President Akufo-Addo wraps up One-Day visit to Sierra Leone

Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has wrapped up a one-day friendly and working visit to Sierra Leone during which the two leaders held bilateral talks aimed at strengthening relations between Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Welcoming his Ghanaian counterpart, President Koroma recalled the long-standing relationship between the two countries and congratulated President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on his victory at last year’s polls making him the fifth leader of the fourth Republic of Ghana. President Koroma described the relations between the two countries as outstanding and excellent.

The two leaders held extensive talks and expressed the urgent need for West Africa to focus on developing their economies, mobilize resources, provide indigenous solutions to local problems, develop a roadmap for strategic development and enhance the aspirations of ECOWAS, the African Union as well as leveraging South-South cooperation.

At a joint press conference with President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, the Ghanaian leader praised his host for restoring law and order and fostering the spirit of national reconciliation in the country. President Akufo-Addo described President Koroma as the man that has worked the talk, citing the economic boom that was experienced in 2013. He also stated that the two countries will work side by side for the progress and dignity of the two nations as well as enhance cooperation for trade and investment.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo noted that despite the close relations between Ghana and Sierra Leone, there is no general framework for cooperation and therefore expressed concern over the delay in the ratification of the trade and investment agreement signed in December 2013. He made firm commitment to push the agreement for ratification by the Ghanaian parliament on his return to Ghana and called on the Sierra Leone Parliament to do the same.

President Koroma Receives Turkish Envoy

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma last Friday 26th May 2017 received a delegation from Turkey led by the Vice President of Maarif Foundation who also doubles as Special Envoy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey, Ambassador Dr Asson Yavuz at State House in Freetown.

Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma described his recent visit to Turkey as successful and expressed his satisfaction with the follow up action from the Turkish government. He described his Turkish counterpart as a man of action, saying that there is no doubt that Turkey is playing a significant role in the region.

The president informed the delegation about the recent visit of Turkish Airline to Sierra Leone, followed by a group of experts who examined the energy sector, while soliciting support for information and communication technology (ICT), education, health, among others. He assured the government of Turkey of making available a piece land for the construction of the Turkish Embassy premises, and reiterated the call for the commencement of operations by the Turkish Airline.

President Koroma welcomed the establishment of a Sierra Leone – Turkish Educational Center through the Maarif Foundation. The Maarif Foundation project covers primary to university education and the best students will proceed to Turkey for their higher degree education. He said a suitable location will be identified for the educational center and called for collaboration to fighting terrorism as it was not only a Turkish issue. He congratulated the people of Turkey for resisting the coup makers.

According to Special Envoy Dr Yavuz, Maarif Foundation is a Turkish Non-Governmental Organization set up by President Erdogan to provide educational support and replace schools abroad sponsored by Gulen movement. He pointed out that the delegation was in Sierra Leone to explore opportunities on how to enhance cooperation.

Dr Yavuz conveyed the profound appreciation of the Government and People of Turkey for the solidarity shown by the Government of Sierra Leone during the 15th July 2016 coup, adding that the coup makers wanted to assassinate President Erdogan.

“Infrastructural transformation is a catalyst for growth and development” – President Koroma

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma today, Monday 29th May 2017, officially opened the Sierra Leone Development Finance Forum jointly organised by the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development held at the Bintumani International Conference Centre in Aberdeen, Freetown.

The theme of the event; “Unlocking Private Investment in Sierra Leone” speaks to the avowed mission of the World Bank – ‘Working to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity & development’. According to President Koroma, the forum resonates well with the essence of his government’s Agenda for Prosperity.

The president noted that although Sierra Leone has a deep-rooted culture of entrepreneurship and many opportunities for business and private investors, emphasis should be laid on job-generating ventures in the key growth sectors of energy, tourism, fisheries and agribusiness insofar as utilizing this World Bank facility was concerned.

“Informed by the new private sector window by the World Bank Group, beginning in July 2017—this bold and much needed initiative will help the Bank, together with their partners, to mobilize private capital and scale-up private sector development,” he said, and urged the Development Finance Forum to deliberate on the successes and challenges of mobilizing transformational private sector investment. He also expressed the need to explore opportunities for public and private sectors to develop market-building alliances that will scale up the amount of private finance available for investment in the country. The president therefore expressed hope that the new US$2.5 billion Private Sector Window will be allocated through a predictable and transparent decision making process to ensure equal treatment across member countries.

