the sector, H. E. the President, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio provided, for the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, an astounding Safety Net Support to employees within the tourism and hospitality sector amounting close to US$500,00. This fund was able to support 2368 employees with a minimum wage for three (3) months period in order to reduce the economic burden on employers and employees as a result of the pandemic.

Concurrently, my Ministry used the period during the CoVID to work on strategic documents with the view of creating a string and sustainable foundation for the tourism sector to grow. We embarked on domestic tourism including preparation on the Formulation of the National Tourism Master Plan, National Marketing Strategy, Wildlife Tourism Policy and Island Tourism Development Policy.

The tourism sector is already creating massive direct and indirect jobs for the teaming young people and women of the country, through the beach cleaning and waste management exercise. Are there other jobs and wealth creation initiatives under the ministry that you would like to share?

We are aware of the climate change challenges the country is faced with. This is why we have provided skills and entrepreneurship training to thousands of women residing in economically disadvantaged coastal communities in the production of souvenirs and other products required by domestic and international tourists. This has provided them with alternative form of livelihood.

We also organise cleaning waste collection exercise in our beaches and coastal areas employing women and youths in those communities

While international tourism is good, there are still enormous opportunities for intra-African tourism looking at the continent’s population of about 1.2 billion people. How is the Ministry promoting intra-African tourism?

At the African regional level there is a kind of advocacy for the promotion of intraAfrican tourism which is growing gradually. Within the West African sub-region, we

are working with West African Tourism Association to undertake joint marketing of the West African sub-region and also promote intra-regional tourism through intra-regional connectivity.

At the level of ECOWAS, we have just completed the ECOWAS classification manual to ensure that within the West African region we are able to have a uniform kind of classification and quality control. Several meetings have been held to ensure that we support West African countries.

Infrastructure is also a key enabler of tourism. What is the ministry doing to support the continuous enhancement of tourism infrastructure to promote growth of the sector?

The tourism sector relies on infrastructure, good road network, ICT, water and electricity supply. Fortunately, with the hard work of the government of H.E the President, Sierra Leone, over the years has experienced significant improvement in its infrastructural development.

Today, one can easily travel from one district to the other with first class road construction and bridge. Equally so, electricity supply across the country increased overwhelmingly with Freetown, the capital city enjoying almost 24 Hrs. electricity supply. The provinces are also experienced increased electricity supply. Hospitality facilities are now able to rely on the electricity national grid.

These improvements have led to increased tourist arrival and receipts.

Also, work is underway to develop in total nine (9) tourist attraction sites across the country including attracting hospitality investments in parks and reserves thereby promoting ecotourism and adventure tourism.

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Re-writing the story of Women in Sierra Leone through Gender Responsive Policies.

With a push for 30% political representation of women in parliament; 30% appointive positions by His Excellency, in governance and the push for access to finance, the GIWI Bill before the Sierra Leone Parliament is meant to be a gamechanger for the country and the continent when passed into law. In this exclusive interview the African Leadership Magazine UK, the Minister of Gender and Children Affairs, Manty Tarawalli, talks about the Bio-led administration’s commitment to gender mainstreaming and the overall support for women and children related issues in the country. Excerpts:

During the past four year, which critical reforms has the Bio-led Administration instituted, and what has been the results and impact of the reforms for your sector?

Before we get to the Gender Bill, I think we need to talk a little bit about what gave rise to the Bill. We came into existence in 2019 as a Ministry and so by 2020, we became operational. Afterwards, by the end of 2020, we developed and launched the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy. The policy speaks to 13 objectives across 10 sectors. So it is like the Bible for empowering women. And the methodology used within the policy is really gender mainstream and gender budgeting. So that’s how the bill came forth. And part of the implementation includes the GIWI Bill. The GIWI bill is a revolutionary Bill. And it speaks to about four key components. One is a minimum of 30% political representation of women in parliament; 2 is a minimum of 30% appointive positions by His Excellency, in governance. Three, it speaks to access to finance, we all know, that is difficult for women, especially entrepreneurs to access finance

because of what’s required by the financial institutions-fixed assets. So now we’re talking about the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Sierra Leone coming up with a new methodology, a new approach, in which financial institutions can lend money to women, and perhaps look at movable assets rather than fixed assets. So that is within the bill. Then the bill also talks about gender mainstream, and budgeting anchoring it in the bill to ensure that every policy, every program, and every legislation has a gender component included in there. So from our Constitution, all the way down to programming to ensure that the gender dimension is included.

