Sierra Leone Telegraph celebrates ten successful golden years

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 December 2019:

As the Sierra Leone Telegraph celebrates ten golden years of publication, we bring you excerpts of an interview, featuring Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas, who is the Proprietor and Editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, conducted by the editor of the ReConnect Africa Magazine.

Q. Abdul Rashid Thomas, you are the proprietor and editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, which is one of the most read Sierra Leone online newspapers in the diaspora. Where were you educated?

I was educated at the St. Edwards Secondary School at Kingtom in Freetown, and the Municipal Secondary School at Kissy Dockyard – also in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I then came to the UK to pursue my undergraduate and post-graduate education in Business Management, and Public Policy, with a Masters Degree in Public Policy Studies.

I also obtained various professional qualifications, including programme and project management, holding the PRINCE2 and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) qualifications at practitioner levels.

I hold a professional Diploma in Management Training (DipTM) accredited by the Institute of Training and Development; and the Institute of Marketing Professional Certificate.

As an African whose ethos is one of continuous professional development, I have constantly pursued new learning opportunities that will keep me at the top of whatever I do.

Q. What was your first job?

My first job was self-employment – running my own management and enterprise development consultancy business. When I came out of university in Manchester – UK, global economic conditions and the UK employment market were pretty turbulent. It was at the height of an economic recession, but new opportunities were being created for young black people by the Thatcher government, following the 1981 inner city riots.

So, with my knowledge and skills in business and marketing, I established my own business start-up and market research training and consultancy business in Manchester, providing support, advice, training and guidance for unemployed African and Caribbean youths wanting to go into self-employment or starting a community enterprise.

I also provided training and consultancy to one of the UK’s largest national workforce development organisations known as Fielden House Productivity Centre, based in Manchester, where I designed and delivered courses, seminars and workshops in business skills and community enterprise development.

In 1987, I was headhunted by Business In The Community (BITC) – one of the first inner cities initiatives established by His Royal Highness – The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), after the 1985 inner city riots, to set up the Moss Side and Hulme Community Economic Development Trust, as its Executive Director.

The Moss Side and Hulme Community Economic Development Trust was responsible for transforming and regenerating what was then a terribly rundown and economically deprived geographical district in the city of Manchester.

As head of the Trust, I established a public-private partnership investment fund of £12 million, and created thousands of employment, training and community enterprise opportunities for the community which had an adult unemployment rate of 70%.

This was a challenge that gave me immense job satisfaction, given the level of success achieved, especially in transforming a once environmentally blighted area, into a community that became fit for living, working and leisure, with hundreds of new homes built, dozens of new businesses attracted into the area, and thousands of real job opportunities created for young people in and outside of the community.

Q. When and why did you start the Sierra Leone Telegraph?

On a fulltime basis, I work for the UK NHS, using my programme and project management experience, knowledge and skills to help transform the entire NHS into a digitalised and paperless institution, where patient data and information can be securely shared across the system to improve patient care, safety and health outcomes.

Before this, I worked for both the Leeds University and the Yorkshire Regional Development Agency as Programme Manager – Innovation. I was responsible for helping businesses in the region to improve their global competitiveness through innovation, by establishing knowledge and technology transfer partnerships involving the region’s universities and businesses. Through these partnerships, many businesses were able to develop and take new high-value added products to new markets.

But my passion is the Sierra Leone Telegraph. I established the Sierra Leone Telegraph on Boxing Day, 26 December 2009, after a serious and thorough assessment of how best I can contribute in helping to transform and promote transparency, social and economic justice, civil liberty and democratic freedoms in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone had come out of a long and brutal civil war that took the lives of tens of thousands of people and displacing millions.

For a country that is potentially a paradise with some of the most spectacular beaches and landscapes in the world – and with vast natural resources , it is obscene that the country is labelled as one of the poorest in the world, quite simply due to corruption, poor governance and misplaced priorities by those in power.

Whilst a tiny section of the country’s media were trying hard to do a good job in exposing corruption and informing the people of Sierra Leone of what was going on in the country – despite being constantly harassed and intimidated by those in power, large sections of the media were terribly partisan and survived on handouts from politicians.

So in 2009, I felt it necessary to establish my own online newspaper to bring quality and independent analysis and commentary to readers across the world; and so far we have succeeded – with our average daily readership having grown from 500 in 2009 when we first started to 26,500 in 2019.

