Salone News

PEACE Clubs Launch Report

2 May 2007 at 09:29 | 266 views

By Amadu Massallay.

The launching of the PEACE Clubs initiative on April 14 was a modest event but will very likely be seen in history as a great milestone. A Sierra Leonean-owned company was making an appeal to Sierra Leoneans here in North America and worldwide for ordinary Sierra Leoneans to join forces with it. It chose to go the long route instead of asking a few well-heeled investors to put up some money and then ask the National Social Security Insurance Trust (NASSIT) to put in the remaining 40 percent to get the business going. In fact many Sierra Leoneans continue to discourage the active members of the Tides Enabling Council (TEC) with regard to not depending on Sierra Leoneans. Defiantly we have stuck to our plan for two reasons: One, that Sierra Leoneans would see for themselves that there is merit in this project and to give them an opportunity to change their antipathy towards nation-building and Two, that the company itself was formed with the mindset to give well-meaning Sierra Leoneans an opportunity to earn income from the soil of their country, as opposed to letting it be foreign investor-driven.

As expected, the attendance was not something to boast about-20 to 25 showed up even with the announcement that the Sierra Leone Ambassador to the United States would be there. As organizers we acknowledge that the main target of the drive was not there-the alumni, ethnic and civic organizations scores of which are in the Greater Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. Part of the reason is that we spent the last three crucial weeks before the launch redesigning our business plan of September 2006 to make projections not just for 3 years for expected outcomes but for the whole nine yards-2007 to 2020.

The meeting billed for 12:00 noon did not start until past 1:30 in typical Sierra Leonean fashion. The Ambassador decided to forgo his seat as Chairman in favor of Dr. John Karefa-Smart the nation’s eldest elder statesman who spoke about the need for the kind of program we have but cautioned that it would take time. To introduce the chairman and the Ambassador was Mr. Tejan Savage, the North America Secretary-General of the new PMDC Party. He said that the role he had accepted was a civic duty that did not need approval from his party for. He stated that he and the president of TIDES have been associates for long. He paid tribute to Dr. Karefa-Smart for his continuing involvement in the affairs of the nation and for his readiness to take part in a launch like the one projected. He also acknowledged the presence of the Sierra Leone Ambassador to the United State, H. E. Sulaiman Tejan-Jalloh and commended him for his service to the nation.

The first major speaker was the Ambassador who said that he could say on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL) that a project of this magnitude and purpose would be very welcome to the Government. He was glad that Mr. Tejan Savage did not need permission from his party in order to introduce him and he said that, as Ambassador Plenipotentiary representing all of Sierra Leone in the United States he was performing his duty and would not need approval for his own role either.

He spoke of the importance of a housing program for the country and promised Mr. Savage that the SLPP was ready to contest with the PMDC in the upcoming elections but that the project in hand was one that Sierra Leoneans should join forces to see through. He said that GOSL would give the proposal its attention when it reached the Government and that he was happy that NASSIT had responded to the overtures that TIDES had made to it and should be giving the proposal its due diligence. He also said that he had met with Dr. Jonathan Peters several times in his Washington office and declared that this is the kind of project that the country needs. He brought greetings on behalf of GOSL and particularly from Dr. Kadi Sesay, Minister of Trade and Industry and a member of the TIDES Enabling Council (TEC).

The highlight of the program was the presentation by Dr. Jonathan Peters, founder of TIDES (Trade, Intercontinental Development Enterprises/Services) who titled his presentation, “Put in the Big Rocks First.” Stating that he was a professor from the University of Maryland just retired to devote full time to the project of building 200,000 homes in Sierra Leone by 2020, he invoked his role as teacher by putting some rocks into a one-gallon jug and then asking whether the jug was full. Everyone said “yes”. He then brought out pebbles and put many in and asked if the jug was full. Everyone again said “Yes”. He next brought out sand and said there was still room and room still for water. He then asked what was the point of the lesson? Someone said to show the need for solidarity’. There were other responses. His retort was: You’ve got to put in the big stones first. If you put in sand first, it will fill the jug and there would be no space for rocks. Similarly with pebbles!

In his continuing presentation, Jonathan Peters paid tribute to people who had been there to help. He pointed out that the big rocks were Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL), other governments, NASSIT. The small stones were PEACE organizations (as potential PEACE Clubs) comprising hundreds of organizations in North America, Europe, Sierra Leone/Africa, SHEIKs (these are Sierra Housing Enterprise Investment Klubs (SHEIKs) with 15 in North America, 10 in Europe and 20 in Sierra Leone/Africa) to total no more than 50 worldwide so that the Security and Exchange Commission will not declare the investment a public fund and submit it to all kinds of regulations. He said that we need to raise $6.5 million for a beginning phase and expand it to $18.2 for a continuing phase during a two-year pilot.