So we would look at that, again, look at all those bills, again, look at all those acts again, look at all those programs, again, to ensure that we include in it the gender dimension that is integrated. It also talks about the basics of equal pay for equal work or value. He talks about also discrimination, sexual harassment, and the lot. So that when it goes through will be a real change for Sierra Leone. And that is really what we need. So that the needle starts to move, and we start seeing women in leadership, women in in politics, and

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we start seeing also in the business world, women taking the place where 52% of the population in Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone aims to be a middle income status by 2035. We cannot get to middle income status With half of the population, not gainfully contributing to the economy, it will not happen. So this is a way of ensuring that we are on the right footing to get to where we want to get to.

Two years after assumption of office, the President launched the country’s first Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy. Two years on, how has this policy helped to advance the issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the country?

As i said, earlier, it is the Bible, it is the roadmap. It’s a speaks to 13 objectives across 10 sectors. So it shows exactly what needs to be done. To ensure that we hit the mark. The approach we’re going for is ensuring parity. It is through Gender Mainstreaming, across all ministries, departments and agencies, we’ve started the work. We have a project supported by partners, and of course, the government of Sierra Leone, where we are in Priority Ministries as we have identified that we are looking at every sector or policy, every legislation and ensuring the gender dimension is integrated within it. So that work has started. If you look at recent bills that have gone to Parliament, you will see the gender dimension in it, there is no bill now that will be passed in Sierra Leone today that will not have the integrated approach by ensuring the gender dimension is included in there. So that is differences making it is ensuring that every sector takes it seriously. Every sector has now a target to ensuring the gender dimension is integrated in every work that they do.

The country also declared a national emergency on rape and passed the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 2019 to make it tougher on the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence. How has this helped to reduce the scourge of Gender based violence in the country?

Before the declaration of rape being a national emergency, we were talking about 1000 cases a quarter; that was how serious it was. And that was the biggest thing I think President Bio could have done by saying, we have this problem. We are not

going to hide it. We’re not going to sweep it under the carpet. Everybody, listen, this is not business as usual. We now need to take this seriously. And we need to come to the table with solutions. Next step was to have a standalone ministry and a task force meets on a monthly basis. He sat as the chair and brought everybody together, to discuss how to tackle the issue and resolve it. We have opted for prevention, more than response, because response is expensive. It’s expensive to the victim to the survivor, to the family, to the community, to the country.

We find people that are 50 years old, that were violated when they were like 10. And they come into the office and you’re talking to them and they break down. It’s still there. So that expense is something that we really can’t afford. So whilst we have measures to address response, our focus is on prevention. And on prevention, there’s a lot that we have done.

There’s so many things that constitute prevention that sometimes people don’t recognize. Education is prevention. By spending 22% of our budget on education we are actually preventing because we’re keeping girls in school by ensuring that their sexuality education has been incorporated into the basic education curriculum, we’re ensuring that prevention takes hold, because we’re teaching children very early on across all age groups, that gender rights, what is acceptable, what is not acceptable. So that is also there. The law itself is prevention because the law is stiff. And it is really really, you know, being adhered to. On the on the response side, we have a free hotline that is open 24 hours, accessed through every mobile network in Sierra Leone. So it’s becoming, and I would say it has become a lifeline for girls and women to call and report cases, we have a sexual offences model court that sits six days a week to fasttarck cases. So we’re seeing judgments.

