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.