Salone News

"Environment for investments in Sierra Leone is steadily improving"-Vidal Smith

25 June 2010 at 23:51 | 455 views

Vidal Smith is a Sierra Leonean business man living in the United States of America. A professional engineer with an M.B.A. from California’s Santa Clara University, Vidal has enormous business experience and the confidence, self-esteem and determination to succeed. In this interview with Patriotic Vanguard editor Gibril Koroma, Vidal (photo) talks about a new business venture to be called Salvest and what it has in store for the average Sierra Leonean. He speaks with sparkling intelligence and conveys deep love for his country and compatriots. Here is Vidal Smith:

Patriotic Vanguard: Thank you, Mr. Smith, for granting the Patriotic Vanguard this interview. From information you have provided us, we note that you have a very rich professional background in engineering and business management. Why did you decide to go into business?

Vidal Smith:Thank you very much for granting me the opportunity to reach your audience. First, I should point out that I have actually been in business for decades now; running several aspects of businesses owned by corporations. I have also, at different periods in the past, ran sole proprietorships in the forms of a travel agency, an industrial energy conservation franchise, and an engineering consultancy. In the late 1980’s, twenty five of us, all Sierra Leoneans in Northern California, pooled our resources together to form The Leone Investment Group (LIG), a general partnership. Although that venture floundered after just eighteen months of operating a sizeable vending business, the experience left me with a lasting sense of the potential of such a group for raising serious investment capital. Those past experiences and the vast canvas of opportunities that I see in the Sierra Leone economy are motivating my passionate desire to go into business in Sierra Leone. The environment for investments in our country have been improving steadily, and it is attracting a lot of foreign investors, who all see the potential for significant returns on their investments. It is strategically the right time for Sierra Leoneans to seize first-mover opportunities in several sectors of the economy or risk losing them to foreigners.

PV:You recently presented the idea of setting up a business enterprise called Salvest to fellow Sierra Leoneans at a forum called Salone Discussion. Could you please tell some of our readers who are not on that forum what Salvest is all about?

VS: SALvest presents a vehicle for Sierra Leoneans, both at home and abroad, to pool together and apply their investment capital, technical know-how, managerial expertise, and intimate knowledge of our country towards direct investments in Sierra Leone.
SALvest is being organized and registered as a limited liability corporation (LLC) under the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States.
The LLC form of business organization was chosen not only for the advantages it offers over other types of entities, but also because it facilitates our capital raising efforts within a certified legal framework. Let me point to some of these much desirable attributes of the LLC.
- No investor will be personally held responsible for any debts or court judgments against the LLC.
- One’s ownership interests in an LLC may generally be sold to third parties without disrupting
the continued operation of the business.
- As an LLC, SALvest can retain any number of members, who do not have be a resident or citizen of the United States.
Now, with this vehicle called SALvest, I envision a dynamic company that will contribute to raising the standard of living of the average Sierra Leonean with direct investments in our motherland, even as we create wealth for investors. A company that will have annual revenues of over 10 million dollars by our sixth year of operations, with a diversified line of products and services for our customers around the world.
We will actualize this vision by applying our capital, and our technical and managerial expertise to develop products and services from Sierra Leone’s natural resources , environment and human talent. In the process we aim to create jobs and living wages for diverse groups of Sierra Leoneans in multiple sectors of the economy.

PV: How can one become an investor in Salvest and what are the benefits?

VS: SALvest is in the formative stages right now, and I have just succeeded in attracting the first set of like-minded Sierra Leoneans to join me as founding members. This group, guided by a legal professional, will determine the various elements that will make up our operating agreement. Once we have officially registered SALvest , we will then be ready to offer ownership interests to prospective investors, under conditions clearly spelled out in the Operating Agreement.
Some of the benefits include:
(a) SALvest will enable you to participate in the Sierra Leone economy at a level that you otherwise could not as an individual, because you lack adequate capital, or lack the proper expertise, or you do not wish to bear all the risks alone.
(b) SALvest will provide opportunities for you to do your part in providing real jobs for fellow Sierra Leoneans, and to make a good return on your investment at the same time.
(c) SALvest will offer the opportunity for you to participate in the running of a viable business entity, in several different capacities.

PV: Salvest has its home in the United States of America. How can somebody living outside the United States fully participate in Salvest?

VS: As an LLC, SALvest can retain any number of members, who do not have be residents or citizens of the United States. In fact, we believe that there are numerous benefits that could be derived from a membership that is geographically dispersed. We also see tremendous value in attracting the right type of investors who might already reside in Sierra Leone.
We intend for suitably qualified member-managers to run SALvest , who will be paid industry-competitive salaries. Apart from becoming a manager, suitably qualified members could serve in any of several management committees. These committees and their responsibilities include:
Membership: recruitment and retention
Legal & Executive: SEC compliance, corporate responsibility, and governing structures; corporate relations
Talent & Compensation: recruitment, training, retention, pay structures , benefits, and incentives
Finance: research, project evaluation and selection, financing alternatives, portfolio management
Country Relations: investment climate, national and local government liaisons; community outreach
Risk Management: risk planning and mitigation, insurance, and portfolio analysis
Operations: industry and technology research, project management, technical training, equipment selection and acquisition, plant operations and maintenance
Furthermore, a member could participate by offering, developing or sponsoring proposals for investment projects.
Apart from our use of emails and teleconferences for communication among members, SALvest will operate and maintain a members-only website, which will provide ready access to individual ownership accounts, as well as other related business materials.
To the extent the general membership desires, we will hold annual meetings either at different locations on a rotating basis, or exclusively in Sierra Leone.

PV: You have done a lot of professional work in Information Technology in your career as a consultant and it’s likely that Salvest will explore that field.What other areas of business would Salvest invest in?
Actually, I have been more of an end-user rather than a practitioner of Information Technology. My professional expertise is in electromechanical engineering, manufacturing, automation, energy technologies, and industrial management. I do get the gist of your question, though.
We will target investments in many of the areas that have been prioritized for development by successive governments: energy supplies, agriculture and related industries, tourism, transportation and other infrastructure. I also see immense opportunities in local manufacturing of several food and sundry goods that are now being imported.

PV:Is there anything else you would like to share with potential investors out there?

VS:We will publicize our readiness to accept investments as soon as all the legalities have been taken care of. Watch for that announcement in the Patriotic Vanguard and elsewhere. We will also be establishing a web presence in the near future. Meanwhile, please send any questions you might have to vidal.smith@gmail.com

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