Sierra Leone Foreign Minister woos British investors in London

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 March 2016

UK-Sierra Leone Investment Forum 2016

Last Monday, 25th February, 2016, Sierra Leone’s foreign minister Samura Kamara travelled to London, along with a handful of prominent Sierra Leonean businessmen, including the chief executive officer of Sierra Rutile – John Sisay.

Their mission was to sell Sierra Leone’s investment potential to British companies and investors,  present at the UK-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Forum, in the luxurious Sheraton Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly.

The event was organised by the London based foreign investment promotions company – Developing Markets Associates Ltd. (DMA), in partnership with SLIEPA and supported by the UN, ECOWAS, Mano River Union, FCO, and UKTI.

President Koroma was to have led his delegation to London for the event, but pulled out for some unknown reason, leaving his foreign minister to carry the baton.

The UK-Sierra Leone Trade & Investment Forum was billed as the country’s most significant investment outreach in recent years. In 2010 president Koroma led a similar delegation to London to sell the country’s investment potential, hosted by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But that event was not much of a success, despite an overwhelming turnout by British companies and potential investors, looking for viable and safe investment opportunities in Africa.

Last week’s event was attended by 300 participants, representing 100 British companies, DMA told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.

John Sisay2Foreign minister Kamara and Sierra Rutile CEO – John Sisay, spoke about the opportunities that exist for foreign investors in key sectors of Sierra Leone’s economy – energy, extractives, agriculture industry and infrastructure.

The UK-Sierra Leone Trade & Investment Forum is said to be an important part of Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola economic recovery plan, where president Koroma was expected to have presented his government’s agenda to restore and strengthen private sector growth, and to encourage new inward investments.

Since the launch of his government’s Private Sector Development Strategy in 2011, the number of businesses employing less than 50 people have suffered rapid decline, as the non-mining economy continued to contract.

With rising interest rates and the overall climate for doing business darkened by corruption and red tape, few businesses achieve their growth potential, whilst new start-ups find it almost impossible to get off the ground.

Poor access to affordable start-up finance, lack of dedicated business premises, poor access to electricity and water; heavily congested roads, unavailability of skilled and highly trained workforce, unreliable and expensive internet connectivity and telephone charges, are seriously hampering the survival  of new enterprises.

Foreign investors looking for opportunities for high and safe returns in the African continent are more than likely to look at countries where, the cost and climate of doing business are not driven by poor governance, corruption and poor regulatory standards.

Senior ministers along with an entourage of high-level private sector representatives from Sierra Leone, highlighted some of the reforms, and spoke about the enabling environment that they say the  government is creating to allow for sustainable business growth, facilitate economic diversification and demonstrate to the investor community that the country is truly ‘open for business’.

kroo bay4But is Sierra Leone truly ready for genuine business investments?

Sierra Leone being classed by the latest Transparency International Corruption Index report as one of the most corrupt in Africa, does not help the country’s image, especially with neighbouring Liberia perceived as less corrupt.

But British Minister for Africa – James Duddridge was optimistic. In a speech aimed at encouraging British companies and investors to look favourably at Sierra Leone in making their investment decisions, he said this:

I have just had a meeting with Dr Kamara, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations. Our governments have worked closely for many years, but particularly so over the last two years to defeat the terrible scourge of Ebola. I was delighted when your country was declared free of the disease in November.

It is right that we acknowledge the tragic impact of that devastating outbreak on Sierra Leone and its people. It is also right that we start to put this terrible episode behind us.

UK-Sierra Leone Investment Forum 2016I remember visiting Sierra Leone in 2013 and it was one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. That was only three years ago. I hope Sierra Leone will return to hyper-growth rates and a thriving business environment.

This morning I am going to set out why the UK Government sees potential in Sierra Leone, what we believe is needed to realise that potential, and what opportunities we believe this holds for you as investors.

I lived and worked in Africa for many years. My experience was one of energetic entrepreneurs, burgeoning businesses, a rising middle class, potential and drive in equal measure. Doing business is in Sierra Leoneans’ DNA.

The UK Government is committed to supporting Sierra Leone’s recovery. We have pledged over £240 million over the next two years to support the President’s plans for recovery.