We also have one stop centers across the center across the country that provide free

The policy speaks to 13 objectives across 10 sectors. So it is like the Bible for empowering women. And the methodology used within the policy is really gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting.
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medical, free, psychosocial, free legal, and if possible, if it’s necessary, a safe home, we move you from your household, and we take you to a safe home, so that the case goes through. And once that’s finished, we integrate you into society. So as a result of that, we’re really seeing a change in the numbers, we’re now seeing a reduction in about 20% of the numbers of where it was before. And we’re seeing a change in the dynamics, we’re seeing less of a sort of adults and child, you know, sort of interaction, we’re seeing more peer to peer, which is also a different problem. So we’ve got to address that in a different way, because that’s really just showing us early sexual debut. And so that requires different interventions that will allow looking at but the alarming issue of a young girl have been violated by an older man, we’ve seen less of that. And the figures are showing us a reduction of those cases by 20%.

According to the Unit ed Nations, Econom ic Empowerment for women, will help un lock societal growth and development, due to the ripple effects that will be generat ed. How well has the Bio-led administra tion fared in provid ing economic empow erment for women in the country?

Economic Empowerment is the way to go. Data shows us that even when it comes to sexual violence, a woman that is economically empowered can look after yourself and look after children. So it is important that we pay attention to that, how are we dealing with that? We have created an Economic Empowerment Fund, which has been set up. And we have been given out funds through micro-credit to help women in business so that they can build their businesses take it from zero to one, or from one to two. So with that

also comes training, also developing, you know, sort of their skills. And so to date for being in the Ministry for two years, we have actually worked with about 2000 women and in the coming weeks, we are looking at adding another 2000 women. This is the key. The work with the bill, what the bill will also open up in terms of access to finance will also create a lot of opening for women so that business women entrepreneurs can be built. And so they’ll be able to cascade this across the country and for young businesses young women to step into the arena.

The Ministry under your leadership has continued to pursue the enactment of the Gender Bill by the parliament. How will this Bill help in improving the current realities of women in the country?

The bill will change the status of women in Sierra Leone. Without that bill, things will remain the same. This bill is a commitment His Excellency made. It’s in our manifesto. It is also in the midterm national development plan. It is something that women have been crying for. For the past 60 odd years, no president has been able to do this. It’s gone through cabinets. With full backing, I presented it in cabinet, and it went through cabinet with the full backing of His Excellency and the Cabinet ministers. I have presented it in Parliament. I’ve gone through the first reading. Second reading is just around the corner, we are going to pass this. And when we pass this, we will see more women in decision making positions that will help young girls to see that this is something that I can emulate. This is something that I can also be I am the first cabinet minister, woman, cabinet minister from two districts from where I come from Falaba and koyna Dooku never been seen before. Only happen through this government. So we want more and this is going to happen with the bill.

From you Ministry’s perspective, how far is Sierra Leone from achieving the SDG as it relates to gender and children, and where are the areas in need of investment to expedite progress?

Everywhere you go, you and women across the board are calling for affirmative

We have created an Economic Empowerment Fund, which has been set up. And we have been given out funds through microcredit to help women in business so that they can build their businesses take it from zero to one, or from one to two. So with that also comes training, also developing, you know, sort of their skills.
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action. Without affirmative action, you can’t get the numbers. Unfortunately, the men are not going to allow you to offer the space willy nilly. There has to be affirmative action. I believe in affirmative action. That’s basically what it is. In terms of children were even going further in terms of, you know, empowering children. We have another bill with a Child Rights Act that we’re revising, and we’re criminalizing FGM under the age of 18. That’s gone through cabinets. It is also something that the the practitioners have signed up to. It is something that the Chiefs have also signed up to. As a country we are not saying we’re against FGM, we’re only saying it is not allowed under the age of 18, because, we want to protect our children.

