Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 October 2019:
Today, Tuesday, 8 October 2019, president Julius Maada Bio laid the foundation stone for the start of construction of the SONOCO Plant for the manufacturing of baking equipment in Wellington, east of Freetown.
When completed, the complex will also include a skills training centre for food technology and related electrical and mechanical maintenance technicians.
Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Edward Hinga Sandi, said that the construction project which is aimed at promoting “industrial development for job creation and food security” is a direct response to the President’s Human Capital Development agenda, focusing on middle manpower training. This, the minister also said, aligns with the government’s 2020 National Budget Agenda.
Minister Sandi said that the project would provide over five thousand jobs in the next two to three years; and disclosed that a similar project would be replicated in all five regions across Sierra Leone.
The construction in Wellington will also include a flour production facility with a capacity of two thousand five hundred metric tonnes of flour per day; adding that the venture would not only meet local demand for flour, but will become a major export line.
Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Aiah Gbakima, said that the SONOCO Group has promised to help the country in the technical and vocational education and training, which he said will help develop the country’s middle level manpower.
The professor also said that in the next few weeks, his ministry will operationalize technical vocation education centres in ten districts across the country, with plans underway for the remaining districts.
National Chairman for the Bakers Union, Chernoh Saadu Jalloh, said that his members are particularly pleased with the government for its efforts in setting up the factory that would ease their work.
He also commended the leadership of the New Direction government for the reduction in the price of flour in the country.
Deputy Managing Director of SONOCO, Abdoul Karim Diallo, expressed gratitude to the government for creating the environment to invest in a project that would directly generate thousands of jobs in the next three years. He said that construction will take about eight months for completion.
He said that SONOCO Group heard the call of the government for investment that would contribute to the industrialization of Sierra Leone, increase level of technology and create jobs.
“We will feed the brain here by training young people; by building a world-class training centre for bakers to modernize the bakery profession in Sierra Leone. We will feed the stomachs by producing bread in the bakery that will be built here; and we will take care of the welfare of the people because the equipment and the food that will be produced here will respect all the standards in terms of environment, safety and nutrition that will help strengthen the health of consumers,” he said.
Speaking about the project, president Bio said that the private sector has to take the lead if sustainable development and growth is to take place in Sierra Leone.
The president said that the private sector is the engine for economic growth. He commended the SONOCO Group for moving quickly to establish a factory that would serve the country and the sub-region.
He also assured that as part of its responsibilities, his government will continue to provide the enabling environment to encourage and leverage more investments.
“We have to be integrated if we are to create a market that will serve our purpose. We are a small nation with a small market, but if we work toward creating the environment that is inviting enough to bring more investors, then some of the challenges we face will go away. Creating an ecosystem that is conducive for investment is a collective effort not only from government but from everyone.
“We must work collectively to support development in this country. I appeal to us all to create that enabling environment by looking at our own attitudes, so that we can support private investment. We are good people and I want to encourage and inspire every Sierra Leonean to change our attitudes for the good of our country,” he concluded.