This assistance is a part of a wider picture, because we are committed to promoting trade, investment and prosperity right across Africa. I am delighted that Guy Warrington will be going out as our new High Commissioner to Sierra Leone.

We have created a new Prosperity Fund – worth £1.3 billion – to promote conditions for sustainable and inclusive growth. A significant proportion is earmarked for Africa.

This Government is also delivering on our commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on international development, of which Sierra Leone is a beneficiary. I have been working closely with Justine Greening at the Department for International Development, who has visited Sierra Leone a number of times, and my DFID counterpart Nick Hurd.

However, aid alone will not ensure Sierra Leone’s long term recovery. It needs investment too, and that means an improved business environment.

The government of Sierra Leone has drafted its plan for post-Ebola recovery. It has identified priorities for recovery over the next two years: health, education, social protection, infrastructure, energy, water, and the development of the private sector. These will all be critical in getting Sierra Leone back onto the path of sustainable development.

It is encouraging to see that the President and his Ministers recently proposed to include a new Governance pillar in the recovery plan. We support this step towards addressing some of the big challenges around procurement, payroll, and corruption.

We are working in partnership with the government of Sierra Leone to encourage them to create the business environment that will reassure and attract investors.

Some UK companies, such as Standard Chartered Bank are already there. They, alongside Herbert Smith Freehills and Prudential, helped Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak by producing the Investor Guide for Sierra Leone – a great example of the private sector coming together to help the country on its path to long-term recovery.

My parliamentary colleague James Cleverly, MP for Braintree and a fellow Essex MP, whose mother was Sierra Leonean, was recently in Sierra Leone. I hope to do more to work with the Sierra Leonean diaspora across the country.

It’s worth taking a moment here to recognise the country’s enviable natural advantages: Its rich mineral deposits.

Its huge potential in renewable energy, in particular solar and hydro-electric – I should say here that Sierra Leone was one of the first countries on the continent to sign up to the Department for International Development’s Africa Energy Campaign which promotes access to solar powered electricity – which is now much cheaper, more accessible and reliable.

Its strategic shipping location on the Atlantic seaboard of West Africa, with one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Its millions of hectares of forests and fertile agricultural land, and abundant fish stocks.

Sierra Leone is also well placed to benefit from the huge economic growth we expect to see across the continent. Consumer demand from its emerging middle class is growing and that trend is set to continue as Africa’s population is forecast to double by 2050 [UN Population Data].

So in conclusion I urge you to listen closely to what you hear today. Sierra Leone has put Ebola behind it. The UK Government is supporting trade and investment, reconstruction and prosperity. Doing more business provides taxation for the government. We should be proud of what we’re doing to help Sierra Leone back to double digit growth rates.

Sierra Leone has huge potential. Its government has a plan for recovery and has identified its priority sectors. From mining and renewable energy to project management and environmental services.

Finally, this country’s strong historic ties with Sierra Leone, our long-term friendship, together with the familiarity with English, present UK companies with a unique advantage. I urge you to seize it with both hands. (End of speech).

Finance minister - Samura KamaraBut did minister Samura and his high-powered delegation return to Sierra Leone full of optimism?

With the British Standard Chartered Bank caught in the middle of what has been described as ‘an increasingly bitter feud’ between the government of Sierra Leone and the heavily-indebted Octéa Limited – owner of the country’s biggest diamond mine at Koidu, British investors will be watching very closely.

Other recent foreign investment fiasco included the iron ore mining giant African Minerals Ltd., London Mining, and the sugar cane ethanol company – Addax. These companies have faced serious financial difficulties, leaving some of their foreign investors well out of pocket.

Critics have accused the Koroma government of putting the interests of ministers and officials ahead of corporate good governance and due diligence, as well as failing to provide a healthy business climate – free of political interference, for all private investors in the country.

The Koroma led government of Sierra Leone must clean up its image fast, if it is to convince European foreign investors to come to Sierra Leone, rather than head to southern Africa, or even neighbouring Liberia.

But the Chinese are more than grateful for the knockdown prices they are paying the government, to take over European companies that are struggling to survive in Sierra Leone’s increasingly turbulent political and investment climate.

