Freetown City Council to build 5,000 homes amid debate about devolution of power

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 August 2019:

Freetown City Council is planning to build 5000 low-cost houses to meet the needs of displaced and low-income citizens of the city. Speaking last week, Freetown’s Mayor – Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, said: “The affordable housing is particularly aimed at easing the plight of the city’s populace, dwelling in mostly uncongenial habitations and dismally poor housing conditions.”

A feasibility study she said, will shortly be carried out in the urban slums and other possible areas where the houses could be built.

Sierra Leone’s poor

But questions are being asked about the rationale for building low cost housing in existing slum communities, when the proverbial thinking is to relocate those residents to environmentally amenable areas of the city.

Freetown is wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and steep hills leading inland, with a population of over two million people; 60% of whom are estimated to be poorly housed in overcrowded accommodation.

In 1999, as a result of the rebel war, about 6,000 homes were completely destroyed in Freetown, especially in areas of Kissy, Wellington, Calaba Town, and Allen Town.

It is estimated that by 2001 when the war was declared over, over 300,000 homes had been destroyed across the country, leaving about 1.2 million people internally displaced.

Successive governments had attempted to respond to the problem of over-crowding in the capital Freetown, especially the relocating of slum dwellers to newly built housing estates. But translating policy into practice has proven to be quite a challenge.

The current Mayor of Freetown says that she is determined to address the housing needs of low-income residents and slum dwellers. But where would she find the money?

One option mentioned, is that the Freetown City Council would be looking to sell some of its stock of public buildings to generate capital for such huge enterprise.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph is suggesting that with a coherent devolution strategy, local councils up and down the country should be empowered to raise capital on the global finance market, to invest in large-scale capital intensive projects such as housing, waste management, as well as the promotion of local economic development initiatives that could lead to job creation and prosperity.

But such shift towards devolution of power would require a major political commitment and change in mindset, from central government.

Perhaps the newly appointed Local Government Minister – Tamba Lamina, may want to take a closer look at devolution of power, so as to free up the energy and vision of local communities, in addressing the enormous social and economic challenges facing the country today.


  1. It is the same old story: all capital cities in the world are overpopulated. The capital of the United Kingdom, London is estimated to be inhabited by 8,136,000 people, over ten times the size of the population of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown at 802,639. In effect, the population of London is more than the population of the whole of Sierra Leone, at 7,557,000. (World Population Review, 2018)

    Freetown is not even overpopulated relative to other capital cities in the world. There was a spike in population in 2015, when it peaked to 1,056,000. The heightened stage of the ebola epidemic occurring at about the same period must have been the overriding factor in the population movement away from the cities – where there was a high likelihood of transmission of the disease – to surrounding villages.

    Freetown has not got a population problem, but a lack of adequate housing planning and a carefree attitude to environmental issues. The initiative by the friendly smiling but resolute Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, to construct 5000 low-cost homes “particularly aimed at easing the plight of the city’s populace, dwelling in mostly uncongenial habitations and dismally poor housing conditions”, is a great step torwards the right direction. In fact, this has been a policy overdue for quite a long time now, and it might be the activation of a pilot scheme that would encompass the whole of the country.

    The land in these slum areas should be put to optimal use by erecting 5-storey, 3/5 bedroom apartments – one apartment on each floor. For 5000 houses/apartments, this will translate into 1000 building structures. This is like 100 buildings each, in 10 ghetto areas across Freetown. With good land utilization, the whole project can be easily accommodated within these slums.

    The problem is, is the present paopa regime going to sincerely assist the mayor in achieving her vision? If so, will there be an attempt to hijack this legacy from her? Watch out Mayor!

    Sierra Leone does not have to go to the world to highlight how poor, wicked, corrupt, tribal, uneducated and gullible, violent and dirty it is, and expect to attract foreign investments, and at the same time rebrand the image of the country. No conscious minded marketeer will rebrand his product this way. He will have to improve or modify his product first before advertising it on the market.

    Sierra Leone should not become an expert in begging or borrowing. All the resources needed to solve her problems are within reach. It just need a straight and patriotic individual with ‘steady hands’ to solve her development puzzle.

    (The population of Freetown is over 2 million according to this article. My finding through World Population Review 2018, says it is 802,639. Can someone look into this discrepancy.)

  2. Thanks to the Editor for his thoughts on this DEVOLUTION issue.
    When talking about devolution, we talk about consequentialist and deontological devolution. But I would not go into it deeply for now.

    Every government since independence has been unable to provide the most basic needs for the people of this great country. They always have bogus promises.
    Let me begin by making things clear. The government of the day relies on certain areas for the economic existence of the whole country. There are areas/districts that have minerals or engaged in economic activities that the entire country depends on. But at the end of the day, these areas are not benefitting as they should from the natural resources or economic activities in their respective areas/districts. Very unfair.

    Let us take KONO(Kono district) and Freetown(Western area) as an example. Sierra leone exports millions of dollars worth of diamonds per year but, what benefit in terms of progress/development has been brought to that district? The same goes for Freetown. Freetown has brought huge amounts of income through its ports(deep water quay). What percentage are Kono and Freetown receiving for their economic activities for the development of their areas per year?

    Our leaders come to power and forget that, they were voted to serve the country and its people. They also forget that, governments come and go but, the state remains/stays. Why can’t they just do the right thing? Grabbing everything for their families and themselves is what they care about. In the end, they become very rich and the country and the people remain very poor. Some people and their areas are even marginalised, even though their areas/district have natural resources or economic activities that are the ECONOMIC AORTAS of the country. Is that acceptable? You tell me.

