Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2022:
The European Union Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Pauliina Urpilainen, has confirmed that European Union (EU), will support Sierra Leone with €245 million grant for four years, according to State House Media and Communications Unit in Freetown.
The confirmation of Grant support was made during a bilateral meeting between the EU Commissioner and Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio at the 6th EU-African Union Summit in Brussels last Friday.
During the bilateral meeting, the EU Commissioner praised the President for his reforms in Sierra Leone particularly in repealing the seditious libel law, the abolition of the death penalty, and promotion of gender empowerment, but expressed EU’s concern over the recent coups in the subregion whilst praising ECOWAS for its response.
President Bio told the EU Commissioner that he is committed to running a liberal democratic nation, adding that despite the COVID-19 pandemic the government wil not relent on its progressive agenda.
“COVID-19 pandemic has been a great disrupter to government programmes,” President Bio added.
The new partnership and cooperation between EU and Sierra Leone will focus on three priority areas: Green Economy, Human Capital Development and Democratic Governance, Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
On Green Economy, the cooperation is expected to focus on increasing access to modern, sustainable, affordable and reliable energy for jobs and growth; developing sustainable, employment-oriented agriculture and fisheries food systems for health and nutrition; and supporting sustainable management and protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
On Human Capital Development, the cooperation is expected to focus on investing in Basic and Secondary Education and TVET; and improving the quality of literacy and numeracy skills and qualifications. This area is also expected to focus on social protection to reduce vulnerabilities and sustain growth.
On Democratic Governance, Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the cooperation is expected to focus on credible and inclusive elections as well as government’s effectiveness and public service delivery at national and local levels. This area is also expected to focus on economic governance that will underpin sustainable economic and social policies through strengthening public finance management, transparency and domestic resources mobilisation and improving the business climate.
“The European Union has been a credible partner to Sierra Leone. We welcome the Grant of €245 million to further our partnership and cooperation. It is the clearest evidence of increased confidence in the leadership of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio for his progressive reforms and commitment to sustainable development. We hope that the European Union Delegation in Sierra Leone will now prioritise the timely delivery of the programmes jointly identified for implementation,” said Dr Francis Kaikai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development.
Last year the EU criticised President Bio’s government for failing to implement most of the recommendations made by the EU Elections Observation Mission Team following the controversial 2018 Presidential and General elections in Sierra Leone, which saw President Bio’s SLPP party winning by a narrow three-percent margin.
The EU Report also criticised the police and judiciary for their lack of impartiality and independence.
With the next Presidential, Local and General elections set to take place next year, it is highly unlikely the EU will release the approved €245 million grant until the outcome of those elections are known.