Opinion

Sierra Leone and the great Investment Conference

23 October 2009 at 03:23 | 802 views

Postmark London

By Sorie Sudan Sesay

It looks like good news for Sierra Leone and her people - 18th and 19th November this year, being set as the date for the Trade and Investment conference which Sierra Leone will be hosting here in London.

This could be a major turning point in Sierra Leone’s economic recovery process which has been largely affected by a decade-long civil madness.

There is obviously great potential in organising a Trade and Investment conference in a strategic and dynamic city like London – and as Sierra Leoneans, we have every reason to greet such a conference with open hands considering the economic importance attached to it.

Expectedly, this is a conference that is bound to attract major foreign investors who would be looking forward to see what Sierra Leone has to offer in terms of natural resources and what’s going on in the tourism industry.

On the other hand, we are looking forward to see how best our international development partners could chip in to help boost the country’s investment potentials.

Blessed with abundant natural mineral resources, Sierra Leone is unimaginably faced with very serious economic crisis that has left her people in deplorable living situations. No thanks to corruption and reckless administration by previous governments.

It is this ugly situation that the government of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma wants to change - yes, it’s time to change that trend and give Sierra Leoneans once again a reason to live happily – a reason that will uplift and improve the status of the country in the United Nations Human Development Index.

Interestingly, we have in our fold the former British Prime Minister who is spearheading the campaign to give the conference a boost.

Blair has always been a very good friend of Sierra Leone especially in times of need - apart from the fact that Britain has always been very instrumental towards bringing development aid to Sierra Leone before, during and after Blair’s reign, the former PM virtually bulldozed his way to send British troops of the Special State Security Unit to Sierra Leone.

It was that intervention that changed the face of Sierra Leone from a war zone to a safe zone.

This, by all indications, is a marriage (between Koroma and Blair) that is worth celebrating. Oh yes, we have every reason to rejoice over it.

Forget about the rantings of some sections of the reality-blind-folded local press in Sierra Leone; Blair’s interest in Sierra Leone is bound to take us to higher heights – it is bound to change the image of Sierra Leone positively and internationally.

Take as an example : When recently the former Prime Minister said Sierra Leone has great potential for tourism, the news was all over not only in the press in the United Kingdom, but the entire Europe.

In fact Blair did not hide his feelings when he went public to express how much regard and respect he has for the charismatic Sierra Leonean leader. As far as he is concerned, Koroma is a remarkable and committed politician – one of two African leaders (including Rwanda’s Paul Kagami) he can do business with.

Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative recently issued a joint press statement with Koroma’s Office Of The President in New York to ‘‘finalise plans for a major Sierra Leone investment conference due to take place in London in November this year.’

With such development, it is obvious that both leaders share the same belief that governance and growth are two most pressing challenges for Sierra Leone.

Come to think of it, for a world class leader as Tony Blair to demonstrate such interest in Sierra Leone to the extent of marketing her natural potentials must be a blessing for the country.

Those who have lived and worked in the western world know that the image of Africa (to attract western investment) cannot be successfully projected by Africans themselves, but certainly by westerners – and that is exactly what Blair is doing.

President Koroma’s growing popularity comes as no surprise to many. Since he took over government, he has matched words with actions in line with his electioneering promises.

This was perhaps one reason why Blair believes in him. We’ve also heard the United Nations Secretary General describing him as a decent leader whose leadership qualities could lead Sierra Leone to a brighter future. Yes, it is bound to take us to a brighter future.

With just two years in office,President Koroma’s government has effected dramatic changes - changes that have so far reflected positively on the lives of Sierra Leoneans.

As a people, we are desperate for a change – one that would transform the lives of the ordinary people. Our President is very much committed to end dependence on foreign aid – that is why he is developing the private sector which no doubt will see the country grow its way out of poverty.

Those who have been to Freetown recently can attest to the fact that we now have the basic fundamentals to make Sierra Leone an attractive destination not only in the sub-region but the entire continent; think about the unspoilt beaches, beautiful tropical islands, world-class fishing and diving, and a rich cultural and historical legacy linked to its role in the slave trade and beyond – not to talk about our warm hospitality.

New hotels and facilities are being built in anticipation of the increase in number of visitors expected in years to come – among them are the Thai Resort owned by businessman Sam King located at the strategic seaside rendezvous of Lumley Beach.

It may interest you also to know that the country was recently listed by Lonely Planet among the top 10 to visit in 2009.

As a matter of fact, industry leaders are starting to sit up and take notice of our natural potentials once again; they should not have to wait for too long, let’s just start the ball rolling with the investment conference to be held at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, West Central London.

How about that?

The Author is the Information Attaché at the Sierra Leone High Commission, United Kingdom/Northern Ireland.

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