President Koroma further noted that inasmuch as government strongly agrees that grant and concessional resources can attract significant levels of private investment to the country, because of its propensity to address the concerns relating to risk-return, he however cautioned that “this must also be underpinned by aligning the public and private sectors with the shared objectives of unlocking the potential to create jobs and reduce income inequality”. “This way”, he said, “this bold initiative by the World Bank Group would contribute significantly to Sierra Leone’s sustained economic growth and enhance the country’s food and energy security; in tune with the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a clarion call for deeper collaboration by all actors involved in the public sector, the private sector, multilateral development banks and institutional investors.”

The Chief Executive pointed out that Sierra Leone’s highly favourable geography, with its abundant natural resources and young, diverse and tolerant work force provide the perfect investment destination for investors. He highlighted the efforts his government has made to improving the country’s road network, improving access to reliable electricity, as well as improving on the quality of and access to education and health services, adding that infrastructural transformation is a catalyst for growth and development.

He went on to note that the establishment of the Sierra Leone Investment Export and Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), the Public Private Partnership Unit (PPP) and the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Agency is to ensure proper coordination in the private sector as well as to lead and promote private sector investment, saying that government has undertaken substantial reforms to make the country a strong investment destination which still receives a high share of Foreign Direct Investment in the region.

Vice president, Development Finance of the World Bank Group Axel van Trotsenburg said the Sustainable Development Goals was adopted in 2015 by the United Nations and that the international community wants to translate the SDG initiatives into action of which Sierra Leone will be a major beneficiary. He noted that fragile states require more attention for job creation, economic transformation and produce strong private sector activities. He added that the $ 2.5 billion will help to foster support for Africa and Sierra Leone in particular in its development and transformative path.

President Koroma and EU discuss Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and the European Union today Monday 29 May held discussions on Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement at State House in Freetown.

Article 8 of the said agreement is an integrated framework based on partnership and promoting cooperation, trade and political dialogue.

Addressing the European Union delegation, President Koroma said the meeting explains and provides a clearer understanding of the agreement and practices. Moving forward, the president pointed out the importance of managing the country’s economy and making sure that government meets the 2018 electoral calendar. He declared the completion of the national voter registration exercise, delimitation of constituencies and districts and work in progress on the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources achieving export facilities to the EU Market, national Non-Governmental Organizations Policy, Female Genital Mutilation Policy, review on the National strategy on teenage pregnancy, land legislation that will attract both local and international investment, establishment of technical school for skills empowerment, review of the criminal libel law as well as working on an infrastructure on electoral security.

On the review of the Criminal Seditious Libel Law, President Koroma underscored the significance of continued engagement with relevant stakeholders and going through the process for the review of the said legislation. He noted that there was no plan to shutdown social media but clearly stated that government will respond appropriately to any threat that undermines the peace and security of the state. “We will take appropriate actions as a responsible government,” he said. He encouraged all to work together to close the elections funding gap of Twenty Million Dollars as well as support the ongoing national civil registration exercise.

The Head of the EU delegation in Sierra Leone, Mr Peter Versteeg expressed delight over the frank exchange of issues of national interest and reiterates EU’s support to the country. He welcomed the request of government to fill in an observer mission for the 2018 elections and thanked the Government of Sierra Leone for hosting the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Conference. He also encouraged Sierra Leone to participate in the Fourth “Our Ocean” Conference slated for 5th and 6th October 2017 in Malta and the next EU/Africa Summit scheduled to take place in Cote D’voire in November 2017. The British High Commissioner, Mr Guy Warrington and other speakers shared common sentiments on holding credible and peaceful elections in 2018, district boundaries delimitation, raising money to close the funding gap, improving the investment climate of the country, human rights and civil society among others.

President Koroma and EU discuss Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and the European Union today Monday 29 May held discussions on Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement at State House in Freetown.

Article 8 of the said agreement is an integrated framework based on partnership and promoting cooperation, trade and political dialogue.