Q. What lessons have you learned along the way?

I have learnt that this life we live is not a rehearsal. So whatever you do, do it well and enjoy it. And if it doesn’t make you smile, make a change. I also learnt that to change who you are, you must first change your thinking. This is vital.

When we set goals for ourselves, the organisations that we lead, or the people and teams we manage, what drives us are our values and beliefs. If we believe that mediocrity is not good enough, then striving to achieve excellence comes as second nature.

I also learnt that there is very little you can achieve in life without having people skills. Your ability to get people to do what you want done, at the right quality and time, depends on how well you interact, engage, communicate with and value those you work with as individuals. (Photo: Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas ad wife – Dr Fawzia Thomas and Sierra Leone’s former High Commissioner to the UK – Mr Tamba Lamina in London).

Finally, the world owes us nothing. In the aftermath of the riots in Moss Side in the UK in 1985, I was elected by the community as one of their representatives to work with British government ministers and the local council to find solutions to the myriad of complex economic and social problems facing the community.

I remember being interviewed by the BBC television Panorama programme about the difficulties faced by young black people and the racism we experienced. My message was simple and clear: “The world owes you nothing. To achieve anything in life, you first of all must become an active citizen by empowering yourself through education and personal enterprise.”

Q. Who has been the greatest influence on your life?

My late Aunty Ramatu who brought me up as a young boy in Aberdeen, Freetown in the early sixties. She taught me to take pride in myself and whatever I do. She was an inspiration in my life – always making sure that I read a book every single day. But she also taught me to be self-sufficient, so that I can stand on my own feet.

Q. What is the best advice you have ever received?

To look after number one (yourself) first, before you can help anyone else. Far too often we see young Africans struggling to work and send money home, abandoning their education. While I understand that many are victims of changing political and economic circumstances here in the UK and elsewhere, I do believe that there is much that can be achieved financially for yourself, your family and community by achieving the highest level you can attain in education.

Education makes you stronger and gives you the tool to earn money. (Photo below: Abdul Rashid Thomas speaking to the 2018 Presidential candidate of the NGC Party – Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella). 

Q. What top tips for career success can you offer?

Education, education, perseverance, and personal enterprise. Get a good education and start your own business. Whatever you do, try and be the best at it.

We – the team at the Sierra Leone Telegraph, want to thank our numerous readers who have stuck by us throughout the last ten years and continue to do so. We look forward to many more years serving and bringing the news to you.

24 Comments

  1. Male Presidents of Sierra Leone continue to fail us – by my standards. Women comprise over 51% of Sa Leone’s population. It is time for both SLPP and APC – all the other SL political parties can be regarded as ALSO-RANS – to seriously consider ALL-WOMEN-ONLY SHORTLISTS to compete for parties, and, national leaderships. This potential needs to be ethically exploited. Please comment

    • OH Mr. Seton During. Long time. Happy New Year. WELCOME. I totally agree with you. It’s time our IRON LADIES start to compete for the highest office in the LAND. As you very well know, it’s not too long ago that our IRON LADIES started active participation in POLITICS. KUDOS to former President Ernest Bai Koroma who to be honest, started recruiting more women in his CABINET and GOVERNMENT than any other PRESIDENT in the POLITICAL History of our country. LET THE “NOMADIC” POLITICIANS DENY.
      By the way, let me right now wish former President Ernest Bai Koroma, his wife and Former First Lady Sia Koroma and their FAMILIES a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a PROSPEROUS DECADE.

      I believe women will be prepared and will run for the Presidency before the end of this DECADE Mr During. That’s why we are doing our best to make sure that we send someone to STATE HOUSE who will “GET SALONE SORTED”. Chief Sam Sumana will “GET SALONE SORTED” and CUT THROUGH the country’s POLITICAL GRIDLOCK and DIVISIVENESS if he is ELECTED LEADER OF THE APC and become PRESIDENT. That I will tell everyone.

      Our IRON LADIES have already competed as RUNNING MATES and that will continue. Thank you very much Mr. Seton During for your contribution on this GLORIOUS PLATFORM and may GOD BLESS YOU.

  2. Congratulations to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the Editor Mr Thomas, his lovely wife, and member of his team. My wife and I are very proud of the efforts Mr Thomas is making in order to ensure democracy continues to thrive in our small beloved Sierra Leone.

    My friends and family members enjoy reading the Sierra Leone Telegraph because it is truly informative, and also because it brings us laughter, happiness and joy. Happy NEW YEAR Sir, and keep on doing the good work you have already started.

