One out 16 World Bank funded projects fails: President Koroma strengthens confidence of development partners


John Baimba Sesay & Sheriff Mahmud Ishmail


A news release last week by State House Communication Unit disclosed that President

Koroma on Friday 12th February was presented at State House with an inquiry report

on what the release describes as the “failed West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme

(WARFP)…” Although the release did not spell out what led to the failure of the project,

observers say the problems include low capacity of the project management team,

inadequate supervision and integrity issues.

President Koroma

The inquiry has therefore been applauded by many as timely and a worthy

demonstration of the Government’s determination to ensure accountability for any



The release by the State House Communication could not have been more apt: the

President “assured that the report will be looked at closely and recommendations

thereof will be implemented to the fullest.” and this includes the involvement of the Anti

Corruption Commission.


This proactive and decisive move by the presidency in dealing with the problems of

WARFP-SL has no doubt strengthened the relationship between the World Bank (which

funds the project) and the government of Sierra Leone much as it has restored the

Bank’s confidence in investing in the country’s fisheries sector.

While recommendations from the inquiry were being looked into, just last week the

World Bank announced that it will provide $4 million for a new fisheries project.

Analysts say the World Bank’s decision did not come as a surprise. The World Bank

supports over 15 active projects in the country with a portfolio of over $450 million.

Therefore the failure of just one project should not be over dramatized or sour relations

between the Bank and it’s client.


Sierra Leone’s 300 kilometer long coastline has an impressive continental shelf which

benefits from the country’s many rivers and huge amount of rainfall. These factors have

contributed to Sierra Leone’s rich marine fisheries which include shrimp, lobsters and a

colourful variety of fish like cuttlefish, snapper, grouper, catfish, herrings, tuna and

baracuda. All of these species have well established global markets with high prices.

But analysts say Sierra Leone’s marine investments potential has largely been



Even under the current circumstance, the fisheries sector is believed to be contributing

about 10% to the country’s GDP, providing employment for an estimated 100,000

people directly and, indirectly for about 500, 000 people. This represents about 10% of

the country’s population. Coastal areas like Bonthe, Shenge, and Tombo etc- are

predominantly fishing communities with about 25% of the male population of working

age reported to be involved in part-time or full time fishing. This speaks volume of how

crucial the sector is to the country’s growth.


Sadly, the economic reality and investment potential of the fisheries sector has been

fraught with its own unique challenges. Destructive fishing gears and inshore shrimps

trawling practices as well as nets with tiny mesh sizes are damaging susceptible nursing

grounds and capturing baby fish.


Besides, fish products from Sierra Leone are not certified to be sold in the European

fish market owing to issues relating to standards and institutional capacity such as

landing sites with basic infrastructure for prevention of fish product contamination. This

limited the country’s participation in international fish trade and undercut the revenue

potential of the sector.


Illegal fishing and lack of value addition are also major setbacks, as major catch by

industrial vessels gets transshipped at sea for export.


By 2011, the Government of Sierra Leone, desirous to strengthen the management of

its marine resources, sought the support of the World Bank to reform the country’s

fisheries governance. The World Bank intervention came through a US$ 28 million to

project which was part of the West African Regional Fisheries Programme-WARFP-SL.

WARFP covers Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde.


In Sierra Leone, the major objectives of the programme were to strengthen the capacity

of the country to effectively manage its fisheries, reduce illegal fishing and increase

local value addition.


To achieve these objectives within a five year period, the project was to establish a

number of Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) in targeted coastal fisheries;

establish clear principles and policies aimed at increasing the wealth from fisheries by

strengthening rights of fishing communities and the equitable allocation of these rights,

strengthen and modernize the overall regulatory framework for industrial fishing,

establish a certified public laboratory and competent sanitary authority to facilitate the

process of gaining access to the international fish market.


Artisanal fishing communities were to be targeted by supporting full registration and

licensing of all fishing vessels and fishing gears in use. Also, fishing communities were

to empower to co-manage their marine resources through the introduction of Marine

Protected Areas (MPAs) that would have evolved into the Territorial User Rights

Fisheries (TURFs).


To reduce illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, the project was to strengthen the

sector’s Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) systems to ensure industrial fishing

operations are carried out within the provisions of the country’s laws.

These reforms were expected to result in an increase in the contribution of the marine

fish resources to the local economy, increase the economic profitability and

environmental sustainability of the fisheries resources in Sierra Leone.

Illegal fishing alone accounts for an estimated $30 million revenue loss annually for the

country which authorities say ’’is totally unacceptable to the government.”


Clearly, WARFP-SL was supposed to have been a vital boost to Sierra Leone’s

economy. But even before the end of its five years of operation, the project which was

designed to improve the management of the country’s fisheries had crumbled under its

own management problems.


There are high hopes that the new project will succeed given the stringent

administrative actions being taken and the experiences it would draw from its



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