He projected that there would be millions of dollars worth of profit from the enterprise in those first two years alone but that the company would have to plow all that back into infrastructure after paying interest on the loans from groups if they chose to cash in after two years or put those interest payments into future potential dividends from converting the loans into equity. Capitalized at $75 million, TIDES and associates would raise up to $25 million for the project and would sell back the remaining shares to Sierra Leoneans and put the returns into other businesses to help build the Sierra Leone of tomorrow. He intrigued many in the audience when he said that, with creative financing, a small segment of people earning minimum wage could get into a two-bedroom home and pay a minimum amount for the first few years.

The heart of the program, according to the organizers both during the main presentation and during the question-and-answer session was that the success of the program was based on building new cities throughout Sierra Leone. All together, 12 city sites are to be identified, but the TIDES Management Team had already earmarked three, one in each of the three provinces, as strategic cities. These are Mile 47/Sierra Leone River, Sulima Beach/Zimmi and the hub where the Mano River Union (MRU) countries meet south of Guekedou in Guinea to emphasize the MRU idea and to strengthen the border areas by building self-sustaining cities there. The city approach will allow the TIDES team to set a minimum wage in the three provincial cities at a projected $3 a day to be confirmed after field research.

The PEACE Club launch was designed to bring to the notice of Sierra Leoneans the existence of the project so that they will begin to put their finances together to invest in their country’s future. PEACE Clubs will pay $500 as a registration fee, the only fee they will pay as an organization. There will be no annual dues. This fee will register them in the PEACE Clubs program that will enable them to get a finder’s fee of 10 percent. The beginning threshold for the fee is $25,000. Thus, an organization with 100 members 25 of whose members decide to invest $1,000 each will get $2,500 of investment itself at 10 percent over the pilot phase of 2 years, till the end of 2009. In theory, it should be easily possible to raise $2.6 million from these PEACE Clubs to complement $3.9 million from a 60 percent share by NASSIT. A NASSIT loan will be for five years and NASSIT itself will be able to convert its loan into equity.
This question came up quite a few times during the question and answer: what if the money is not forthcoming from the PEACE Clubs or it takes too long, how will Sierra Leone be the first country with a program of building 12 homes per day from a factory costing $13.4 million compared with a NASSIT/Regimanuel Gray factory to produce 20,000 cement blocks a day? The answers provided by Amadu Massally the co-organizer with Samuel Atere-Roberts and Dr. Peters was that Sierra Leone had the right of first refusal. The critical element was land. If GOSL declined to provide the land, the whole project would fail and TIDES would look for another country in the MRU or Ecowas to become the first country in Africa with the homes. To the suggestion that the program start small in, say, Newton, the flat answer was that would be too small a project for a factory that could produce 3,000 homes a year with 12 factories projected to produce 36,000 homes per year from the only known factory worldwide that was geared to produce homes for the lower income strata of society at the least cost and the best quality. The questions kept coming till 3:45 when adjournment took place.

The next phase of the PEACE initiative is canvassing of the PEACE organizations throughout the DC/Baltimore Metro areas, and beyond, preparation for the lodging of the proposal with GOSL, a response from NASSIT and preparations for a meeting of the TIDES Enabling Council comprising eminent Sierra Leoneans worldwide and TIDES Management officials in May and the paneling of the TIDES & Associates SHELTER Coordinating Council (TASCC). The majority of its members will be SHEIK representatives. The Co-Chairs of the TASCC are Dr. Aiah Gbakima, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sierra Leone and Ms. Sarian Bouma a widely acclaimed business woman and author of the book From Welfare to Millionaire: Heart of a Winner.

Members of the TEC include Dr. Kadi Sesay as previously mentioned, Ms. Zainab Bangura, Head of Civil Affairs, United Nations Mission, Liberia (UNMI(L) in charge of the Liberian rehabilitation program for the UN Peters, Massally and Atere-Roberts. The TIDES members will drop out of the Council which will be independent of TIDES after an initial period and the TEC will itself appoint initial members of an independent national think tank for Sierra Leone which will draw up a blueprint for Sierra Leone to be approved in a business summit as part of a homecoming program that will have many cultural activities projected for December 2007 in Sierra Leone.

Amadu Massally, CPA, CISA,
Member — TIDES Management Team and TEC