Is China set to step up its investment in Sierra Leone?

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 May 2013

President-Koroma-and-African Minerals Frank-TimisSierra Leone’s economy is classed amongst a group of ten African economies, whose annual growth rates have far exceeded the continent’s average of 4%.

This is largely the result of recent increase in Foreign Direct investments (FDI) and export revenue.

However, there are genuine fears that this unprecedented surge in FDI may not be sustained, especially by the Chinese, whose economic growth forecast has been recently down-graded, as industrial production slows down.

The total annual value of FDI received by Sierra Leone in the last five years, is far less than the $1 Billion expected by the government.

And this, despite the staging of a well attended international trade and investment conference organised and fronted by former British Prime Minster – Tony Blair in London in 2010.

The Chinese government has made several political gestures to increase its investment in Sierra Leone. Will the newly announced $6 billion investment materialise, or is it just another promise?

africa minerals railwayWith an annual FDI of less than $200 million, the government of Sierra Leone has struggled to meet key economic targets it set for itself in its Agenda for Change manifesto, and is finding it very difficult to compete with neighbouring countries such as Guinea and Liberia.

Progress in developing the country’s road network is steady, but the worsening electricity and water supply crisis is seriously affecting industrial and commercial productivity.

But news report – filed by John Baimba Sesay of China, says that the government of Sierra Leone has this week signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Kinghor Energy Group Co. Ltd., for the exploitation of mineral resources in Sierra Leone.

According to the report, this pledge by one of China’s most powerful and richest conglomerates – if honoured, will boost president Koroma’s chances of achieving his FDI objective and the implementation of his government’s Agenda for Prosperity.

But critics say that the total number of jobs created as the result of recent surge of FDI into the country is less than 10,000, with youth unemployment running at over 3 million.

Chinese Ambassador Kuang Weilin turns sodPrior to the general and presidential elections in Sierra Leone last November, the Chinese government and president Koroma signed a series of highly publicised MOU’s, including the construction of a new international airport.

In reaction to the signing of those MOUs, critics accused the government of electioneering, as president Koroma cruised to victory at the polls.

So what hope does the signing of this memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China Kinghor Energy Group Co. Ltd., brings for the people of Sierra Leone?

This is John Baimba Sesay’s report:  

chineses deal1Speaking at the signing ceremony at the Ministry of Mines in Freetown, Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Frank Kargbo, said that his office has been working on this MOU.

He said he was happy to inform that the proposals outlined in the MOU are in line with the development aspirations of the government, especially as they relate to the Agenda for Prosperity.

He also said that when this agreement is fully implemented, the country will benefit greatly.

With over $6 billion investments planned by the company for Sierra Leone, Minister Kargbo said, the proposals include the construction of a railway line from Tonkolili to Sulima, construction of a deep water port, an industrial park, the development of supporting power facilities, and construction of other transport and logistics.

The minister of mines – Minkailu Mansaray signed the MOU on behalf of the government, which he said is in line with the country’s prosperity drive. He said that China’s Kinghor has been a major player in Sierra Leone’s development.

chinese dealMinister Mansaray said that Sierra Leone is in a hurry to be transformed, and that as a government, they will continue to encourage investors into the country.

But he however cautioned that the government will only look forward to working with reliable, committed and trustworthy investors.

He therefore encouraged Kinghor to ensure that they work within the time frame as stated in the MOU, as the “competition is very keen and Sierra Leone is a destination attracting a lot of investors”.

The minister also called on the Ambassador to China – Victor Foh to work closely with the company, so that they will work within the stipulated time-frame.

The chairman for the China Kinghor Energy Group – Huo Qinqhua, congratulated the recently appointed Ambassador to China – Victor Foh on his appointment.

Mr. Qinqhua said that upon his arrival in Sierra Leone, he felt the warm friendship that China and Sierra Leone share, and is pleased that his group has made the decision to invest in Sierra Leone.

He expressed confidence and optimism about Sierra Leone’s future, especially in providing favourable investment climate.

Also present at the signing ceremony were senior officials from the mines industry, and the Deputy Chief of Mission – Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China in Sierra Leone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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