By Umarr Jah :
Sierra Leone’s President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, made a comprehensive analysis of his governance initiatives to Sierra Leoneans living across Europe during his official trip to attend the EU-Africa summit in Brussels.
Before the commencement of the summit last week, President Koroma, in three separate meetings, took time off to meet and address Sierra Leoneans living in several European countries. The first of those encounters was organized in Brussels on Tuesday April 1, by APC party members in Europe to relaunch the party´s mainland Europe chapter.
Immediately after the first meeting, the President proceeded to a second meeting organized by the Open Government Initiative (OGI) in Antwerp where he outlined the gains made by his government through the Agenda for Change and the road map designed to build on those gains in the Agenda for Prosperity.
A Similar meeting was also organized by the OGI in The Hague on Friday April 4. Earlier, President Korma had a dinner with a network of business magnates who have established over 300 businesses in Africa. The purpose was to inform them about Sierra Leone’s economic growth, ranked as the second fastest growing economy in the world. President Koroma encouraged the business people to participate in what he described as “….the remarkable transformation of a country which just over a decade ago was called a failed state, but now a hailed state attracting millions of dollars investments in the agricultural, mining, infrastructure and energy sectors. ”
His vision to change the political landscape in Sierra Leone came at the time when the people were faced with many social problems including bad governance and blatant corruption by past governments. This was why the President promised Sierra Leoneans during his electioneering campaign that his government would seek to provide solutions to those underlying problems by working assiduously, in line with the fundamental principles of democracy and propel the country to sustainable economic growth.
He said his government is committed to improve and make governance more accountable; to ensure that policies and development projects are meant to minimize problems affecting the population; and to reduce the chances that violence and insecurities will hamper economic growth. This is particularly because in modern democracy, good governance is one of the key elements that helps governments to exercise power that is effective, honest, equitable, transparent and accountable at various levels.
President Koroma reiterated the policy framework within which the Agenda for Change was implemented, citing specific reference to the APC manifesto including the people’s aspirations, which he said, were the factors considered in the policies designed for the said Agenda to promote the socio-economic development of the country.
In the Agenda for Change, the government identified key sectors which are crucial in promoting development growth in Sierra Leone. Among them are energy, health, infrastructure and social service delivery. The government decided to put particular attention on those sectors based on the fact that sustainable development is impossible without effective energy supply, increased agricultural production, proper road networks to enable access in rural areas and the provision of a proper health care system.
President Koroma disclosed to his audience what his government inherited in the energy sector – a system that lacked the necessary policy guidelines to provide effective energy supply.
“When I took over power in 2007, we had a capacity of 10MW in the country,” he said and further emphasized that such capacity is nothing compared to what a country needs to revamp its economy.
It was against this backdrop that he decided to embark on fast-tracking the Bumbuna Hydro Electric Project which was abandoned by his predecessors since its inception 35 years ago. With the completion of the Bumbuna Phase 1 project, the country now enjoys effective electricity supply with solar powered lights in the district headquarter towns and villages despite numerous challenges facing the sector. M echanisms have already been put in place aimed at overcoming those challenges. New institutions have since been set up in the energy sector responsible for the distribution and generation of electricity across the country. The government has also embarked on the construction of thermal, solar and hydro electric projects to increase power supply in Sierra Leone.
While agriculture is considered an engine for economic growth, President Koroma said policies designed to improve the sector were aimed at commercializing agriculture and empower local farmers to enhance more production for food sufficiency and sustainable growth. He therefore embarked on an ambitious reform programme – the Small Holder Commercialization Programme (SCP) that has enhanced the livelihood of thousands of farmers and their families through the provision of seeds, fertilizers, machinery, training facilities as well as improved access to markets through the establishment of Agricultural Business Centers (ABC).
President Koroma emphasized the seriousness his government attached to the agricultural sector with compliance to the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADEP) that obliges member states to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture and further encouraged respective states to provide a coherent plan through which donors could subscribe.
However, the bedrock leading to sustainable agriculture depends on proper road infrastructure that would encourage business growth especially when roads leading to towns and villages across the country are accessible. To achieve that, he said his government embarked on road infrastructure, ensuring that all towns and villages including district headquarter towns are reachable – hence the construction of feeder roads and major highways across the country.
Charged with the responsibility of providing the enabling environment for business opportunities and ensuring that the people of Sierra Leone live a decent life, the President said his mandate also extends further to provide proper health care system for the people in an effort to put an end to the unenviable situation of child mortality in Sierra Leone. The free health care programme was therefore established thus providing free medical facilities for children under five, lactating and pregnant women.
Such a bold initiative by the government has made a huge difference in not just the lives of women and children in Sierra Leone, but also their families and friends. This is particularly because, as President Koroma rightly put it, securing the health of women and children simply means securing the future of the country. He expressed confidence that the introduction of the free health care programme has saved many lives in the county.
Backed by the factors mentioned above, the President further disclosed that he has started engaging meaningful partners in the mining sector to partner with his government in establishing manufacturing companies that would add value to our natural resources. He said his government would do all in its power to have an industry that would cut and polish diamonds before exporting them to various destinations in the world – another means that would increase job opportunities for the growing population in Sierra Leone.
However, the effective implementation of those policies highlighted by President Koroma would not have been successful without involving the people into the governance process. This was a solid reason why the APC-led government established the Open Government Initiative, a platform wherein people would have the opportunity to enjoy a constructive dialogue with the President regarding his governance policies and programmes – simply put, an open information and participation system that brings governance closer to the people and the people closer to governance.