Bio’s Plans Revealed

 

By Aruna Rashid Toma Bangura

The Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rado Swaray has explained to the nation the reasons for President Bio’s state visit to China to, among other things, attend the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held from 2nd to the 4th of September, 2018, which apart from the annual United Nations General Assembly, is the largest global meeting in the world.

Speaking on Radio Democracy on Monday morning, Minister Swaray said President Bio was given a warm welcome by the Chinese government and Sierra Leoneans living in China. He said the visit was unique because it was in honour of the invitation of the Chinese President Xi Jin-ping, based on the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries.

He disclosed that at the official banquet hosted by the Chinese President for President Bio, fruitful discussions were held by the President and the Chinese government on the way forward to better the lives of the people of Sierra Leone, with President Bio stating that his main focus is to feed the people of this nation and take them out of poverty. Towards this, President Bio said, he needs more Chinese investors to invest in Sierra Leone to help boost the crippling economy.

Minister Swaray said President Bio informed the Chinese President about the economic crisis that Sierra Leone currently is in; stating that he inherited a broken economy with the country the third hungriest in the world. For this, President Bio appealed to the Chinese President to help feed his people through investment in agriculture. President Bio told President Xi that Sierra Leone has vast arable land that is available for Chinese investment. He appealed for strengthened bilateral relationship between the two countries particularly in the areas of agriculture and urban planning.

Minister Swaray disclosed that the Chinese government offered President Bio over 200 metric tons of rice for distribution in the country. President Bio, he said, also used the opportunity to thank the Chinese government for its support during the Ebola outbreak that devastated the country’s economy and the mudslide and flooding disasters last year that affected thousands of people. President also Bio asked the Chinese government for direct budgetary support of between US$40 million to US$50 million, whilst the Chinese government generously has waived off all debts owed by Sierra Leone to China that is to mature this year.

President Bio also appealed to the Chinese for help with improving the country’s health sector, noting that most of the medical experts in Sierra Leone come from China. He called on to President Xi to support the training of more Sierra Leonean medical staff, especially gynecologists to take care of women.

Minister Swaray disclosed that in the area of infrastructure, the government delegation reached an agreement with ChinaPower International Group Limited to construct the Freetown-Lungi Bridge which will ease transportation constrains. The agreement includes expansion of the Lungi international airport, building of an international conference center and creation of an Economic Free Zone. The development will ease travel to Sierra Leone as well as impact positively on tourism. Discussions on implementation of the project, Minister Swaray said, are ongoing.

He further disclosed that President Bio succeeded in getting a commitment from the Chinese government for construction of a coastal ring road that will ease traffic congestion in the capital city.

Meanwhile, at the FOCAC Summit, President Xi announced an additional US$60 billion to Africa for investments in infrastructure over the next three years.