Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 June 2021:
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Trade and Industry – Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy, last week informed the media that parliament has enacted the Consumer Protection Act, which should now clearly spell out the legal relationship between the buyer and seller in every commercial transaction, as well as rights to legal redress when things go wrong.
But in a country where there is little faith in the justice system, there is deep scepticism about the extent to which this legislation will protect the rights of the average consumer.
Minister Sandy also said that Sierra Leone is still spending over $240 million annually on the import of rice from abroad which is affecting local farmers’ incentive to invest in production, as well as perpetuating the cycle of overreliance on food imports.
He said that the Ministry of Trade has reviewed its policy through the support of development partners, and that the World Bank has supported 35 more SMEs engaged in value chain production. $1.4 million dollars has so far been spent on this project.
Despite electoral promises made by President Bio in 2018 to address the growing food crisis in the country, there is still no sign of things getting any better as millions of people continue to face hunger and malnutrition.
Sandy also informed the media that the Ministry of Trade is working round the clock to improve the environment, process and climate of ‘doing business’ in the country. It is now possible to register a new business within 24 hours, he said.
The government’s much talked about ‘Munafa’ Micro Credit Scheme is charging interest rate of 9%, and is being managed by what the minister referred to as ‘reputable financial service providers’.
But the government is yet to publish data on who is receiving the finance as well as the regional spread; and what types of businesses are being supported and their growth potential.
As concerns grow across the country over the rising costs of imported goods in the markets, minister Sandy blames what he said is the “huge increase in global freight charges and shortage of shipping containers around the world which government has no control over”. This he said is responsible for the steady increase in prices of essential commodities including foods.
But he said that despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government through its ‘Quick Action Economic Response Program’ is ensuring the availability of essential commodities in the country.