Addressing the European Union delegation, President Koroma said the meeting explains and provides a clearer understanding of the agreement and practices. Moving forward, the president pointed out the importance of managing the country’s economy and making sure that government meets the 2018 electoral calendar. He declared the completion of the national voter registration exercise, delimitation of constituencies and districts and work in progress on the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources achieving export facilities to the EU Market, national Non-Governmental Organizations Policy, Female Genital Mutilation Policy, review on the National strategy on teenage pregnancy, land legislation that will attract both local and international investment, establishment of technical school for skills empowerment, review of the criminal libel law as well as working on an infrastructure on electoral security.

On the review of the Criminal Seditious Libel Law, President Koroma underscored the significance of continued engagement with relevant stakeholders and going through the process for the review of the said legislation. He noted that there was no plan to shutdown social media but clearly stated that government will respond appropriately to any threat that undermines the peace and security of the state. “We will take appropriate actions as a responsible government,” he said. He encouraged all to work together to close the elections funding gap of Twenty Million Dollars as well as support the ongoing national civil registration exercise.

The Head of the EU delegation in Sierra Leone, Mr Peter Versteeg expressed delight over the frank exchange of issues of national interest and reiterates EU’s support to the country. He welcomed the request of government to fill in an observer mission for the 2018 elections and thanked the Government of Sierra Leone for hosting the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Conference. He also encouraged Sierra Leone to participate in the Fourth “Our Ocean” Conference slated for 5th and 6th October 2017 in Malta and the next EU/Africa Summit scheduled to take place in Cote D’voire in November 2017. The British High Commissioner, Mr Guy Warrington and other speakers shared common sentiments on holding credible and peaceful elections in 2018, district boundaries delimitation, raising money to close the funding gap, improving the investment climate of the country, human rights and civil society among others.

We must take necessary actions to end maternal mortality – President Koroma

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma Wednesday 31 May 2017 urged health workers, traditional and religious leaders to take necessary action to address maternal and child mortality in the country.

The president made this statement during the official launch of the 2016 Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR) Report at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown.

Delivering his keynote address, President Koroma said that it was time to enforce the necessary measures to save the lives of mothers and urged the traditional and local authorities to play a pivotal role in enforcing the measures. He cited the integral role played by traditional leaders during the fight against the Ebola virus disease and called on them to replicate similar fighting mood exhibited during the Ebola fight. “The Chiefs and traditional leaders must report all maternal deaths in their localities, encourage their subjects to go to the nearest clinic and monitor medical supplies in every peripheral health unit in their chiefdoms,�? he emphasized.

Moving forward, President Koroma said government will start signing performance contracts with Paramount Chiefs which will bolster their efforts as well as take responsibility in their various communities. He also said the MDSR report explains the problem, identifies the causes and ways to addressing them. He went on to state that government will continue to train more health workers and will soon launch the national ambulance service.

“It is good to report our own story rather than allow others to report on us,�? the president said, and added that medical personnel must ensure they report the true story. He pointed out that if efforts and actions are engendered from all sides, Sierra Leone will be a shining example and move away from terrible statistics reported about the country.

Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Abubakarr Fofanah said the MDSR report will serve as a monitoring and evaluation framework that will significantly help to address maternal deaths in the country. According to Dr Fofanah, the hallmark of government’s commitment to addressing the issue of maternal deaths was the launching in 2010 of the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) by President Koroma. “We have spent a lot of resources to address the issue – time, energy and money have all been spent. But one key component of the response that we felt we have not paid adequate attention to is the M&E; framework,�? he said, adding that although the method of monitoring maternal deaths is not the gold standard, it is a step in the right direction. He called for effective collaboration and commitment from all sides to succeed, and disclosed the free distribution of 4.3 million bed nets across the country.

Head of UNFPA in Sierra Leone Dr Eva Kim Dickson said the report was developed to provide information to stakeholders on the current status of maternal deaths in Sierra Leone, share key challenges, and initiatives in place to avert the needless loss of maternal lives. “Most importantly, the MDSR, and this report provides us with vital data that should be used to strengthen the health systems and prevent maternal deaths,�? she stressed. She further noted that maternal deaths can be prevented if appropriate action is taken. In addition, Dr Dickson highlighted the key challenges in tackling maternal deaths including under-reporting of such deaths, especially when they occur in communities, willingness to go to health facilities to deliver among others. She registered UNFPA’s commitment to supporting government to save the lives of women in Sierra Leone.