President Bio at Queen Elizabeth’s birthday celebration in London

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 June 2019:

After showcasing all that is good in Sierra Leone to whet the appetite of investors in London to pack their bags and head to Freetown to talk business, president Julius Maada Bio is today sitting next to Britain’s Prime Minister – Mrs Theresa May, as they watch the Queen’s birthday trooping of the colours parade, taking place in Buckingham Palace in London.

Many Sierra Leoneans in the Uk have expressed disappointment that president Bio has decided not to meet with them today at a townhall meeting, where they have been invited for a chat about developments in Sierra Leone.

Yesterday, a notice was published by the Sierra Leone High Commission in London saying it has cancelled the townhall meeting. But there was no reason given for the cancellation.

But watching the Queen’s Birthday Trooping of the Colours by the military being shown on BBC TV today, explains why the president is unable to meet with his fellow citizens as planned. As James Bond would say, he is “On Her Majesty’s Service”.

There is no doubt the immense importance of president Bio’s presence at Her Majesty’s Birthday Trooping of the Colours, in terms of the special relations between Sierra Leone and Great Britain, the trade and investment spinoffs such relationship could lever.

Yesterday, president Bio was at University of Oxford where he delivered a Lecture at the Brasenose College. The subject of his talk was: “Beyond Mere Inspiration: Tackling the Challenges of Leadership in Sierra Leone”.

Listening to the president’s lecture were academics, students and policy analysts. President Bio was received at the University by John Bowers QC, Rector at the Brasenose College and Professor Wale Adebanwi, Director of the African Studies Centre.

President Bio and the Sierra Leone High Commissioner to the UK – Tamba Lamina, along with his wife and son, were at NO 10 Downing Street today, where they met with British Prime Minister – Theresa May and her ministers.

Prime Minister May was also happy to welcome Kamaya Tamba John Lamina – the son of Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner Tamba Lamina, to Downing Street (Photo below).

But the main highlight of president Bio’s visit to London this week was the UK-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Conference, where about 200 industrialists, UK government policy advisers and potential investors gathered to hear about what Sierra Leone has to offer.

President Bio also met with Sierra Leonean British Actor and Film Director – Idris Elba. According to report from State House, “Idris Elba has promised to transform Sherbro Island into a World-Class City”.

On the margins of the UK-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment conference, Idris Elba is said to have spoken with president Bio about his plans to transform Sherbro Island into a world-class city as part of his drive to give back to the country of his father’s birth. He said he would like to make Sherbro Island a great tourist destination. (Photo: President Bio meets Idris Elba and his advisers). 

But such an ambitious plan does not come cheap.  According to estimates, Idris Elba who is believed to be worth about $25 million. He would need to find over £10 million to invest in transforming his dream into reality.

“I want to come to Sierra Leone for the first time under your fantastic leadership,” Idris Elba is understood to have told president Bio.

Speaking about the Sherbro Island vision, Elba’s advisers said that the transformation of Sherbro Island will make it a West African regional economic hub, showcasing tourism, entertainment, an international convention centre, innovative affordable housing and aquaculture.

Responding to Idris Elba and his team of advisers, president Bio thanked Idris for his ambition to invest in Sierra Leone. He assured that as a government, the project will receive his fullest support.

He said that the project will give hope to many Sierra Leoneans, adding that “I want to make every Sierra Leonean proud to return back to Sierra Leone”.

President Bio instructed that preparatory work and all necessary documentations should commence. He also advised the team to visit the Sherbro Island and engage with the community about the project.

Another possible windfall for Sierra Leone came with the announcement by Harriet Baldwin MP, Minister of State, UK Department for International Development that, the British government has allocated a grant of £30 million for an ‘Invest Sierra Leone’ programme, aimed at supporting UK firms doing business in Sierra Leone and to improve investment drive.

Speaking about some of the big plans the Bio-led government has for Sierra Leone, Dr. John Tambi, Chairman of the Presidential Infrastructure Initiative said: “We are going to radically transform Sierra Leone within 5 years……..From a Lungi / Freetown Bridge to a Sea Port facility in Bonthe, many areas in Sierra Leone have been mapped out to benefit from a nationally-enhancing development drive.

“The Lungi Bridge will be an 8 kilometre 6 lane bridge, with 120 years lifespan. There is going to be a New Lungi airport terminal, and new tourist hub, creating at least 5000 jobs a year. “

Sierra Leone needs at least $700 million of investments to build its fishery, tourism, agro-processing and forestry-based industries that could create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the supply and value chains in various districts of the country.

