What will President Bio’s talks with Turkish President Erdogan mean for Sierra Leone?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 August 2021:

Over a week ago, State House in Freetown announced that president Bio will be arriving in Turkey for a two-weeks holiday and to seek much needed private sector investments for Sierra Leone’s ailing industrial sectors.

Yesterday, State House officials reported that president Bio and his wife Fatima, met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and wife for a private meeting.

Sierra Leoneans are keen to hear about progress on  the president’s mission to woo private sector investors in Turkey.

According to president Bio’s press secretary, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, “the private meeting was also intended to strengthen the bilateral relations between Turkey and Sierra Leone and to further explore investment opportunities between the two countries.”

“It could be recalled that last year, under the joint leadership of H.E Dr. Julius Maada Bio and H.E Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sierra Leone and Turkey signed cooperation agreements on visas, education, defence and the exemption of double taxation,” Sandi said, adding that the President is also expected to meet potential private sector investors with business interests in Sierra Leone.

Since his election as president in 2018, Bio has failed to make any meaningful progress in achieving his manifesto promise of creating two million jobs by the end of his first term in office in 2023, as millions of Sierra Leoneans languish in unemployment and poverty.

President Bio promised to build a bridge across the Rokel River from Lungi to mainland Freetown at a whopping cost of $3 billion, and to transform the entire Lungi area into a commercial, industrial, and residential hub, creating jobs for thousands of people and adding billions of dollars to the country’s GDP. To date there has been no progress in transforming this rhetoric into reality.

Many of Sierra Leone’s industrial sectors remain under-developed due to lack of investment. Successive governments failure to diversify the economy and implement a comprehensive private sector development strategy is at the heart of Sierra Leone’s economic malaise.

Over $500 million is needed to pump-prime private sector investments to grow and expand key sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, agro-processing, improved farming yields, marketing and distribution.

After decades of underfunding, the country’s electricity and water utilities are barely coping in meeting the needs of a fraction of the country’s population, let alone meet the needs of industry.

The government’s failure to diversify and expand the economy is having colossal impact on the country’s taxation base, with the government now borrowing far more than previous governments to pay for the delivery of vital public services, including healthcare.

President Bio’s reliance on foreign aid for over 60% of government revenue is unsustainable. It smacks of lazy governance, and an inability to take full responsibility for and control of the affairs of State.

President Bio has to do more than repeating empty manifesto rhetoric about diversifying the economy and creating employment. He must discuss the massive trade imbalance between Sierra Leone and Turkey with president Erdogan.

In 2019, Turkey’s export to Sierra Leone was $59.6 million, including iron bars ($15.5 million), cement ($14.9 million), and wheat flour ($6.9 milion), whilst in the same year – 2019, Sierra Leone’s export to Turkey was $2.67 million, made up mainly of ‘scrap vessels’ ($1.21 million), titanium ore ($1 million), and gold ($421,000).

This is just one sad example of Sierra Leone’s economic position in the world, since gaining independence in 1961. Yet successive governments have failed to grasp the importance of industrial development and the implementation of a coherent private sector growth strategy that will create sustainable jobs and expand the country’s taxation base and government revenue.

Hopping around in expensive executive jets from one country to the next, looking for foreign-aid and handouts is lazy leadership.

9 Comments

  1. May the Lord be our helper in this case and bring us the Moses who can save us and our beloved country (Sierra Leone). Cos, even if President Bio is removed from the position as President and another person comes, that individual will also do his or her own manipulation to the country’s development.

  2. I have often said that President Bio and his team do not know fifth form Economics, otherwise they would not humiliate themselves and the nation by hopping from one capital city to the other with cap in hand begging for anything. We have more than enough local resources to build an economy that is the envy of the world. By natural standards we are extremely wealthy. We have wonderful marine resources, we have gold, we have diamonds, we have bauxite , we have good fertile land and much more.

    Let me give Maada Bio, his finance Minister, his Central Bank Governor and the rest of the economic team a brief lecture: Economics is based on the unchallenged premise that resources are scarce, but that if one uses one’s intelligence to manage them skillfully they will yield benefits far beyond all expectations. To be able to do this one must have one’s house in order. Maada Bio does not have his house in order; if he did he would not be jetting around the world on a joy rides on the lame pretext of trying to attract investment. An economy in order is one that has a magnetic force that is irresistible . But how can an economy like ours be irresistible when those tasked to guide it are the criminals who poke holes into it for self interest. Billions of Leones go missing all the time. There is a bloated cabinet and parastatals.

    A top member of the Executive (David Francis) encourages corruption caught on video. The nation foots the bill for hired private jets because the president is on a perpetual honeymoon overseas. Our diamonds are smuggled out of the country all the time with the help of officialdom. The scenario should unambiguously explain the lack of life in our economy and hence the acute poverty inherent in it. We should not turn to APC for any semblance of rescue. Their recent history should not be lost to us. They hold the keys to the other compartment of hell. Come 2023 let us try NGC if just for the sake of it. SLPP and APC are one and the same.

  3. This is not an official state visit by President Bio,by any stretch of the imagination. Morelike a working holiday visit, or if I may add a president longing to get out of the pressure cocker of Sierra Leonean politics. Not to be seen to be outdone by former President Enerst Bai Koroma, for the acclamation and recognition, and a job well done in monitoring the Zambian presidential election. And the relief both for the Zambian electorate felt after all there was an adult in the form of Bai Koroma, in the room dispensing some hard ttuths to unruly politicians, and the overwhelming praise he got from the African Union, and to some extent help Zambians conduct a free and Fair election,by knocking Zambian politicians heads together, and acting as the elder stateman when ever, and where ever issues of continental problems arise, you can trust him to deliver on his assignments.This jewel of Africa is what he does best. I will propose Enerst Bai Koroma should be nominated for Noble peace prize, failing which give him the chair person position of the African union, whenever that vacancy arise.

