Sierra Leone can be prosperous – says Dr. Kandeh Yumkella

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 April 2013

Kandeh3Sierra Leonean born Director of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) – Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, spoke in Washington DC last Saturday, as Sierra Leoneans across the world, celebrated the country’s 52nd independence anniversary.

Sierra Leone is rich in natural resources, but after 52 years of independence from Britain, industrialisation is yet to become the engine of wealth creation and prosperity.

Successive governments have failed to build a diverse economy that is resilient and robust enough to promote economic growth and eradicate abject poverty.

But Dr. Yumkella is confident about the future. Well renowned for his economic development philosophy of ‘adding value’ through the promotion of innovation and creativity, he sounded clear in his thinking, as to some of the key challenges facing Sierra Leone.

He told his audience at the Howard Theatre – Washington DC, that; “You must choose not to accept the word ‘impossible’ as part of your vocabulary, for your generation must believe in the power of creativity and innovation.”

Speaking about his firm belief in hard work as the driver of success, he said; “I hope my achievements have inspired you to have bold dreams, to believe in yourselves, to believe that hard work and opportunity will pay off in the long run.”

KandehDr. Yumkella was delivering a vote of thanks to the members of the ‘Green white and Blue (GWB) Commission’, who had organised the independence celebration.

Receiving an award for his achievements at UNIDO, he emphasized the importance of being resilient, a good problem-solver and intelligent.

This is what he said:

“Your generation must be resilient in the face of major global challenges of climate change, a global recession, and the democratic transitions around the world (all of which have an impact on Sierra Leone).

You should have optionality by exploring a number of pathways as you chart the course for the future. You should show intelligence by collecting the right information, the correct facts, and analyze them well in order to make the right choices and decisions.

I had never heard of GWB Commission until I received your invitation about two months ago. When I asked some folks about GWB-C, I was told that GWB Commission was made up of a progressive, modern young generation of Sierra Leoneans who are trying to make a difference in their immediate society here in America, and also promoting development in Sierra Leone through various projects.

I was also told that your events are different; in fact, that they are always organized with class and sophistication, and they bring together people from all works of life, under one banner i.e. the Green, White and Blue Flag of Sierra Leone.

That is my philosophy as well; in other words, there can be only one Sierra Leone, and only you and I can make it prosperous.

Have you heard of the TGIF Revolution? No, it is not Thank God It’s Friday. The TGIF Revolution is the Twitter-Google-Internet-Facebook Revolution. It is this revolution that brought about the Arab Spring; it is this revolution that challenged the “big money” in America to promote the interest of the 99% and re-elected President Obama.

There is no leader for TGIF; there is simply the power of connectivity, youthful energy, creativity and commitment.

The same combination can make Sierra Leone more prosperous.  The challenge is how to harness that power of information, networking and youthful energy for socio-economic change, progress and prosperity for all our people.

I was told that the day you posted your gala on your website you received 4,000 hits within 24 hours; so you are part of TGIF; the almost 800 people I see tonight in this prestigious Howard Theatre shows your ability to mobilize action. Keep it up!

You can make things happen in our country. Your remittances can spur growth in our country, and your ideas can elevate the mindset of our people.

I am sure that on average each one of you must be personally sending money to improve the lives of at least 4-10 people in Salone. In fact some estimates show that today Sierra Leone receives over $160 million every year from the diaspora, in some years it is a significant “12-15% of government revenues.”

How can they receive your money, but do not want to receive your ideas?

Henry Ford the Famous auto-maker and inventor once said, “Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progressive, working together is Success”.

So stay focused. Use the tools of your education, the opportunities in America, Europe or where ever you are to better yourselves, to innovate, and to continue to make a difference back home.

Use your strength of networking and TGIF to promote progress, growth and prosperity in Salone.

And don’t be deterred by the nay-sayers and those who only spew negativity and doomsday scenarios. Success comes through a positive mental attitude (Dale Carnegie).

kandek2In the United Nations we say: “Without Peace there can be no development, without development peace cannot be secured, and both cannot be attained without a commitment to human rights and the rule of Law”.

In this one statement we capture the universality of four key principles:

Peace and Security for All; Development and prosperity for All; Protection of Human Rights; and Commitment to the Rule of Law.

Therefore, we must all endeavour to support our governments. We must support them because if they succeed, our people will prosper and if they fail, we all suffer.

I assisted and worked with the Tejan Kabba government.  I am also working with and assisting the Ernest Bai Koroma government.

Thanks to President Tejan Kabba, we achieved peace (after 11 years of war). That was not easy to achieve, it took statesmanship and bold leadership to forgive the rebels and sign the peace accord.

If you think peace is cheap or easy, ask the people of South Sudan, ask the Columbians, or better still, read about the American Civil war (or go and watch the movie Lincoln).

Thanks to that peace, two peaceful elections have been held.

Thanks to that peace, President Ernest Bai Koroma has done an amazing job on infrastructure, attracting foreign direct investment, and providing universal health care.

When President Kennedy said America will land a man on the moon in a decade, (he did not say I, Kennedy will land you on the moon). Within a decade, an American landed on the moon.

Therefore, a leader’s role is to define the vision, build the enabling conditions to achieve the key goals, and establish a team and a followership to help him or her execute the strategies.

In short, just as we all helped Pa Kabba consolidate peace, we must all help President Koroma execute the agenda for prosperity. Maybe the next leader will build universities, skyscrapers or technology centres.

As Obama famously said;”There are no Blue States or Red States, there is only the United States of America”. I say to you, there are no green or red Sierra Leoneans, we are just one, common, peace- loving Sierra Leoneans.  Let us all put Salone first.”






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