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Sierra Leone needs professionals with knowledge of Global finance to help rebrand the country

John Mannah

3 September 2011

I was very happy, or even elated to see some of Sierra Leone’s online news papers, namely: Cocorioko, Awareness Times and Patriotic Vanguard, showing my country’s name rolling down the NASDAQ board - right in the heart of Manhattan, New York city - America’s financial capital, which also happens to be the financial hub of the world.

  Sierra Leone’s president Koroma standing in front of the NASDAQ board, in a very happy and elegant mood.

It is such photo opportunities our president needs - more so our country, especially after the brutal scars and images of eleven years of senseless carnage and destruction, brought upon it by the rebel incursion.

The NASDAQ opportunity gave president Koroma high visibility in the world of global finance.

And had the event been given the reportage it deserves, it would have enhanced the president’s credibility among global financial leaders.


In an era where crisis of confidence has gripped the economic minds of world leaders, this appearance was an indication that president Koroma of the small country of Sierra Leone is keeping abreast with the basic workings of capitalism.

Alas, to the disappointment and astonishment of most right thinking Sierra Leoneans, the reportage of the event by the Reverend Kabs-Kanu, Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary representing Sierra Leone at the United Nations, stripped the thunder and glow that the event had built.

Kabs-Kanu’s newspaper headline reads: "Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma at New York NASDAQ and the world financial market bounced back from a week-long rough ride."

When I finished reading the article, my thought was: here we go again. This reportage falls right into the narrative and notion that some Sierra Leonean newspapers and commentators have formed about President Koroma and the APC government he is heading.

Some papers call him the "smoke and Mirrors president;" others say his presidency is about "glamour and show-business, and no substance".

Although such caricature of the president is untrue and unfair, however, it originates from the sycophancy, bootlicking, apple-polishing and flattery demonstrated by minions and lackey’s, such as the Reverend Kabs-Kanu.

They exaggerate political events and important national issues to the point where they end up embarrassing the president in particular and Sierra Leone in general.

Either the Reverend Kabs-Kanu has no idea about the inner workings of the stock market, or like most of his coverage of Sierra Leonean’s socio-political issues, he always overstates, over embellishes events to the point where it sometimes becomes senseless to read.

Most especially, his reports on the economy of Sierra Leone are mostly exaggerated and far removed from the reality on the ground.

For the information of Reverend Kabs-Kanu, president Koroma’s visit to the NASDAQ stock exchange has no relationship, or correlation with the movement of that market. If there was movement in the stocks of NASDAQ, on the day the president visited the exchange, take it as a mere coincidence, and nothing else.

For the Reverend therefore to have stated that it was president Koroma’s visit that led to the movement of the NASDAQ after a week of it being in the bear-market (week of low falling stock prices), is not only a display of ignorance on his part, but a show of dishonesty and disrespect for the presidency of Sierra Leone and the reading public.

NASDAQ stands for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations Systems. It is the place where most technology stocks are traded. The exchange trades more than 5,000 actively traded companies over the counter stocks, meaning that you do not have to go to the NASDAQ head office to buy NASDAQ stocks.

But with the connection of a computer to the internet or telephone, you can call a dealer and buy NASDAQ stocks in their different locations around the world from your living room. Stocks of companies like Microsoft, Dell Computer and Cisco can be bought and sold on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

So when you hear people say that the NASDAQ is up or down on a given day, like Reverend Kabs-Kanu rightly put it, the NASDAQ having a week of rough-ride, they are referring to the NASDAQ composite index (an average of a bunch of numbers derived from the price movements of certain stocks in the exchange due to demand and supply).

Like the DJIA (DOW Jones Industrial Average) it is a statistical measure of a portion of the market. Thus, the 'DOW' as well as the 'NASDAQ', refers to market indices.

However, only the NASDAQ is also referred to as an exchange where investors buy and sell stocks. Investors do not trade the DOW or the NASDAQ as they each represent merely a mathematical average that financial economists use to try and make sense of the stock market.

