By Alfred Fornah
In a bid to harness the Diaspora for National Development, the Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Hon. Nanette Thomas has on Thursday 11th August 2016 left the shores of Sierra Leone to engage members of the Sierra Leonean community in Holland.
A delegation from the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) consisting of Mr. Desmond Benya, Assistant Manager, Public Affairs and Mr. Ismeal Kandeh will also join the minister during this visit to the Netherlands.
The purpose of the Minister’s visit is to have a stakeholders meeting with members of the Diaspora Community in the Netherlands and also use the Sierra Leone Central Union annual outing as a platform to meet with Sierra Leonean residents and to motivate them to continue their unwavering support to the country’s development. This visit will provide also a platform for NASSIT to sell their services such as pension scheme, mortgage and savings for diaspora.
The trip furthermore will be used by the Hon. Minister to engage Sierra Leonean professionals in Holland to participate in the Connecting Diaspora for Development (CD4D project) also to encourage them to participate in the UMVA Platform that seeks to channel Diaspora remittances through the formal Banking system.
In recognition of the urgent need to mainstream the Sierra Leone Diaspora into national development process, the Minister during her visit will engage the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Africa Diaspora Policy Centre in the Hague; in relation to the development of a Diaspora policy for the country. The expected outcomes of this visit are:
1. A well informed target group on investment opportunities in Sierra Leone.
2. A better understanding of the products and services of NASSIT that are meant for the targeted groups.
3. Smart input into the development of the Diaspora policy.
Meanwhile, the development of a Diaspora Policy is a welcoming news not only for members of the Sierra Leonean Diaspora Community, but also for the entire country. Indeed, the relevance of the Diaspora in national development should not be underestimated. According to sources from the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, inward formal remittances from the Sierra Leone Diaspora stood at $52,721,279.17 in 2015, also they have recorded $32,438,044 for the first six months in 2016 .Remittance has an important impact on the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Furthermore, there exists enormous potential in skills, knowledge and expertise by the Sierra Leoneans abroad. This to a very large extent is an indication that the Diaspora has a huge and untapped potential to positively contributing to the growth of our economy.