When we talk about rape, 95% of the cases are children. So when we see a reduction, we’re seeing protection of children. We’re also overhauling the entire child protection landscape with a software that we’re working with partners on to strengthen that to ensure we have a handle on the children where they are, who’s looking after them, and how well they are looking after them in terms of our own monitoring and recording

that on system, so his excellency can be in his office and go into the system and can see exactly what’s going on how many children we have in care how many children are held by each institution, and what’s going on with them. The world is moving away from institutionalization and we’re going into community based care. And so we’re also looking at how we train and equip our children so that they come out of institution and we integrate them into communities.

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Sierra Leone’s Journey To Net Zero Target

In 2019 Sierra Leone set up the Ministry of Environment to mitigate climate change’s impact on the country. As the third most vulnerable country to climate change, the Bio-led administration agenda has taken enormous strides in protecting the environment.

The Ministry was set up with two key mandates – to lead in all developmental policies and legal issues on the environment that will help to map out a climate resilience strategy for the country and to supervise all agencies or institutions addressing environmental issues in this country.

In an extensive interaction with the Minister of the Environment, Professor Foday M. Jaward, he spoke about the foresighted leadership of the President on environmental issues in the country and how the establishment of the Ministry is helping to address the ecological challenges.

Addressing Environmental Governance

As I mentioned earlier, when the Ministry was established, we had six agencies placed on our supervision. But in environmental governance, the first thing you need to do is to make sure the legislations are put in place. What does that mean? It means when somebody commits a crime, for example, that punishment should be a deterrent so that a person cannot commit that crime again. So when we took over all these agencies, we had very old legislation. I’ll give you an example; the Wildlife Act was enacted in 1972. It has never been reviewed or updated. The Forestry Act 1988,

the EPA act 2008, amended in 2010, nuclear safety eradication, 2012, metrology 2017, then we have all these issues surrounding, and we know what that means.

Environmental problems are dynamic and ever-changing. So we have reviewed all these institutional legislations to ensure that when you commit a crime, that punishment is proportional to the crime. It will serve as a deterrent to offenders. Let me give you another brilliant idea so you understand the crime in context. As I said, the Wildlife Act was enacted in 1972, and the penalty when you go to a protected area and poach an animal was very laughable. So, somebody can go to the protected area put so many animals and pay very little. So we updated the fines; for example, the penalty for that is 20 billion leones. So, we had to review the EPA act to include climate change issues. And this has been going very, very well.

The environmental governance framework has taken a perfect direction since the creation of the Ministry. The next thing we did in terms of environmental governance was to develop what national development-induced resettlement bill. For example, we have issues in agricultural farms, and we also have problems in mining areas; people would go there and encroach on the land without compensating the people there. This policy which is the first of its kind in West Africa addresses issues like this. The bill is now in Parliament, and hopefully, within the next two or four few weeks, it will become a law. So in terms of environmental governance, we did a lot of reforms.

Prof. Foday M. Jaward, Minister of The Environment, Republic of Sierra Leone
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Ecosystem conservation.

Last year, we embarked on a massive tree planting campaign. And the goal is to plant 5 million trees by 2024. So we have already planted 1.2 million, and this year, our plan to grow a 1.6 million is on track. This is important because, as a country, over 50,000 hectares of land have been degraded due to mining activities. Also, the President, in his wisdom, established what we call an inter-ministerial committee to assess some of the challenges caused by climate change. And we have done an outstanding job. We submitted a report to the cabinet, and all the recommendations were approved. But in Sierra Leone, there is one thing about law, and the other thing is enforcement. People continue, and about three weeks ago or so, the President had to say you have to stop this encroachment, especially around the Guma Valley because a few years ago, the Guma that supplies cereal the free tank capita used to over flew in about June or July.

Addressing Climate Change issues

We are developing policies, and I, for example, have done the national climate change policy and strategy. And at COP 26, we took a long while to call the nationally determined contribution in DC. And in that document, we provide many solutions to what is happening today. For example, Smart Agriculture, environmentally smart agriculture example, in this country, people

have been doing well to call the bush fallow system. We don’t want that to happen. We want the idea of the inland valley swamps. If we grow rice, the last hour staple food, because the country spends $200 million on importing rice, we can produce more rice, and in these Inland Valley swamps, they can get better yields more yield, because you can even do it twice a year or even up to three times a year. So intelligent agriculture will have to come in. We are also thinking about going strong on renewable energy. And we have embarked on a lot of solar projects in the country. We have about 192 towns in the country or the headquarters towns that have solar electricity. That is very, very good. We also have resigned to revamp the hydro. We have two hydro dams in this country.