Stock exchanges like the NASDAQ are indeed moved primarily by internal as well as external forces. The internal forces are the profit/loss declared by companies that participate in the exchange as mandated by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) of the United States federal government.

Such information provides a common pool of knowledge that investors use as a barometer to decide whether to buy, sell or hold a particular security.

Companies that are therefore well managed, profitable and pay out dividends on a frequent basis, become attractive to investors, leading to high demand for their stocks in the secondary market like the NASDAQ.

The converse also applies as the price of a company’s stock will drop if the company is poorly managed and does not pay out dividend to investors. Another internal force that moves a market is what is known as "market correction".

This is what may have happened with the NASDAQ, on Friday September 23rd - the day of President Koroma’s visit.

The NASDAQ underwent a market correction after a few weeks of decline in the activities of the index. This decline occurs after a bull market due to the uncertainties in the global market place, namely: worries about the recent "debt ceiling" fiasco, a full blown debt crisis hanging over Europe, or the growing worry that the United States is about to slip into a double-dip recession.

With issues like these in the minds of investors, they will start to sell or hold their investments away from stocks into other investment instruments. However, after a while, investors will regain their confidence in the market and start to buy NASDAQ stocks again, and the market will begin to head high again. Financial economists call this situation "market correction".

The external forces that affect the stock market are the actions of the federal government through the actions of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, commonly called the Fed, via monetary policy or the President of the United States via fiscal policy.

This is the only reason why someone like President Barack Obama’s visit to an exchange or comment on economic policy will move the stock market. The same rationale holds true for comments from the Fed Chairman - Dr. Ben Bernanke on US monetary policy.

Aside from the actions of the Euro leaders through the Bundes bank, the German Central bank, it is the actions of China’s President Hu Jintao, or India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, among the other world leaders whose comments on fiscal or monetary policy can move stock markets like the NASDAQ, because of the gigantic role their economies are playing in the global market place.

President Koroma, with every respect due to him is a leader of a small open economy (price taker) in West Africa, and his influence on the world economic stage is to say the least insignificant.

So for the Reverend Kabs-Kanu to have opined that because the Sierra Leonean president visited the NASDAQ stock exchange, and the market moved in a positive direction is at a minimum a stretch and an exaggeration; and at worse - reckless and irresponsible.

Future articles or reports on important national matters like the visit of the president of Sierra Leone to an august body like the NASDAQ should be handled by an investigative journalist, with sound knowledge of global financial matters.

It is also important that the report is vetted by the Ministry of Finance in Freetown, whose minister is a qualified and competent technocrat, with the necessary qualification and professional experience to talk about the stock market; so is the financial secretary - Mr. Edmond Koroma.

Dr. Samura Kamara who heads the finance ministry is a PhD holder in Economics and seasoned practitioner, so is Mr. Edmond Koroma, the Financial Secretary a London School of Economics graduate. There is therefore no scarcity of financial experts in the APC government; not to talk about the country in general.

The only challenge that seems to be standing in the way of the APC government and its leader is to garner the courage and moral fortitude to employ the services of qualified and competent Sierra Leoneans regardless of party, regional or tribal affiliation for the benefit of the country.

Let me therefore remind the Reverend Kabs-Kanu that the duty of a journalist is to bring forth reports that will increase the knowledge of the reading public; to search for truth and present it with the highest of principles, truthfulness, honesty, integrity and accountability.

The Reverend Kabs-Kanu, editor of the Cocorioko online newspaper and head of the project to rebrand Sierra Leone failed this canon duty of journalism, President Koroma, and the Sierra Leonean people in his reportage of the President’s visit to the NASDAQ on Friday September 23rd 2011.

The APC government should therefore seriously employ the services of knowledgeable people on global financial matters to join the rebranding project in New York, so as to avoid future embarrassment to the president and our country at large.

John Mannah, Maryland - USA

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