In the coming hours, we are expecting a great shift in our development trajectory as a country; from our initial drive to change through the ‘Agenda for Change’ to a call for a prosperous nation, as contained in the “Agenda for Prosperity’, slated to be launched by President Koroma on Friday, 12th July in Freetown.
In a launch trailer issued by my colleague in the Communications Unit of Government, Jarrah Kawusu-Konte who also happens the Communications Manager, Office of the President “President Koroma is expected to talk on a number of issues bordering on the continued development and transformation of the country during and after his term of office. He will commit himself to accelerating the eradication of hunger and malnutrition, with a strengthened focus on women and children from conception to two years of age, to prevent the irreversible effects of stunting. The president will talk on the establishment of a multi-sectorial nutrition coordination secretariat to address these issues.” This is also expected to take into account issues of youth unemployment, “better management of our natural resources for the good of all citizens of Sierra Leone, and also expand and sustain the Free Health Care and Scaling-Up Nutrition initiatives, reform the educational system to make our graduates more competitive in the job market, as well as concluding all ongoing road, energy and water supply projects all across the country.” These are amongst the core components of the prosperity agenda.
Fine and encouraging! But as Jarrah states in his update, the country’s s vision for 2013 to 2035 is to become a middle-income country. “It would be an inclusive, green country, with 80% of the population above the poverty line. It would have gender equality, a well-educated, healthy population, good governance and rule of law, well-developed infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, with private-sector, export-led growth generating wide employment opportunities; there would be good environmental protection, and responsible natural resource exploitation.
The gains we made in the ‘Agenda for Change’ especially in relation to transforming the country in the areas of infrastructure, to ensuring free health for our lactating women and children, to the progress made in rebranding our country’s image at the global arena, all remain just too impressive. Change and development do not come in a day; they are not an event, rather, they are a process that will take time and resources to achieve. But leadership comes into play in achieving thus. With an astute and effective leadership, a country is bound to enjoy international trust, recognition and support. A country that enjoys international recognition, support and trust is bound to go beyond the description of a failed nation. Sierra Leone has got such support and is therefore not a failed nation. And this is because of the leadership that we have got in the last half a decade or so. I mean the Koroma leadership. Simple logic.
I spoke of international recognition. Only few days ago, President Koroma was in China. China and Sierra Leone entered into diplomatic relations in 1971. His visit was not only meant to bring in more laurels into Sierra Leone from the framework of the Chinese government supporting our development programmes, rather, it was also meant to forge and lift the bars of cooperation ties that have been in existence between the two countries. At the end of his visit, I and Jarrah Kawusu-Konte, whilst flying the airspace of China with the President and his Ministers, were able to solicit some information from the President (thanks to his State Chief Of Protocol) in terms of the outcome of his visit. Impressively, he told us of an offer of 250 million RMB, which was given to us as a grant with a commitment of supporting the construction of the Centre of Excellence and other ongoing programmes, by the Chinese government. He also was able to have several meetings with the private sector-companies that are already doing business in Sierra Leone and those with the desire to do business in Sierra Leone .Most importantly the President and his delegation had a meeting with EXIM Bank with a view of preparing a kind of package of support by the bank to programmes in Sierra Leone. Another outcome was his meeting with China Kingho Energy Group, a group that has agreed to replicate the kind of industrial park that they have in Inner Mongolia in Sierra Leone. This should take into account the fact that they have already signed a 6.5 billion dollars agreement with the Sierra Leone government to develop a mine and a Port. Not forgetting also, 1.5 billion dollars that will grow rubber and embark on irrigation of rice which was another success story of the President’s visit to China. All these have to do with the astute leadership of Preside not Koroma.
But all of these, it should be noted are in line with our drive to prosperity from our change agenda. A shift in the nation’s development trajectory is timely given what we got in the first agenda. The change drive, which is about to be put in our history books in few hours from now, scored several goals and as such could be described as successful and commendable. A post President Koroma presidency assessment won’t be complete without referencing his change agenda.
When he assumed office in 2007, President Koroma did promise to effect several changes in the lives of the ordinary Sierra Leonean, with particular reference to the provision of electricity, the fight against corruption, the provision of a politically tolerant environment for the operation of all political parties and many others. Though with challenges, we made great gains therein. Take corruption as a case study. Prior to 2007, though there were efforts to address such governance challenge, the political will was lacking. President Koroma came and enacted the strongest legislation in the sub region that eventually gave prosecutorial powers to the anti corruption commission. Not only that we saw how top government officials were chased with no government interference. This is not to say we have succeeded in that area. But the fact remains; we have made progress which therefore makes complete nonsense for international body to want to make nonsense of our commitment toward tacking corruption. I refer here to Transparency International recent presentation of events in Sierra Leone from the perspective of fighting corruption.
Generating electricity to, firstly, the capital city and later all provincial headquarter towns was another of President Koroma’s priority areas in the change agenda. At least Freetown now enjoys relative supply of electricity, with solar lights in most, if not all the provincial headquarter towns. Governance must go beyond mere political promises; it entails communicating to and with the electorate and it is only when this is done that a government is appreciated. This has not been lacking in the governance style of President Koroma. A practical example is his recent engagement with the media after his China trip and his good and cordial ties with the media generally.
So generally the first five years of the change drive/agenda helped to put the needed structures in place for the smooth implementation of the components of the prosperity agenda to be launched Friday 12th July. The government is committed to meet the basic needs of our people and it is only with support to the country’s leadership that they are bound to succeed. The trajectory shift from the Agenda for Change to the Agenda for Prosperity demands a lot. Support is one of the several requirements for its success. Let us join the drive to a prosperous nation.
Happy weekend and forget not to take your daughter to the beach on Saturday.