Will the investors present at the UK-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Conference last Thursday in London, along with Idris Elba rise to this challenge?

Will president Bio’s presence at Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday celebrations today in London, pave the way for more British government financial support and leveraging of much needed private sector investments? Only time will tell.

10 Comments

  1. I hope President Bio was having fun. “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy“. For the British Prime Minister to invite our president to celebrate the 93rd Birthday party of her majesty the Queen who is the most powerful woman in the world from the most powerful family, means that our president is held at high esteem because “Liquid finds its own level”.

  2. Lovely pictures in front of 10 DOWNING STREET.
    It was not surprising for me to see the former HIGH COMMISSIONER and his family at No. 10. Minister Tamba Lamina was not only familiar with the present inhabitant Prime Minister Theresa May, but knows the ins and outs of British Politics. Can you imagine what INFLUENCE and LEVERAGE potential he has in the UK? OH BOY. DISCUSS.

    I personally, will not be doing any good to my conscience if I fail to ask this question – Why was our FIRST LADY absent? I should have loved to see her in front of number 10 with President Bio. But no problem. Maybe next time with another PRIME MINISTER.
    Finally, GOD BLESS President Bio and the LAMINA FAMILY.
    LOVELY PICTURE there in front of No. 10 DOWNING STREET.

  3. Good morning, I would like to support the comments made by Mr. Saidu Conteh. He is realistic. In my eyes the visit to Britain was a big show again. The great times of your old colonial masters are gone, Britain is suffering from big political and economic problems. Always dreams and promises to keep the people of Sierra Leone calm.

    The small money that president Bio could gather will not be enough to start the foundation of the dream Lungi bridge. And $700.000.000 will not be enough to construct this unnecessary bridge (compare the cost of Maputo bridge built by the Chinese).

    You better spend in more meaningful projects like decentralisation, water, electricity, and better agriculture on the countryside.

  4. As one of the countries at the bottom of all economic, social and sustainable development indices, we can start to hope again that better days are coming. But development is a long and tedious process, so I hope our various institutions are also up-to-date with government efforts to enable a smooth and well organised running of our restarted economic recovery.

    My advice to the government is to get the opposition parties that are willing to help (e.g. NGC and C4C) shape our country’s future to be also included in such investment forums. The problems facing our country are just too much for the government alone to shoulder.

  5. My beloved grandmother, a Majestic Queen incomparable, far greater than Solomon’s Sheba in my eyes once said; ” if raggedy dressed clowns,and playful children don’t make you laugh,drooling,staggering drunkards,throwing insults,will…And if those are not enough to make you roar,and roll with laughter then the stupidities,and silly attitudes of adults certainly will “. Clever lady indeed!

    Not surprised at all, because looking at myself, its obvious the apple has fallen too far from the tree. Africans will never learn, the same Colonial Masters that perpetrated racial intolerance and biased ruthlessly against them, executed them, brainwashed, humiliated and robbed them blind are still being held In high esteem in their eyes today. Disgraceful indeed!

    A little-minded people will always feel inferior because their complexion is dark, without even considering the wise saying of the ancients that because we are the Original people, the first to tread the beautiful earth and see the sun, that’s why our skin is black.

    What has Colonialism brought us, except untold hardships, divisions, problems and troubles? Only a greed ,and silly-minded people will keep on borrowing monies they know they cannot afford to pay and make the disgusting habit of accepting handouts like beggars a widely acceptable norm.

    The UK has their own challenges to deal with Brexit is hanging on their neck like a dead and decaying albatross, choking them to death – one wrong move and their whole economy can collapse and crumble like a deck of cards.

    Its a shameful thing to keep on raising one generation after the other on borrowed money, turning everyone into financial slaves, don’t you think? In my opinion development that has to come only through borrowed money is not worth having; neither are handouts that lead to degradations and stigmatizations of the African people.

    Its time for us to cut our coats according to our cloths – the incessant begging and borrowing must now cease. The credibility on which our nation now hangs is as thin as a strand of hair – we must strengthen it through hard work, ingenuity, diligence and national pride…Rising Sun Will Rise Again!

  6. I hope this investor conference will yield fruit and not just be unfulfilled pledges made by investors. I also hope that Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad will be included in this private sector investment.

    I also agree with Mr Matturi that more women should be given the space to play a part in nation building. The last investment conference under ex president Ernest Bai Koroma was full of big talk and promises, but nothing translated into reality.

    It is good to see all the lovely pictures and President Bio given pride of place near British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Mr May.

