Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 September 2019:
Last Thursday at the UN in New York, president Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone spoke about the difficulties facing developing countries in trying to mobilise development finance.
He was speaking at a fringe session of the UN General Assembly, where other speakers included Mathew Rycroft – Permanent Secretary at DfID, United Kingdom, Anne Finucane – Vice Chair and CEO of the Bank of America, Akinwumi Adesina – President of the African Development Bank, and Tharman Shanmugaratnam – Senior Minister of Singapore and Chair of the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance.
President Bio said that to ensure sustainable financing and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need to invest more in ensuring a conducive environment in the Least Developed Countries, LDCs.
The interactive dialogue – “moving the money to fill the climate action and SDGs financing gap” – moderated by Financial Times’ Gillian Tett, featured a small number of institutional investors having an engaging discussion on removing the obstacle to attract private capital with select Heads of States and Governments.
President Bio told the panel that “to attract the trillions of dollars we need for our transformation, more needs to be done in the regulatory environment, improve macroeconomic fundamentals such as well-managed exchange rates, inflation and public debt so as to provide the right signals for mobilising private capital.
“While we in Sierra Leone are trying to move the money to fill the climate action and SDG imperatives, we are also issuing a clarion call to the global business community on the need for ensuring environmentally friendly and responsible business practices so as to protect our country and the broader planet in which we all live.
“With the right structural reforms and institutions, other investment bottlenecks such as lack of energy, water, ICT and transport infrastructure will become more of an investment opportunity than an impediment to attracting private capital.
“While we need to overcome credit and finance challenges encountered by these critical enterprises, more important is the need to overcome the digital and physical infrastructural impediments to our economies.”
President Bio, who was one of only two presidents in Africa to take part in the dialogue, said his government has prioritised Information and Communication Technology (ICT), to drive a range of financial and other services in the West African nation.
He recalled that very recently, his government launched a Blockchain National Digital Identity System, to enhance financial inclusion, including expanding access to needed capital in rural communities.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, with regard to responding to the falling official development assistance to our country and other traditional sources of financing, we have recently completed a comprehensive Development Finance Assessment to identify multiple financing options for financing our National Development Plan with a current gap of US$ 1.5 billion for 2019-2023. And we are in the process of preparing a comprehensive Integrated National Financing Framework to pursue the multiple options we have identified,” he said.
President Bio noted that while Official Development Aid remained important to LDCs, especially in curbing illicit financial flows, they were prioritising it towards supporting policies aimed at increasing government capacity to increasing domestic revenue mobilisation and strengthening economic diversification efforts.
Sierra Leone needs to leverage $1.5 billion investments in key sectors of the economy, such as fisheries, largescale farming, tourism, agro-processing, and light manufacturing to create jobs and increase prosperity and wealth.