  3. Mr. Sahr Matturi my friend (sincerely meant), I presume we both could go a long way in politics. Now before we “GET SALONE SORTED” as you’ve said let’s start by being independent from SLPP and APC and advocat for a very strong third FORCE (NGC and C4C) in our political landscape. Lets send a strong  message to these two that without putting Salone Fos on the agenda there is no way either of them can attain power. And here comes my biggest disappointment, that SS and EBK are again shoulder to shoulder, forgiving each other inorder to secure their long lost glories……I’m afraid it won’t work!!!

    Work for a strong and independent C4C and together with NGC we could be the answer to SALONE’s political problems!

    Happy New year to you and all my Salone People! We will Prevail!

    • I always respect your views Mr. Anthony Moiba. But let’s be realistic and honest to ourselves. The C4C and the NGC are very young. They can’t stand up to the APC or SLPP forces. If Chief Sam Sumana is ELECTED LEADER of the APC, I will support him and the APC because I strongly believe he will UNITE our country, mobilize NATIONAL COHESION and “GET SALONE SORTED”. I am supporting someone that has the LEADERSHIP qualities to lead. After all, LEADERSHIP means leading a team or your country amicably.

      Mr. Anthony Moiba, our country can’t continue like this. We must CUT THROUGH the POLITICAL GRIDLOCK and DIVISIVENESS in the country. Tell me Anthony, what major development has taken place since former President Ernest Bai Koroma left power. Politics aside. You tell. Two years now. Nothing. With corruption is OK. But outside corruption, nothing. LOADS of MOU’s have been signed. But where are the INVESTORS?

      Mark this, you will join Chief Sam Sumana in the end. I am not saying that you are going to leave the NGC but, you would hold your nose to vote for him in the next election if he becomes LEADER of the APC. He has joined the APC. I am with him because, I know he will deliver the GOODS. Sometimes, you have to make some bold decisions with your conviction and what you believe in. GOD BLESS Mr. Anthony Moiba and Happy NEW YEAR.

    • My political instinct tells me it won’t work because Mr Sam Sumana can only be the APC Leader at the mercy of EBK, which means SELECTION! I wish him all the best with the hope that C4C will welcome him back should he fail. I will continue to hope and pray that NGC and C4C will come together!

  4. Dear Readers and Forumites, I would like to thank you all for your best wishes as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sierra Leone Telegraph. Without your continuing readership we would not have achieved this major milestone. And for this, I thank you.

    I would also in particular, like to give a big thank you to those Forumites who are members of the Class of 2019 for keeping the Sierra Leone Telegraph Forum alive and exciting, including: James Fallah-Williams, Anthony Moiba, Sahr Matturi, Santhkie Sorie, Young4na, Patricia, Saidu Conteh, Mahmoud Kargbo, Philip Cummings, Alusine Fallay, John Mannah, Alan Luke, Felix Sesay, Abdulai Mansaray, S.J Koroma, Reinhard, Dr Johnson, Alimamy Turay, Brima Sesay, Tamba Komba, Brahim, and many others.

    I wish you all a prosperous and happy NEW YEAR. GOD BLESS!!

  5. Hey Abdul, you are talking about the 1960s and you don’t even look 40; what have you been eating? This is the first time I have actually seen your photo, even though we have been communicating for some time now. You have done such a wonderful job with The Sierra Leone Telegraph, and I am truly honoured to be one of the readers and writers.

    One thing that struck me quite profoundly is what you said about young Africans struggling to work and send money home, abandoning their education. This is one of the most damaging issues that many Africans face when they come overseas. It is a tragedy to ignore education and work in perpetuity to send money home. Many health problems, including mental breakdowns come from this. Financial demands from relatives and friends increase with every sum sent home, and this puts more pressure on people to take additional work to ‘satisfy’ this demand.

    Many people have left their daily lives in villages and towns to come and live in cities to receive monthly remittances from relatives abroad. These are the people who are always after new phones, shoes, ‘medical costs’, birthday parties, etc. they wouldn’t even hesitate to ring in the middle of the night! If you fail to comply you become an enemy! Their demands are insatiable.

    This is one of the key issues I always discuss with young people coming to the UK who abandon their education to work and send money home. Many end up ignoring their wellbeing and education, and in the end achieve nothing meaningful. You are very right to say that one has to achieve financially for oneself, one’s family and community by achieving the highest level one can attain in education. Well done.

