President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has assured private sector players that government will continue to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the country. He made this assurance during the First Public-Private Investor Aftercare Roundtable organized by Sierra Leone Investment Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) held on Thursday 12th June at the newly refurbished Radisson Blu, Mammy Yoko Hotel, Freetown. The event was co-sponsored by the European Union, African Development Bank and the World Bank. Delivering the keynote address, President Koroma reiterated his commitment to ensure his government is the most business friendly in the history of Sierra Leone. “We will continue to collaborate with you on ways of meeting emerging challenges,” he vowed.
According to the President, the roundtable was organized to take stock of our achievements, review challenges and collaboratively come out with strategies that would sustain the ongoing transformation of the country. “This is a round table for local and international private sector players to advise government on how to improve the investment climate together,” he said, and went on to state that the round table is a platform for networking and exchanging views on business and investment relations and it presents a timely opportunity for a constructive dialogue on how to use our synergies for meeting today’s challenges in the business environment.
He disclosed that one of the major reasons why he joined politics was to ensure the private sector was accorded the centrality it deserves by public officials, and added “we will run the government as efficiently as the private sector and we will do all we can to unleash the enormous energies of the private sector for sustainable transformation of the country.” Government, President Koroma noted, has indeed acted on such knowledge, by way of putting in place policies that have attracted the largest private sector investments in Sierra Leone’s history, creating thousands of well paying private sector jobs and enhancing government revenues and the wellbeing of thousands of Sierra Leoneans.
“Because we believe in the power of the private sector, our economy is now amongst the fastest growing in the world; business and investor confidence in the country is growing and the future of investments in the country is brighter now than at any time in our nation’s history,” President Koroma said, and admitted that although government has improved Sierra Leone’s business rankings and attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, more needs to be done.
Chairman of Board of Directors of SLIEPA, Mrs. Gladys Strasser-King said as the country implements the Agenda for Prosperity, SLIEPA will continue to play a pivotal role in private sector development. “We aim to be even closer to our investors and SMEs by opening satellite offices in key district headquarter towns of Makeni, Bo and Pujehun so that we can be more accessible to meet your aftercare needs,” she pledged. Mrs Strasser-King encouraged players in the sector to seize the opportunities created by the country’s macro-economic stability and GDP growth recorded at 13.3% at the end of 2013, ranking the country’s growth rate as the second highest in the world, but therefore admonished all not to be complacent, ” for we must continue to move in an upward trajectory.”
Chairman of the occasion and Managing Director of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Idrissa Amadu Kamara said the round table engagement was being organized to reflect on gains made so far in the private sector. He maintained that SLIEPA understands that “better feedback from our investment partners will help government make the right decision about future investment climate reforms,” noting that the country’s economic growth in recent years was largely due to investment activities, especially in the mining, agriculture, banking, telecommunication and other growth related sectors. Head of Delegation of European Union, Peter Veersteg stated that as a key partner of SLIEPA, the EU has provided strategic support to strengthen the capacity of Sierra Leone to increase investment and promote export. Some 2 Million Euros have been invested over the period 2011 to 2014.
According to Country Representative of the African Development Bank Dr. Yero Baldeh, there was no doubt that the investors’ satisfaction with a country’s business climate is directly reflected in the growth of the economy. Sierra Leone, he said, recognizes this and is manifested in the several business regulatory reforms the country has undertaken over the past eight years resulting to the country’s upward movement in the doing business index- from 164 in 2005 to 137 in 2013. “These reforms effectively commenced with a comprehensive Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) which recommended series of (106) actions bordering on implementing business climate regulatory reforms and trade facilitation reforms to improve the ease of doing business,” he emphasized.