By State House Communication Unit
Only last month, April 27th, on the country’s 56th commemoration of independence, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma announced once again that he will be leaving office in about a year from now.
For many, this is a time for President Koroma to throw the towel and try and concentrate on the transition. But for President Koroma, the transition will go on in the same vigor as the country’s development agenda. So while he is working hard to ensure the conduct of democratic elections in 2018, he is at the same time working even harder in the implementation of his transformative development priorities clearly set out in his Agenda for Prosperity.
President Koroma’s visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia testifies to this reality.
Determined to strengthen Sierra Leone’s health sector especially after the horrible experience of the deadly Ebola outbreak, he has prioritized the establishment at Kerry Town of a state of the art 500 bed medical center capable of carrying out major diagnosis, surgery and treatment of Sierra Leoneans incountry.
This is informed by what many describe as the frequent medical evacuations of Sierra Leoneans for ailments that should be handled at home.
For President Koroma, such a medical center should include top notch technology and should serve as a teaching hospital, replete with staff quarters for doctors and nurses.
The President has reiterated this during his meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, as well as the multilateral agencies including the Saudi Fund For Development, the Islamic Bank, the Organisation of Islamic States and the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs.
President Koroma also visited and engaged with the President of Turkey in the advancement of this and several of his other development priorities. Turkey has expressed determination to increase trade volume from 44 million annually to $100M in the short term and up to $250 million in the medium term.
In the meantime, President Koroma has approved Turkey’s request for the establishment of an embassy in Freetown and a team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will visit Ankara for initial steps towards the establishment of Sierra Leone’s embassy in Turkey. More than ten acres of land are being considered to enable the Turkish government to construct their permanent residence with immediate effect. Until the construction starts, Turkey is eager and the Sierra Leone government has made strong commitment to facilitate the acquisition of an office space to activate Turkey’s chancery in the country right away. For President Recep Erdoğan, that is an important first step to start from.
From transport, to energy, agriculrure, private sector development, exchange programmes for journalists, to security, the two countries have shown clear determination for stronger cooperation.
“This visit is the beginning of a new page in our bilateral relations”, said President Koroma.
With the warm reception and strong commitments from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, it is obvious that before he leaves office, President Koroma would have established a solid foundation for the true trasformation of Sierra Leone’s health sector.
His successor will also find the ground work properly and firmly laid out for stronger relations with four strategic countries – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the new Republic of Turkey and Isreal and China where he recently visited.