Saudi Arabia’s financial aid package for Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 July 2013

Saudi Fund - Kargbo flanked by Saudi Fund top officialsThe Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on record for almost a year, promising to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to help develop and harness Sierra Leone’s ailing tourism industry, agriculture and fishing sectors.

The clock is ticking fast in Sierra Leone, as levels of unemployment and poverty continues to rise.

It is understood that Saudi government officials have been waiting for the government of president Koroma to come up with specific development proposals, which could form the basis for their investment decisions.

Last week, president Koroma launched his Agenda for Prosperity, sparking intense debate about the sincerity and commitment of the government in promoting sustainable economic growth, create jobs and tackle abject poverty.

The government of Sierra Leone stands accused of misplaced priorities, with over $800 million spent on infrastructure projects, including the ill-fated Bumbuna hydro-electricity dam, despite growing poverty.

The government argues that economic development will come once the country’s infrastructures have been developed.

But the outcome so far, after almost six years in power is perilous: rising youth unemployment, rising number of children dying before their fifth birthday, and growing poverty.

Saudi Arabia is this week playing host to Sierra Leone’s Minister of State for Finance and Economic Development – Momodu Kargbo and top officials of the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA).

They are in Saudi to secure financial support for Sierra Leone’s social programmes that are helping to prevent millions of Sierra Leoneans falling off the cliff.

If this mission succeeds, Sierra Leone may receive tens of millions of dollars in aid, in support of the country’s pro-poor programmes, which critics accuse the government of failing to address.

Alhaji M.B. Jalloh – Information Attaché at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia reports:

The Minister early this week led a delegation comprising the Commissioner of NaCSA, Saidu Conton Sesay, the Chairman, Alie Fornah and other senior officials of the Commission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Fund -  Momodu Kargbo in warm hand shake with the Saudi Fund Director GeneralMinister Kargbo says in a brief interview last night that they held very fruitful meetings with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) officials in Jeddah, the second capital of Saudi Arabia.

The met with the IDB Vice President in charge of Operations – Birama Boubacar Sidibe on the ongoing Community Driven Development Project and other vital developmental projects delivered in Sierra Leone.

The Minister also disclosed that he presented a letter to the IDB, signed by the Finance Minister – Dr. Kaifala Marah in appreciation of the bank’s continued support for Sierra Leone’s socio economic development, such as the Linking Farmers to Market project.

Kargbo says that the project which has already been signed and others already in the pipeline will complement President Koroma’s “Agenda for Prosperity”.

In another engagement, the Minister flew to Riyadh where met with Saudi Fund officials. In a meeting with the Fund’s Director General, Technical Department, and Engineer – Hassan Al-Mahdi Al-Attas on Wednesday, 24th July, 2013, the Minister was assured of assistance for the rehabilitation and expansion of Fourah Bay College – the University of Sierra Leone.

On behalf of the Saudi Fund, Mr. Al-Attas assured the Minister of their financial commitment of US$12.0 million towards the rehabilitation of Fourah Bay College, as outlined in an Aide Memoire signed by representatives of the Government of Sierra Leone, BADEA and Saudi Fund in June of 2012.

President-Ernest-Bai-KoromaThe Director General says Sierra Leone has made significant strides over the years under the leadership of His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma – a development oriented leader, adding that, “our financial institution is ready to provide the much needed support to help in the infrastructural, rural and community development of Sierra Leone.”

The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and Saudi Fund visited Sierra Leone to appraise the rehabilitation of Fourah Bay College project in June 2012. During the Appraisal Mission, it was estimated that the cost for the rehabilitation of the college could reach US$36,650,000.

The Appraisal Mission agreed to make the following co-financing arrangement: OFID – US$13,000,000; Saudi fund – US$12,000,000; BADEA – US$8,000,000; with government of Sierra Leone providing US$3,650,000.

In a telephone interview with Peter Sam-Kpakra, Head of Multilateral Projects Division, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development last night, he says since the Appraisal Mission, a number of positive developments have taken place in furtherance of the project.

He adds that, the Loan Agreements between the Government of Sierra Leone and BADEA for US$8.0 million; and OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) US$13.0 million, in respect of the rehabilitation of Fourah Bay College Project were signed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development – Dr. Marrah on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone, in April and May 2013 respectively.