    Let us not forget that these sort of injustices in the way the wealth of the country is being distributed could trigger NATIONALIST and SECESSIONIST ideas sometime in the future. There is a lot to say if one wants to go very deep on this issue. However, I will be brief and to the point.

    With DEVOLUTION, the government can work efficiently. Areas like LOCAL GOVERNMENT, HOUSING, HEALTH, EDUCATION and TRANSPORTATION to name a few could be devolved. By doing so, the government will reduce its administrative burden. In addition to that, devolution encourages closer ties between the people and their government. Hence, the country will therefore become more democratic and people thinking of NATIONALISM and SECESSIONISM will have little chance of making any significant impact on our society in the future.

    As the editor rightly said, I hope Mr. Tamba Lamina who is now the Minister of Local Government will use all his skills to make a breakthrough on this DEVOLUTION issue. I have every confidence that he would do something. It would not be an easy task because, there are people who want to maintain the status quo. For them, DEVOLUTION is a non-starter.

    The challenges facing the prosperity of our country is so huge, that one of the ways to solve this socio-economic challenge is by DEVOLUTION. Finally, I would like everyone reading this comment to know that, it does not have anything to do with REGIONALISM or TRIBALISM. It is just a guideline to let our leaders know the importance of DEVOLUTION. I Hope our LEADERS understand the importance of devolution and do everything to make it happen. GOD BLESS our NATIONAL DECISION MAKERS. AMEN and AMEN.

  3. Mayor Yvonne Aki- Sawyerr is a visionary leader and she has done a wonderful job of collaborating with the current government after President Bio made his first proclamation at the National Stadium that the first Saturday of every month must be a National Cleaning Day. She has been making good use of the billions of Leones monthly allocations since that time and Freetown can now be proud to be one of the cleanest cities in our region and thanks to her leadership.

    Although generating funds for the project will be a challenge since most people are not accustomed to paying taxes but with a good plan, I believe that she will be successful. I also hope that she will still continue to positively work with the current government and probably the expensive mansions that have been built by the corrupt officials of the former APC government, after the COI should be sold and the proceeds can be used to support the mayor’s Low Cost Housing Project.

    In terms of devolution, I believe it’s better to first start the implementation at the district level since Freetown will be a big challenge due to the unlawful buildings that have been erected in disasters prone areas which I believe only the central government has the responsibility and resources to tackle.

    May the Almighty continue to bless her with wisdom and understanding so she will continue to make Freetown and our nation very proud.

  4. Indeed. DESPERATE times requires DESPERATE MEASURES with dedicated and loyal officials like Mayor Yvonne-Aki Sawyer. Everybody must switch to ACTIVE MODE and HIGH GEAR for ACTION each time our DEVOTED, DILIGENT, HARDWORKING, CHARISMATIC and HARD WORKING Mayor Yvonne-Aki Sawyer comes out and say/propose something. Fascinating Stuff.

    Just imagine how she has restructured, transformed and reformed the Freetown City Council. Despite the unmanageable budget, she is doing miracles to effectively run the Freetown City Council. Her smiles tells you all. ARGUE.

    I will visit this article later to comment on what the Editor said on the last two paragraphs. Frankly, it’s time for DEVOLUTION. POWER MUST BE GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE TO HELP DECIDE THEIR DESTINY. I will be right back. See you soon.

  5. Indeed great minds think alike,Eagles do not need to borrow feathers,from others,in order to ascend unto unreachable heights,everyone of them is equipped by Existence with its own. This is a sensible,compassionate initiative that I have always believed must become of the highest priority to our beloved nation.

    The bold efforts,and vision of Mayor Yvonne – Aki Sawyer,must be encouraged, and enthusiastically applauded by everyone, especially this eerie,inept,vision impaired,lackadaisical government now in power. But then again people deserve to hear the truth,so let me be sincere – I am 100 percent convinced that,these shady, unthinking,unproductive SLPP personalities, will never cooperate,encourage,and render her any kind of sustainable,and credible assistances she may rightfully deserve,and need. They are a jealous,chauvinistic bunch who will never want to see a woman outshine their little,tainted,fainted,candle-lit efforts,like the Blazing Rising Sun.

    I think the Mayor should look for the money needed to finance such an admirable project on her own,in order to have full supervision,and total authority over such an important,life changing venture,that will certainly,solidify her legacy as a pacesetter,and someone who genuinely cared for the poor struggling masses in Freetown.

    The suggestions the Sierra Leone Telegraph is making for generating additional revenues,and creating jobs,are quite sensible,and they will most certainly turn out to be productive,under the watchful eye of such a strong,focused,intelligent Mayor.

    If this government can prove me by showing unbiased favor to Mayor Sawyer,and render her urgently needed logistical, social, and financial assistance with no strings attached whatsoever,I will shower them with chants,and praises that will forever be heard in the city of Freetown. Its time to put people first,and politics aside for once,and do the right thing….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  6. This is a good first sign. It will be a long and heavy process. In Germany we got in 1971 a special law “städtebau förderungsgesetz” for renovation of our cities. I was involved and know the difficulties of realisation. The highest priority has to be a democratic process of planning from the beginning, with all involved – inhabitants and institutions.

    To start this process and to find finance for this important project will be better than to think about the Lungi bridge project.

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