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We are committed to unlocking Sierra Leone’s Hydro Carbon Potentials

With recent discoveries along the Equatorial Atlantic Margin, Sierra Leone has intensified its efforts towards unlocking the country’s hydro carbon potentials. In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine UK, the Director General, Petroleum Directorate of Sierra Leone, Eng. Foday Mansaray, talks about the agency’s strategy towards attracting the needed investments into the sector, as well as the country’s huge investment potentials in the sector. Excerpts:

Some analysts have maintained that Sierra Leone is yet to achieve its full hydrocarbon potentials. What is the Directorate doing to change this narrative?

We are fully aware that Sierra Leone is yet to achieve its full hydrocarbon potentials. The government of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has made concerted efforts to develop a range of policy measures and corresponding actions in spurring the nation’s efforts to achieve its full hydrocarbon potential.

The Petroleum Directorate of Sierra Leone (PDSL) is mandated to lead the process of unlocking and realizing the country’s petroleum resource potential, as well as transforming its growth agenda through the sustainable development of the oil and gas sector - a position we constantly strive to maintain.

Some of the recent laudable efforts by the government through PDSL include establishing strategic partnerships with reputable industry leaders to among other things, complement its efforts in undertaking strategic business development and marketing campaigns targeted at credible Oil and Gas companies with the financial wherewithal to honour

their contractual obligations. PDSL’s most recent strategic partnerships includes: (i) TGS, an energy data and analytics company; (ii) IN-VR an energy promotion and consulting firm; (iii) Africa Energy Chamber whose mission is to improve the landscape of the African energy sector and explore the continent’s full potential for the benefit of all Africans; and (iv) GeoPartners Limited, an established international geophysical consultancy specialising in the creation, acquisition, marketing and financing of MultiClient Projects.

Furthermore, PDSL has finalized plans to launch the Republic of Sierra Leone’s Fifth Petroleum Licensing Round which will terminate in the last quarter of 2022. It is concurrently building requisite institutional capacity for more effective delivery. PDSL is also sponsoring a review of existing legislation to incorporate onshore provisions, which will effectively pave the way for expanding the Nation’s exploration frontiers. It is expected that once these measures yield the desired dividends through the attraction and retention of the right investors, exploration programmes will be progressed to the point of drilling and ultimately production which will undoubtedly signal the realization of the sector’s full potential.

Eng. Foday Mansaray, Director General, Petroleum Directorate, Sierra Leone
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With proven oil and gas deposits and production activities imminent, how is the country prepared to learn from the mistakes of other oil producing countries?

Sierra Leone has been preparing to draw lessons from other active producers of oil and gas in terms of emulating what they got right and avoiding what they got wrong to the extent that we currently have formal and informal cooperation arrangements with several peers both in the sub-region as well as on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. To avoid mistakes, Sierra Leone has been a part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) through which the governance of the sector has been reinforced and potential risks that had either served as barriers or prompted resource related conflicts thereby averted. Just a few months back, a PDSL technical Team was dispatched to its counterpart in Ghana-GNPC, pursuant to the MOU earlier referenced, as a means of learning first-hand, how they got right what was desirable and how to ensure that their mistakes can be avoided.

What local content policies are in place to safeguard the interest of indigenous players in the sector?

Local Content development is a cornerstone for His Excellency President Bio’s Administration’s Medium Term National Development Plan 2019–2023, which seeks to promote a new direction for improving citizen’s lives through Education, Inclusive Growth, and Building a Resilient Economy.

