John Baimba Sesay
Sierra Leone is making tremendous progress in areas of development. This is more so when compared to the state of affairs President Ernest Bai Koroma inherited over six years ago. One is not, in anyway implying nothing was done by past Governments. However, much should have been achieved if the leaders at the time had taken the national interest above all else.
Providing astute leadership for a country once brought down by the effect of a civil war is all a leader can do, to turn things round for the better. This was lacking, frankly. But the election of president Koroma helped change things for the better.
From our efforts in fixing our infrastructure, to trying to stabilize our economy, fostering the country’s ties with its development partners, President Ernest Bai Koroma continues to make inroads in all directions.
Legacies must serve as determinant factors in celebrating the life of someone. Failure to perform means, failed legacies left behind. As we have always submitted, the legacies of the Koroma Presidency are as tremendous and tangible as his desire to leave Sierra Leone in an enviable position.
But in all of this, there is the aspect of how those he brought in, should work hard to also make an impact in the administration of the affairs of state.
The Sierra Leone Embassy in China is no exception to those expected to provide a supportive role to the President if his drive towards a prosperous Sierra Leone is to be a success.
The Embassy is truly resolved to support the drive to National Prosperity. Take for instance, since Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh was appointed by President Ernest Koroma. He has been engaging relevant sectors in the People’s Republic of China in ensuring, Sierra Leone makes use of the available opportunities, therein, to not just foster the relationship between the two, but in also encouraging trustworthy investors from Asia (China) into Sierra Leone.
And the zest of the Embassy in doing this has transcended national interest but now takes into account the benefits some of these moves will bring at the Sub Regional Levels. For instance, the Embassy in China has been providing leadership towards an Economic Free Zone that involves countries in the Makona River. And only about three weeks ago, the Ambassador was in Sierra Leone with potential Chinese investors where they discussed the issue with President Koroma who has been providing leadership over the Project, on behalf of MRU Leaders.
The Makona River Free Zone (MRFZ) is designed to work on an area across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in West Africa, and through construction of harbor, railway and energy related infrastructure works, promote the utilization and development of natural resources including mining, forest-agriculture fishing, amongst others.
Through MRFZ Cooperation, the three countries will work together to promote the local production, West Africa economic integration, cross boundary investment, and achieve the regional social and economic prosperity. Main components of the project include; (a) Foya, Koindu and Guekedou Free Zone, including land development, industrial facilities to build rubber processing plants in Liberia, urban infrastructure facilities, social service facilities and institutions and hydro power stations and development of natural resource.
The land of the Free Zone is expected to be 750 square kilometers, equally contributed by each of three countries; (b) Sulima Sea Port/Railway, including construction of Sulima Sea Port, railway from Sulima to the Free Zone to allow the three countries develop their natural resources; and (c) construction of railway from Free Zone (Foya, Koindu and Guekedou) to Siguiri and Voinjama, development of industrial park in Siguiri area, amongst others.
When fully implemented, this Free Zone will help in addressing the challenge of turning the natural resource advantage of the countries involved into a development advantage, thus bringing about a multiplier effect in the mining and other related infrastructure sectors.
It also will help accelerate urbanization; manufacturing and commercialization of the economies of the countries involved as well as facilitate easy and competitive relocation of Chinese industries into the trade and investment hub, coupled with the fact that it will help expand the pace of development of the areas to be affected.
The involvement of China as economic power, second to the United States, is crucial. This is because the magnitude of financial resources and the industrial capacity needed for producing the expected result makes it the most appropriate partner.
In fact the Sino-Africa ties have, for decades given a new roadmap for development cooperation between the two. The FOCAC Beijing Action Plan (2013-2015) makes clear China’s will to continue in supporting Africa’s development.
On the 11th March, His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma committed the will and support of the leaders of Mano River Union towards this Free Zone Project. All things being equal, a summit of MRU Leaders is expected where this crucial and timely Sub Regional Development project will be discussed. This is positive development.
Also, by working with Chinese state financial institutions like the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM Bank) and the China Development Fund (CADFund) the Embassy knows that it has got a leading role to play by providing a strong advocacy support in seeking fundings and support from China towards the full implementation of development projects in Sierra Leone.