This is what protesters in Sierra Leone think of the president’s luxurious lifestyle:



  • Amadu Malike Kanu

    Kudos to all the good people like you, for helping my country of birth and around the world. I am so impressed with your perspective news and facts about Sierra Leone.

    Sierra Leone has been faced with almost the worst trauma and compounded by Ebola. Now Ebola has been defeated. Our main target to grow Sierra Leone is all upfront to get rid of corruption and provide economic security for all – not just the few.

    Corruption and bribery is so embedded in Sierra Leone, and those in power go free when get caught. It is not that corruption doesn’t exist in America. But a politician or whosoever is caught will pay the price. We need to reform the thinking of the leaders in Sierra Lone, that you are in for the people and must set an example.

  • Mustache Moustache

    We are living by a flowing stream of clean water, but still thirsty. It is a very serious paradox for Sierra Leone enriched with many known natural resources, including diamond, gold, rutile, bauxite, etc. yet among the poorest countries in (West) Africa. What a shame!

    Question: Why is the President richer than everyone else, and all other political elites hide their wealth in foreign banks? If this is not corruption, then what else is?

    Certainly, this is because of the many ungodly and satanic secret societies, including Poro, Wondei, Gbangbani, Ojeh, Hunting, Bondo, Freemason and Lodge heavily practiced all over the country. The majority of the people of Sierra Leone are strong members of these clandestine and surreptitious groups that are interested only in bloodsucking activities. These cultic and occultic practices must STOP, without any debate, for us to prosper both physically and spiritually.

    I ask that members of these secret societies come back to their senses, like the prodigal son in Luke15, and do what is right and just before the Living God. Or else they are eternally doomed. May the Lord have mercy on them, including us. Repent! Amen.

  • Mohamed L. Kallon

    Which earnest pride could the President – Ernest Bai Koroma employ to lead a delegation to London, with the government of Sierra Leone facing major challenges of weak governance, widespread poverty and systemic corruption?

    The image of Sierra Leone is reflected by major worldwide governance indicators as one of the poorest countries of the world, in spite of its abundant natural resources.

    In terms of control of corruption, the situation has deteriorated under the ruling government headed by President Ernest Bai Koroma. What persuasive reasons could the President use to convince the British to invest in Sierra Leone?

    “However, aid alone will not ensure Sierra Leone’s long term recovery. It needs investment too, and that means an improved business environment.”

    “We are working in partnership with the government of Sierra Leone to encourage them to create the business environment that will reassure and attract investors.”

    The above quotations from the speech of the British Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, tactically and diplomatically placed, are clear messages to the government of Sierra Leone in general and the President in particular.

    Sierra Leone’s abundant natural resources having failed to transform into sustainable economic growth, with the economy heavily dependent on foreign aid and external sources of revenues, the government is compelled to concentrate on doing away with corruption “to create the business environment that will reassure and attract investors.”

    Having confirmed the lack of political ethics and competence required in piloting Sierra Leone to development and prosperity, the most rational thing to be done by the President and his governing, is to give way to a new generation of politicians capable of constructing instead of destroying Sierra Leone.

    This, I am sincerely convinced, is the wish of all patriotic Sierra Leoneans today. Our country, with all her enviable potential, cannot remain dependent on aid.

  • Nigel Brown

    British investors do not have the stomach to put their capital in a corrupt country like Sierra Leone.

    As long as your country is run by a bunch of squared pegs and corrupt politicians whose only interests are about lining their pockets with bribes, only the chinese will invest there.

    The London forum was a total flop. I heard nothing that could inspire and give confidence to British investors.

    It was the same old sorry rhetoric about Sierra Leone being opened for business. But nothing about how foreign investments are being strongly protected by the laws of the country.

    By the way. Why has your government failed to invest in the basic factors of business location, such as a first class educated and skilled workforce?

  • Alan Luke

    When this conference was first organised by Oluniyi Robbin-Coker and Patrick Caulker in 2008 or 2009 – it was ground breaking by Sa Lone standards. There was a sense of hope and optimism and diasporans could not wait to get a ticket to go to this event.

    After 8 years of spectacular failure – hope and optimism has waned not just among diasporans, but the international community.

    But if racking up per diems is part of your raison d’etre – you will continue to bury your head in the sand and show the world your ass!

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