PDSL is of the view that local content fulfilment is the low hanging fruits for any emerging Oil and Gas producer, or a Nation in its earlier stages of its experience curve. Whilst the commercial discovery and ultimately production may not be predicted with certainty, what is obvious is that a lot of action can take place during exploration, including offshore exploration drilling which involves a huge capital outlay. Deliberate efforts have therefore been deployed to ensure that a considerable share of the investment in drilling and the general investment in oil and gas projects is linked to the local economy. Local Content policy measures include among others, (i) mandatory employment of citizens with the requisite knowledge, skills and related attributes; (ii) procurement of goods, works and services from local supplier with capability to deliver quality products/ services within set delivery timelines; and (iii) safeguards have been created for indigenous

capacity building as part of succession planning where foreign expatriates are hired, and including local supplier capability development. These measures are aimed at maximizing the benefits of oil and gas activities even prior to commercial discovery.

What opportunities exists for credible investors in the petroleum sector of the country?

The government of His Excellency President Bio has made concerted efforts to develop and implement the conducive legal and regulatory frameworks to support the development of the Nation’s oil and gas sector. The opportunities for credible investors include – (i) an attractive fiscal regime with tax concessions; (ii) the existence of the favorable legal and regulatory regime that assures a winwin outcome for both the government of Sierra Leone and Oil and Gas companies; (iii) enhanced security of tenure to mitigate manipulation of contracts to the detriment of an International Oil Company (IOC); (iv) unhindered repatriation of remittance is guaranteed both in legislation and in contract; amongst others.

Under the leadership of His Excellency President Bio, the Petroleum Directorate is tenaciously committed for Sierra Leone to become a leading producer of oil and gas operating with a high level of performance in the exploration, development, production, and distribution of oil and gas-related services. We welcome prospective partners to join us in this dynamic endeavor.

The war in Ukraine is obviously affecting economies across the world and in Sierra Leone, it is not different. What is the government doing to

Sierra Leone has been preparing to draw lessons from other active producers of oil and gas in terms of emulating what they got right and avoiding what they got wrong to the extent that we currently have formal and informal cooperation arrangements with several peers both in the sub-region as well as on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
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The government through PDSL is actively engaging the wider oil and gas investment community with the aim of crowding in sustainable investments that will contribute to the Nation’s economic development and transformation. The key messaging to international investors include that:

Investors should take advantages of opportunities such as global oil price recovery and the comparative advantages of Sierra Leone, vis-a-vis its strategic location along the Equatorial Atlantic Margin, in the Gulf of Guinea region with a proven working petroleum system;

Sierra Leone has recorded remarkable progress in its peace- and state-building processes, with an enduring peace, shared political power and constitutional rule demonstrated by four national peaceful elections and democratic transitions since the end of the civil war over two decades ago;

The government of Sierra Leone offers an attractive fiscal regime that is mindful of the interests of the investor and the host Nation; and

The government of Sierra Leone offers predictable legal and regulatory regime with safeguards for property rights or other security of tenure.

Investors are duly being informed about such a unique blend of both the above and below ground factors that make the country a safe haven for their investment resources.

As government gradually adopts much more climate friendly investments to promote green growth, how will that affect the Nation’s oil and gas sector?

To achieve PDSL’s mission to opening Sierra Leone’s shores to deep-water exploration, our vision is to transform the country’s oil and gas sector in a responsible manner that prioritises safety, respect for communities and the environment. Obviously, implementation of the Paris Agreement and the general Green House Gas (GHG) emission reduction requirement will tend to affect the Oil and Gas sector. Country’s that wholly rely on oil and gas to drive their national budgets are being threatened, let alone new or emerging producers. Notwithstanding the associated challenges, implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has also brought about some opportunities, prime amongst which is the role of gas in the transition. Some experts have identified gas as the energy of the transition, which implies that in as much as the paradigm is shifting away from fossil fuel, gas will continue to serve the energy needs of contemporary societies in the interim until renewable energy is fully and permanently diffused by industrialized-, emerging-, and low-income states.

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