    From – James Fallah-Williams

    http://www.practicaltoolsinitiative.org

  6. As we all join hands in congratulating Mr Thomas and his achievements,  that much I’ll be expecting also for our beloved Salone! Lets join hands and put Salone Fos – be you a chronic  tribalist, chronic regionalist, half-backed political strategist, successionist, sycophant, progressive, political thug or just trouble maker!!

    So Mr. Thomas, you have our well wishes and congratulations. Let’s continue our efforts in making Salone a place worth living in!! Thanks to you and team!!

    • One thing I can tell anyone is that SIERRA LEONE has always been first – “SALONE FOS”. Also, SALONE has always been a “place worth living in”. SALONE is not a SLUMP as some would have thought. The problem SALONE has is the TOTAL MESS (ECONOMIC, SOCIAL INJUSTICE, POVERTY, CORRUPTION, POLITICAL TOLERANCE, etc) it is engulfed in which must be cleared. That is why we must “GET SALONE SORTED”.

      I respect Mr. Anthony Moiba’s views. But I would like him to join forces with me to “GET SALONE SORTED”. That is the only way to clear this MESS and make SALONE a country SECOND to NONE. HAPPY NEW YEAR in ADVANCE to Mr. Anthony Moiba and all FORUMITES.

      I would be failing in my MORAL and NOBLE DUTIES if I fall to EXPRESS my SINCERE THANKS and APPRECIATION to the FAMILY of the EDITOR of THE SIERRA LEONE TELEGRAPH Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas for their support to him. Their support to him has made this newspaper very POPULAR in my view. I end by WISHING Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas and his FAMILY a HAPPY and PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. GOD BLESS.

  7. No amount of thanks and congratulations are enough to shower on Mr Thomas and The Telegraph. The medium has just been phenomenal in helping a good many of us to maintain our mental balance when it comes to matters affecting our dear country, particularly when associated with the political scene.

    The readership has not even started rising yet until more and more Sierra Leoneans come to see that whatever their ideology, opinions, bias,etc, The Telegraph has room for them,as long as they adhere to the very simple rules set by Mr Thomas,which are in keeping with the terms of the mediums’s operation.

    Because of the forthrightness of The Telegraph,it won’t be far-fetched to declare that many of our public figures must be scared of reading it in case they bump into themselves right on the front page to be followed by denigrating comments by commentators.

    Keep up the excellent work Mr Thomas; you are a self-assured man, nothing rattles you easily and all well meaning Sierra Leoneans are not only with you but praying for you as well.

  8. Indeed, a remarkable 10 golden years by the Sierra Leone Telegraph. Reading through the many impressive accomplishments and academic achievements by the proprietor, it leaves one with nothing but a trail of inspirations. Mama Salone is indeed proud to have a son like you Mr. Thomas.

    Our sincere gratitude goes to you and your associates for the establishment and maintenance of this noble platform, where Sierra Leoneans all across the globe not only access non-biased current and past events happening in our beloved nation, but can also express their opinions via the commenting section. May our creator continue to bless you with good health and all that you desire. Wishing you a more PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR as we approach 2020.

  9. A big shout out and massive congratulations to the Editor Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas and his crew at the Sierra Leone Telegraph on your 10th anniversary. It cannot be easy in this day and age to maintain an online newspaper on mainly Sierra Leone news when you are not on the ground.

    However you have done this so successfully and have remained unbiased throughout. I also love the comments section where we can all vent our feelings – some very funny. I always go to the Sierra Leone Telegraph for news of our country. It never crosses my mind to check other newspapers. And that is because I trust SLT implicitly.

    God bless, long may you continue and as Sahr Matturi says may your tomorrow be greater than today.

  10. The ancient ones – sages, seers, prophets and saints of old have always maintained that there are some rare men and women over whom Existence sometimes joyfully decides not to stand aloof, as they are being brought forth by the hands of caregivers, but to become transformed into vigilant, Celestial midwives, deeply involved in the whole process of these highly anticipated cosseted births. True.

    It is only Existence, our dearest mother herself, guided by the watchful eyes of the eternal heavens that severs their umbilical cords with her gentle, pious, invisible hands – after which, she then carefully and purposefully examines and leaves her divine, unique fingerprints, signifying greatness to come all over their fragile, little bodies. What a Blessing!

