Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 March 2022:
The World Bank yesterday approved a $40 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to support improved access to social safety nets and income generating opportunities for over 176,000 beneficiaries, including women, youth and persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone.
The Productive Social Safety Nets and Youth Employment Project will provide consumption support to rural extreme-poor households, introduce a package of economic inclusion services to help build a foundation for transiting extreme-poor households out of poverty, support youth engagement in rural and urban areas through productive public works, and provide opportunities to urban youth through entrepreneurship grants and training.
The Project will also continue to strengthen the delivery systems and institutional capacity for project management, implementation, and coordination for future implementation of programs related to social protection and jobs in the country.
“The social safety net system in Sierra Leone is proving very effective in reaching the poorest families whose situation has been worsened by the negative impact of COVID-19. Cash transfers help poor families to invest in better food, education and preventive health care of their children, thus contributing toward building the human capital of these children,” said Abdu Muwonge, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone.
“This financing will build on the existing Social Safety Net project; it will help expand the coverage of the program and contribute toward improving the access of poor households to health and education services, particularly for women, youth and persons with disabilities,” Abdu Muwonge said.
According to the World Bank, Sierra Leone has a high proportion of youth who are not in education, employment, or training, with female youth and youth with disabilities the most affected.
The country was one of the first to implement a World Bank-financed cash transfer in response to the onset of COVID-19. Under the Emergency Cash Transfer (ECT) program, the Government provided one-off cash payments to nearly 65,000 vulnerable informal sector workers in the country.
In addition, through the swift restructuring of the Social Safety Net project in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Government is also providing regular consumption support to 65,000 extreme-poor households, including persons with disabilities, in rural and urban areas.
The World Bank says that recent quantitative and qualitative analysis shows that cash transfers have been effective at reducing poverty and helping to improve human capital outcomes of beneficiary households, and in reaching the population most likely to be vulnerable to climate change. The analysis finds that beneficiaries mainly use the transfers to cover school expenses (44 percent) and to buy more and quality food (40 percent).
“Building on the instrumental role played by the social protection programs to shield the extreme-poor households and vulnerable informal sector workers from the negative economic impacts of COVID-19, this operation will help lay the groundwork for a strong and resilient recovery in Sierra Leone,” said Junko Onishi, Senior Social Protection Specialist and Task Team Leader.
The Productive Social Safety Nets and Youth Employment Project will provide much needed technical and financial support to the Government to advance the agenda of social protection and jobs in the country. It will also support labor-intensive public works to upgrade sanitation infrastructure and improve climate change mitigation and adaptation in rural and urban areas.
The project will support youth-owned enterprises in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Port Loko, and Freetown in getting access to business grants and training opportunities and creating a platform that allows youth to access livelihood, training, and empowerment opportunities in the labor market.
We know apart from corruption, one of the key areas that is holding our country back is access and affordability of education for our young people in Sierra Leone. Any foreign investors will find it difficult to come and invest in a country where the illiteracy rate is high. Apart from their initial investment, it will be too costly to train the local people for the jobs on offer. So Sierra Leoneans should not be exircise under the collar, when Chinese investors prioritised their own people for employment to the detriment of the locals. And this Chinese practice is not limited to Sierra Leone, is right across Africa. Investing in education should be the top priority of any government that wants to make a difference in people’s lives. Serious consideration has to be given to the young people of today because they are the future leaders of tomorrow.
With out an educated population and training , there is no way we can move our country away from the status of reliant on foreign aid assistance, to the growth paths of any future developments that is sustainable and long lasting that we are all aiming for our country to be, or want it to be. There are no silver bullets for the myriad of problems facing us. And the lack of primary infrastructure projects , like good roads, electricity, hospitals, educational institutions, poor urban planning, like housing, pedestrian pathways, green spaces, good drainage system, clean water supply, for residents in towns and cities, across the country doesn’t bode well for any future economics developments prospects . With Bio’s government, we are fighting a loosing battle. We know the end because we are living and breathing it every day in our fight for survival for what can only be discribed as Bio’s version of hell on earth that this president and his cronies has subjected us to in the last four years.
The World Bank and international development partners can pour billion of dollars in the vain hope of helping shielding our populations from the negative impacts of covid19, but if you have a government like Bio’s that have thus sofar prove themselves to be incompetent in every level of making a difference in people’s lives, chances are we will never see light at the end of the dark tunnel Bio has taken us. Government needs to prioritise their social and economic policies, otherwise we will never come out of this Bionomics quagmire.