Bio Speaks In London

 

At a well attended UK-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment conference held in London last week Thursday, President Bio in outlining the successes and challenges facing his ‘New Direction’ one year after assuming power in April 2018 has said he wants to shift the development focus from development assistance to urgently creating thousands of jobs for the country’s young population.

In so doing, President Bio presented Sierra Leone to the UK trade and investment community as a very peaceful democracy with a government that is focused on diversifying the economy in order to make it resilient. “We believe it takes private capital to do that and lots of it too.”

In inviting UK investors to access the great opportunities Sierra Leone offers, Bio’s call on the British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone as his witness said that there are no human rights abuses in the country, no civil war, no Ebola, and no journalists’ rights abused. “The rule of law is supreme,” he told the British.

After presenting the investors with a picture of the geographic centrality of Sierra Leone to Europe and North and South America, our agricultural and touristic assets, mineral resources, natural harbor and trade pacts with EU, UK, USA and the Africa continent that grants the country duty free access to these markets, Bio told his audience that his government has developed a medium term national development plan that is pro-growth and encourages private capital investment in key priority areas – agribusiness and fisheries, tourism, infrastructure and renewable energy – with the objective to grow the economy with a diversified portfolio that creates jobs.

To entice the investors, Bio told them that as investors, he knows they would only put their money where it is exposed to the least risk over the long term. As such, his government, he said, is hard at work to get the macroeconomic foundation of the country right for safe investment, as well as clamped down on leakages, fraud, abuse of public funds and corruption. “We believe that clamping down on corruption is good for governance…the economy and especially good for business.” He said, as it cuts out unnecessary red-tape, corruption and unpredictability about registering and doing business and that there is less likelihood of predatory businesses thriving in the same economic space.

While his government awaits the formalization of the National Investment Board that will interface with the private sector, they have done necessary reforms of the existing Corporate Affairs Commission to simplify the business registration process. “No more endless forms, bribes to dodgy middlemen and facilitators and tortuous process that often leave investors in frustration.”

Indication of Sierra Leone having become investment friendly, he told the investors, are seen the number of registered businesses having doubled within the last year and an upward tick in Sierra Leone’s Starting Business indicator and that of Protecting Minority Investors under the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report 2019. “The Starting a Business indicator improved 28 places in rank in just one year – rating the indicator 55 out of 190 economies with  scoring of 91%.”

Government, he furthered, continues to engage on several development fronts with partners and line agencies including EPA, EIA, EITI with a view to reducing fees payable in Leones and in installments.

“…we continue listening to business on what other investment incentives we can put on the table,” Bio told his audience. “We have an attractive regime of incentives including tax waivers, tax breaks and tax credits – …yes, we share your concerns and we believe that we should scale up government infrastructure spending to target specific investment/growth areas.”