    My Friends, the Honorable Abdul Rashid Thomas is such a man – an amiable, illustrious son of Sierra Leone, brought forth through the unfaltering hands of the universe, with the aim and duty to protect the Truth and its enduring principles…with the objectives of reinforcing sincerity, goodness, understanding and the formidable pillars on which they defiantly and proudly stand.

    Consider this: In a land where precious diamonds are found in overwhelming abundance, Existence was again generous enough to give us Abdul Rashid Thomas and a handful of others, to help illuminate the paths of peace, stability and progress in our beloved nation. What blessing!

    His admirable record of past achievements, leaves a noteworthy, distinctive, visible trial of golden nuggets and fragrant flowers behind on the sands of time, easy to find by those who would aspire and wish to follow in his decisive footsteps. 10 glorious golden years in my view, symbolises professional achievement, assertiveness and completeness….the next prized horse waiting for you to ride now Sir, is called – GREATNESS, and with it, you will be able to leave others far behind in the dust, crawling in mud, as you gallop like the wind out of sight.(lol)

    A Happy New Year shout out, and enthusiastic Congratulations going to The Sierra Leone Telegraph, its down to earth Editor, and highly effective, productive crew. Nuff Respect!….Rising Sun Will Rise again.

  11. Outstanding formal academic feat. I’ve always admired a man who understands the importance of education, and how imperative it is that he makes it his business to achieve it.

  12. CONGRATULATIONS Abdul, 10 PRODUCTIVE years, what an achievement! Indeed time flies, well done! Your online News (The Sierra Leone Telegraph) has kept us closer to all what’s happening in Sierra Leone. You have given us independent, unbiased and well informed news throughout the years. For this, I want to say THANK YOU.

  13. Sincerely I will like to congratulate The Sierra Leone Telegraph Newspaper for achieving this milestone. I will also like to thank Mr Abdul Thomas for creating the public square for us to express our opinions in order to contribute to the development of our nation.
    Finally I thank you for your objectivity in holding each and every government accountable for the past decade, I WISH YOU AND FELLOW FORUMITES A HAPPY AND BLESSED NEW YEAR.

  14. I can’t believe it’s already ten years since you launched the Sierra Leone Telegraph Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas. I remember rumbling with you on the Cocorioko and Bintumani discussion forums, but as a social commentator and activist, you needed to do more than just contribute to a topic here and there, and before we realized it, a newspaper was born – The Sierra Leone Telegraph.

    You have done a remarkable job with the paper Abdul, by introducing a paradigm shift in both the ethical and aesthetical aspects of presenting on the socio-political and economic issues of our poor country Sierra Leone.

    In this respect, the sky is the limit for the Sierra Leone Telegraph under your proprietorship and leadership.

    Congratulations Abdul for your hard work, great work ethic and ethos. Look forward to more engagement with The Sierra Leone Telegraph in the next ten years.

  15. Abdul, the Sierra Leone Telegraph is an incredible asset to Sierra Leone. I first stumbled on your publication around 2015, after realising that none of the other online newspapers would publish anything I sent. You have not disappointed since, and without this medium, important stories would not have been told.

    Your objectivity, transparency, speed of turning publications around have been remarkable.

    Keep up the good work and I sincerely hope that you would be able to branch into broadcast media as well and subject our politicians to a grilling on live TV.

    Best regards,

    Alan Luke

  16. It was a Sierra Leonean Lawyer, living in Minnesota USA, who first drew my attention to your esteemed online newspaper – Sierra Leone Telegraph.

    As you celebrate ten years of objective reporting on socio –political events in our country, I want to doff my hat, and say, Thank You, Mr. Thomas for a job well done.

    Living in England, you had a choice to be a spectator of events affecting post-civil war Sierra Leone; but you chose the path of activism. It takes patriotism to do what you are doing.

  17. Thanks very much Mr. Thomas for the great work you’re doing in bringing us very close to our Country and People. Thanks too for all the work and your previous engagements. I was so delighted when I read all what you have done and achieved. We wish you and Family success and Prosperiety in the many Years ahead.

    God Bless and keep you all, including All Participants of this Platform. Good Luck!

  18. What a SUCCESSFUL story and EXAMPLE for others to follow. Thank you very much for maintaining our participation STANDARDS on this GLORIOUS PLATFORM. Happy anniversary to the Sierra Leone Telegraph and GOD BLESS Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas. Happy New Year to you in advance.

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