    He has demonstrated through his actions , and deeds with statesman like attitude, that he is a true pan Africanist. Bio competing with President Koroma for name recognition is no brainer. He just have to lift his right hand and notice, if he’d never notice it before , that all our fingers are not the same size. Some people are carved out for great things in life. Clearly Boi is feeling left out,and he needed to do something dumm to divert the Sierra Leonean media to his attention.In this instance, it appears he has got his fifteen minutes of fame he was craving for.This is Bio’s way of saying look Iam still relevant to you. Anyone who bought into the notion that Bio has gone to Turkey to beat up the drum to attract foreign direct investment in Sierra Leone, must be living in a different planet. Two weeks working holidays, taking in the tourist attractions of Turkey, and his host Tayyip Erdoğan acting as his tour guide doesn’t strike me as a president who takes his job seriously.

    Bio’s is acting like the president, or a chairman of a company rather than an elected president that is meant to look after the interest of his people. Since taking office, this president have promised us all sorts of things, like tackling corruption, creating jobs for the youths, education for the young, taking care of the most vulnerable people in our society, which by the way is every one of us, stopping government waste, digitalisation of our countrys economy, wholesale reforms of our regulatory system, plugging the holes on tax dodging. You can safely say none of the above have been achieved under this do nothing Bio government. If any thing the problems have got worse under his watch. Meanwhile taking a two weeks holiday break is Bio’s way of saying he is entitled to it like a spoilt brat. When will we start to see the goods he promised us, instead of trying to hug the lime light for his own selfish ends. No other president in the west African region have wasted so much resources on air travel than this president. Bio could do the right thing and save our country a lot of dollars by getting his own presidential private jet. The Sierra-leone Air Force one.

  4. What the author said in this piece is the total summary of what most, if not all of us with commonsense in this forum, have been saying since day one this administration took over. One would want to know why I said so? Its because, you can tell a ripe corn by it looks! Looking at the video of Bio’s interview on the BBC, describing how he intends to close the LEAKAGES was the worst I have heard and seen from any presidential aspirant. If it was in any advanced country where integrity and fact checking are the order of the day in politics, Bio could have lost the presidency right from that moment! Also if records are something Sierra Leoneans take into consideration, Bio’s past activities in the sale of Sierra Leone passport saga, would have set his disqualification from the onset. But ah ya na salone, ousai eni Jack en jill kin bi president. Even after his ascendance to the throne, instead of him focusing on his manifesto promises, he chose to focus on the opposition APC.

    Three solid years have gone bye, this guy has nothing to show to the people of Sierra Leone. His fight against corruption is zero. Education = zero; Health = zero. Economy = zero; infrastructure = zero. You name the rest. Everything Bio campaigned on was a fallacy and a sham! Yet his vuvuzelas – so called advisers, are out there on social media playing konky-tinka politics….Its a complete DISGRACE! Iam not suprised at all because I have foreseen this coming. It was a disaster ready to befall the Sierra Leonean people. It was just a matter of time. And here we are in a totally messed up situation. I hope Sierra Leoneans learn from this in moving forward. The guy is a total novice in governance..MAY THIS KIND OF CANDIDATE NEVER AGAIN EXIST IN SIERRA LEONE #SIERRALEONEWILLRISEAGAIN..

  5. We have some great minds reading this publication, so, can readers please throw some ideas out there, well, on here, as to how we can develop our country, from both a public and private partnership point of view. Desperately seeking answers.

  6. Bio’s pre-election promise of creating millions of jobs before his five-year presidential term drew to a close was all rhetoric, all bombast, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Indeed, three years or so down the line, you have to ask: where are the jobs? The President’s incurable passion for globe-trotting in search supposedly of private sector investment opportunities constitutes an attempt on his part to appear serious and hardworking. In reality though, he cuts the figure of a sybarite – a person enamoured of a lifestyle of opulence and luxury, mindlessly piling up air miles and very expensively so as he jets from one foreign capital to another. In short, a pleasure-loving, self-indulgent and self-centred amateur politician, completely out of his depth when it comes to dealing with the very difficult challenge of being the president of an impoverished African nation.

    How can Bio keep his manifesto promise when the resources needed to do so are wasted on jet travel and expensive hotels? How can he focus on ways of addressing meaningfully the plight of our country’s struggling poor when he is irredeemably dazzled and distracted by dizzying number of flights across the world, the bright lights of the great cities of London, Istanbul and Ankara, the receptions accorded him in foreign lands by virtue of his high status and the ‘me’ time spent lazily and in the company of his loved ones in the comfort of five star hotels? Bio lives in a world all his own, at a complete remove from the harsh and hideous realities of life millions of people experience every day in a country he once promised to transform into a haven of jobs galore. That promise has now been shown to be hollow: a big, fat lie.

  7. No quick fix policy is needed to solve the problem of Sierra Leone. Since Independence to date, no industrial and lasting policies on infrastructure, education, health, defense, improving human rights, human capital and impeeded laws that needs a holistic approach to a sustainable and result-based orientation options for many dying, hungry and EMPTY HEADS Sierra Leoneans.

  8. I nearly chuckled when I read at the end of your piece – ‘looking for handout’. For twenty-odd years, the president never worked, he lived on HANDOUT. What an irony?

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