    Thanks must go to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, whose editor I understand is one of our Krio brothers. Well done for always bringing us the news so promptly.

  7. Say what you must about president Bio, but the guy has pizzas, He is the only African president to attend this years birthday celebration of the much revered queen of the United Kingdom, comprising of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, also collectively known as Great Britain.

    President Bio’s attendance may have been by coincidence, circumstance or design? you say, as he was in England at the opportune time for a whole different reason, which incidentally, come to think about it, is diametrically opposed to each other.

    Indeed, President Bio was in the country to showcase Sierra Leone as a worthy enough country to invest in to whom so ever may listen (the Pa dae work), whilst the queen, on the other hand, was celebrating her 92nd birthday. President Bio was apparently “invited” by the hard working, and dedicated Minister of Tourism Mrs. Memunatu Pratt who, like President Bio’s New Direction Agenda presupposes, is determined to change the narrative of Sierra Leone for the better.

    And then he got invited to the august ocassion by no less a personality than the outgoing Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mrs. Theresa May. How cool is that.

    A short history is that the 93 year old monarch ascended to the British throne on February 6th, 1952 and coronation on June 2nd, 1953 when his father, King George, the sixth had died in February 1952 while she was vacationing in Kenya with her husband, then Prince Philip Mountbatton of Greece and Denmark of the House of Glucksburg.

    She was only 27 years old. Her 66-year-old reign is noteworthy for its length, dedication and love of country. Love of country must be emulated by African strong men, which will help mitigate corruption on the continent. It’s amazing how these African presidents, leaders and others visit European countries as well as America and see how these countries are developed. Yet shamelessly go back to their poverty stricken countries with no remorse.

    All indications are that the disappointed Sierra Leonean community in the breath and width of England who have hoped to hear directly from president Bio are nonetheless forgiving since his appearance at the queen’s activities was a worthwhile cause that may bear dividends in the future.

    Consider this scenario, a well known British born actor by a Sierra Leonean father and a Ghanian mother, Idris Elba, of Hollywood and British film industries has even indicated his desire to utilize his international clout, resources and name to invest in Sierra Leone, beginning with changing the tourism agenda in Sierra Leone, with particular reference to Bonthe Island. Kudos to the Minister of tourism.

  8. Thanks to the Editor for mentioning The UK’s Minister of STATE for African Affairs (UK DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT) MP HARRIET BALDWIN. The GRANT of 30 MILLION POUNDS STERLING given to help support UK firms doing business in Sierra Leone just shows all of us how honest the UK is in helping us. I have always said and will continue to say that, we need more GRANTS, more TRADE OPPORTUNITIES and if possible no LOAN/DEBT any more. What the UK is doing here, is equipping and teaching someone how to catch a fish than to fish for that person and give the catch. I do not think the UK will give anyone LOAN/DEBT any longer. Whether you you are pleased or not, it is the right thing to do. PERIOD.

    Furthermore, MP HARRIET BALDWIN is the right minister at the right moment to help and facilitate what the President flew in for. I have been following her on debates and questions in the House of Commons and I know what she is capable of doing. She has a wide range of priorities, one of which is EMPOWERING WOMEN and GIVING them every OPPORTUNITY they may need. Does anyone know what would have happened if President Bio would have had a CABINET of let’s say 50 percent women and should have flooded that conference with those ministers? Sometimes, you have to have strategies that will make the other side just emotional and be forced to help, no matter what.

    Getting into such a conference and telling not only the British government but the British people that, you are empowering women, will be highly appreciated by all. Telling them that your cabinet is made up of 50 percent IRON LADIES will be a CATALYST FOR WOULD-BE INVESTORS in the UK and beyond. Believe me, INVESTORS will just flow into the country. South Africa have already seen the LOGIC and will fairly make good use of this gesture beyond the African continent.

    It was surprising to hear that the President cancelled the Town Hall meeting. Someone else from the delegation should have represented President Bio I reckon. That is why people travel with the President. From the DEMONSTRATIONS on UK TV stations, one can judge why the Town Hall meeting was cancelled. NO PROBLEMS.

    Finally, will Sierra Leone get the US$700.000.000 INVESTMENT it needs after all the POLITICAL and DOMESTIC problems before the meeting and the DEMONSTRATIONS that took place in LONDON? However, Let us hope for the BEST. AMEN AND AMEN.

  9. Give Bio a chance to rule and transform this corrupt and battered nation and Sierra Leone will turn into paradise. He is the best man to do that so let us give him time.

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