John Baimba Sesay – China
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 August 2013
Sierra Leone’s development is now at a major transformational stage, thanks to our readiness for change, as a people.
From once a country in an era of war, political instability, corruption-ridden, to one that pushed towards change some five years ago, as was clearly defined in the ‘change agenda’ of President Ernest Bai Koroma, but, also one that is now moving further towards chasing prosperity for her people.
From a nation that had less or no desire to give women leadership positions in governance, to one that is now encouraging more women in governance, and the space to demand for more opportunities.
The country continues to encourage trustworthy investors to feel safe and confident in investing in key sectors of the economy that are showing huge potential.
From China, as in the case of Hainan Rubber Plantation and China Kingho Energy Group, we continue to receive positive promises of billions of dollars in investment.
Today, because of President Koroma’s astuteness, a group like China Kingho Energy Group will not hesitate to invest billions of dollars in Sierra Leone in the construction of energy facilities, aimed at maintaining long term sustainable growth; the construction of transport and logistics facilities; a 250 km railway network, starting from Magburaka in the north to Sulima in the south, worth an estimated US $1.74 billion.
Railway transport plays an important role in facilitating trade, ensuring growth in the tourism sector as well as promoting agriculture and industrial development across the country.
Because we are today a country that protects trustworthy investors, a group like China Gezhouba Group Corporation should now be working on plans to see how they will start operations in Sierra Leone, following President Koroma’s recent visit to China. (Photo: Baimba Sesay).
GGGC’s business covers 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China and reaches out to over 56 countries/regions in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and America.
Having worked on the globally known Three Gorges Dams and the Gezhouba Water Conservancy project, CGGC is currently carrying out the construction of the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Station in Pakistan, with a contract value of 12 billion RMB yuan. This, by far, is the largest hydropower station project undertaken by a Chinese company abroad.
In essence, Sierra Leone under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma, keeps doing its best in attracting more foreign and domestic investments.
The country is an enviable business destination. Providing the environment for investment has been paramount for the country, especially given her rush to reach the apex of development.
Legislations have been passed, giving people the courage and confidence when it comes to foreign direct investment.
There exists an Investment and Export Promotion Agency, known as the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency-SLIEPA, which continues to be a major player in terms of creating the platform for direct foreign and domestic investment in the country.
SLIEPA has a responsibility for the promotion, co-ordination and generating foreign and domestic investment. It falls under the direct supervision of Sierra Leone’s Trade and Industry Ministry.
There is an Investment Promotion Law in place. It was enacted primarily to promote and attract private investments – both domestic and foreign, for the development of production and value adding activities. It also serves to improve exports and provide employment opportunities.
The law provides for a number of investment incentives and capacity building support; foreign exchange remittance; remittance of profit; guarantee of capital repatriation and of loan remittance and guarantee against expropriation.
It further provides for incentive policies in a bid to improve on the capacity of Sierra Leonean business enterprises to be able to compete effectively, both at the local and international levels.
For instance, the government will provide local business enterprises a number of capacity building and special support programmes, such as business training; micro-finance; pre-qualification programmes for access to credit.
There also is the aspect of incentive policy for expatriate personnel in the country. They are permitted to make remittances abroad, subject to such withholding tax obligations as contained in the country’s tax laws.
Also, remittance of profits after tax, earned by a foreign investor from a business enterprise is guaranteed, and such payments are allowed to be transferred abroad without restrictions.
Opportunities for investment are abound – from tourism, mining to agriculture, there are several sectors where investors are encouraged to put their money.
In the area of tourism, the country has huge untapped potential in eco-tourism, mountains, hills, islands, wildlife parks and sanctuaries, as well as pristine beaches and interesting wildlife.
The fisheries sector offers great opportunity for investment as well. This is a sector that plays a major role in contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (10% of GDP), as well as addressing the problem of unemployment.
Statistics indicate that the fishery sector provides employment for an estimated 100,000 persons directly and for about 500, 000 persons indirectly. This is about 10% of the country’s population.
In coastal areas, about 25% of the male population of working age are reported to be involved in part-time or full time fishing. But these positive trends also have challenges, including illegal fishing.
The use of destructive fishing gears and practices, such as inshore shrimp trawling, beach seines and drift nets with small mesh sizes remains a challenge.
The trans-shipment of a majority of the fish caught by industrial vessels at sea for export, with no local value added or export benefits is also area of concern.
And primarily, this could not be unconnected to the porosity of our coastal waters and the lack of effective surveillance. Millions of dollars is what the country is losing yearly on illegal fishing.
The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has been involved in supporting the country, address a number of challenges in a number of areas like Trade, Quality Control, Governance, Aquaculture, Monitoring, Control and Surveillance.
This also should take into account the need for a sub-regional project, supported by World Bank aimed at strengthening the country’s capacity to manage its fisheries well.
But peace and stability often come to play when investment opportunities are discussed. With that, what is apparent is that Sierra Leone enjoys total peace, security and stability.
Running the country through an ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, President Koroma has provided the overall leadership, such that we are not just at peace but also enjoying political stability, with few democratic elections held in the last decade and smooth transfer of power from one government to the other.
We are also today contributing to regional peace and stability by contributing troops to nations in conflict. We have taken the fight against corruption with all the seriousness it deserves.
So, there are many reasons why investors should surely feel good to check Sierra Leone and see what the country has got to offer.
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