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Investment Forum Communique

30 March 2006 at 21:59 | 339 views

SIERRA LEONE INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT FORUM 28th - 30th March 2006

COMMUNIQUE

Delivered on behalf of the organisers by the Hon. Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr. Kadi Sesay

The first Sierra Leone International Investment Forum was held in Freetown from 28th - 30th March, 2006. Over 400 delegates attended from 23 different countries including a number of Sierra Leone Diaspora from the USA and Europe.

The Forum, opened by His Excellency Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, was jointly organised by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) with the objective of promoting private sector investment in Sierra Leone.

The Forum was preceded by successful Diaspora and Gender workshops on Monday 2ih March. The workshops were aimed at encouraging Diaspora to mobilise skills and investment and enhancing the role of women in business respectively.

The Forum took as its theme: A Nation Back in Business and addressed the challenges and essential tasks facing Government and private business in allowing Sierra Leone to achieve its economic and developmental potential.

Key themes of the Forum were:

Economic prospects and targets for structural reform, including privatisation, the elimination of administrative barriers and the consolidation of measures to promote FDI;

priorities for land reform and infrastructure renewal and development, particularly in power generation and supply, transport infrastructure including roads, ports and harbors, airport facilities and communications;

opportunities for projects in core business sectors of mining, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

President Kabbah shared the government’s vision to achieve goals for economic growth, poverty reduction and improvements in human welfare laid down in the country’s National Vision 2025, its Poverty Reduction Strategy and the international Millennium Development Goals. He emphasised his government’s commitment to providing tax incentives in order to attract investment, and highlighted the promulgation of the Investment Promotion Act in 2004 as an example of this. He noted Sierra Leone’s access to international markets was increasingly favourable. The Government is committed to the statutes of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and has implemented an investment policy that focuses on transparency, predictability, social responsibility and non-discrimination. The Government’s prioritisation of restoring peace, security and stability in recent years has meant that there has never been a better time for international investment.

Mr Conor Lenihan, the Irish Minister of Development Cooperation and Human Rights, stressed the need for fairness and transparency at all levels of Government. He announced Ireland’s provision for a further 14 million Euros of funding support to Sierra Leone in 2006 and 2007. Drawing on Ireland’s own experience, Mr Lenihan urged the government to make the creation of an educated and motivated young workforce a priority in order to sustain economic growth. He concluded by saying "if there is one lesson to be learned from Ireland’s success it is that the success was not so much a miracle as some commentators will tell you but rather was achieved through hard work over the course of fifty years."

The highlights of the forum’s discussions are stated below:

Economic Growth and the Mobilisation of Capital

.The Government recognises a growth rate above the current prediction of 6% is needed in order to achieve a meaningful reduction in levels of poverty. They have aimed to achieve a rate 10% by 2009.

The country has experienced a substantial decrease in inflation, the stabilisation of exchange rates and an increase in foreign reserves.

It was announced the Freetown Stock Exchange would be functioning by the end of the year. The Government was urged to continue to cut corporate tax.

The need to bridge the gap between commercial opportunities in Sierra Leone, international capital markets, world-class technology and operational and mapagement personnel was emphasised.

Investment Climate

.Legislative reforms were outlined aimed at improving the current investment environment. These included the Company Act, Bankruptcy Act, new legislation on intellectual property rights, a review and legal audit of commercial laws and a two-year programme designed to reduce administrative procedures.

The judiciary is undergoing comprehensive reforms to provide the platform for prompt and fair settlement of investment disputes.

The Government is strongly committed to combating corruption through the work of the Anti Corruption Commission and the enactment of anti money laundering legislation.

The private sector is expected to abide by international standards of corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.

A National Lands Policy has been published and made available to the public. It offers a framework and direction to improve land access and ownership and the security of tenures.

A Visa-on-Arrival facility is now in place.

Investment Opportunities

.There is an extensive privatization and divestiture programme covering more than 20 state owned enterprises.

The Government will be publishing the Transaction Procedures document within three weeks in order to increase public awareness of the procedures involved in awarding privatisation contracts.

Government will support public/private partnerships that allow risks and financing of projects to be shared between government, the private sector and international financing institutes.

The current weak infrastructure base represents a significant investment opportunity.

There will be four new mines operating in Sierra Leone in the next four years and a foreign investor expects to open a diamond polishing facility by July 2006 with long-term employment opportunities for up to 1,000 people.

Cassava is a $2.6 billion market opportunity over the next 6 years.

Enterprises engaged in rice cultivation and tree crop farming are exempt from corporate tax for 10 years.

The EU Commission announced the ban on fish exports from Sierra Leone to Europe would be lifted within six months subject to confirmation that the country has achieved the standards required for the European Sanitation Certificate.

Duty-free concessions and investment incentives will be available in the tourism industry. A road linking Freetown to the peninsular will be completed within a year, and the MAPE project will provide Sierra Leone with its first complex catering for culture, leisure and adventure tourism.

There is massive potential for real estate development in and around Freetown.

The Bumbuna Hydroelectric, due to come on stream by November 2007 with a 50MW generating capacity, will now be run as a private company. Other private investors are encouraged to generate electricity from other hydro sources.

There are plans to offer new private sector investors entering the electrical power generation and distribution sector a tax exemption of 100% of their statutory incomes for a period of 10

years from the date of commercial production. 

Investors utilizing biomass and other renewable energy resources for environmentally benign electrical power generation will be accorded priority status.

Government plans to further liberalise the telecommunications and IT sector by enhancing broadband access across the country, improving rural telecommunications and creating customer choice and affordability. There are plans to privatise Sierratel.

An act currently before Parliament will establish an independent regulator to monitor the awarding of privatisat ion contracts in the telecommunications sector.

International donors and financial institutions provided information on various financial facilities to facilitate private-sector investment.

The Forum organisers will set up appropriate mechanisms to ensure the implementation of commitments made in the forum’s discussions. It was also suggested that a second Forum be organised in twelve to eighteen months.

Organisers thanked the President, the Vice-President, Ministers, distinguished guests, speakers, delegates, sponsors, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Sierra Leone Government for contributing to a productive and successful Forum.

Photo: Dr. Kadi Sesay, Sierra Leone’s Trade minister.

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