Salone Open For Business Bio Tells Investors In China…

 

The special bilateral relationship that exists between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Sierra Leone that dates back to 1970, when Sierra Leone voted in the General Assembly for China to become a member of the United Nations (UN) remains strong and unbreakable.

This was witnessed to by the red carpet welcome and state dinner that no less a person than the President of China accorded President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio when he attended this year’s Forum for Africa Cooperation Summit.

The Chief Minister, Professor David J. Francis could not contain his excitement.  He called the reception given to President Maada Bio and his delegation by the Chinese President “phenomenal”.

The professor marveled that China is taking ten million people out of poverty every year. Thus, they were in China to learn how they can do the same for 7.1 million Sierra Leoneans. Sierra Leone, he said, is open for business, adding that the government delegation was holding engagements with the Chinese private sector to help with the process of transforming Sierra Leone.

Amid rising global trade protectionism, the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) shows China’s determination to promote fair international trade that will significantly benefit African countries, said President Bio.

“The rising protectionism should worry us all, as it distorts the markets and results in trade wars, but the successful opening of the FOCAC Summit shows China’s multilateral diplomacy regarding Africa, providing more cooperation opportunities for both sides,” President Bio told People’s Daily Online.

“China has been providing support to Africa over the past decades, focusing mainly on areas including infrastructure, agriculture, healthcare and human development. The FOCAC Summit will surely give us an opportunity to develop a more strategic and cooperative partnership with China,” the President noted.

According to President Bio, fostering friendly bilateral relations for 47 years, China and Sierra Leone are now heading into a golden era for more diversified cooperation, with a focus on industrialization, agriculture modernization, innovation and technology, investment and human development.

China is now Sierra Leone’s top export destination, while trade between the two nations has witnessed continuous growth since 2002.

In addition to trade, President Bio also expressed his gratitude towards China’s aid during the country’s Ebola outbreak and in the aftermath of the recent mudslide, adding that he and his country will support President Xi Jinping’s vision of China-African relations as “a community of common destiny.”

“China provided both personnel and financial assistance when Ebola and the mudslide hit our country. Needless to say, China has always been a great friend in times of need, and as African leaders, we also have the responsibility to support the vision of a community of common destiny,” said President Bio.

Consequently, President Bio at a specially convened meeting with a bevy of Chinese investors reiterated his call that under the ‘New Direction’ Government, Sierra Leone is open to business. He therefore called on Chinese investors, who were in the country before to do business but had to return home because of improper treatment meted out to them, to forgive and forget about the past and return to Sierra Leone again. He assured them of the readiness of his government to give them all the support and security they require to do business in Sierra Leone safely.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Alie Badara Sanjan Kabba said that this is a new dawn under the leadership of President Bio. Sierra Leone, he said, seeks investors in infrastructure, agriculture, fishery and tourism in the ‘New Direction’ government’s ambition to diversify the economy. The Foreign Affairs Minister stated that towards that goal, the Chinese are 100 percent with Sierra Leoneans.

At a meeting with Sierra Leonean students in China at the Sierra Leone Embassy, President Bio told his compatriots that the business of his ‘New Direction’ government is to deliver on the election promises that he made. He said his visit to China was part of his mission to find the wherewithal for turning those promises into reality for the people of Sierra Leone, stating: “You are our future.”

President Bio addressed two issues affecting Sierra Leonean students in China: the two years backlog of containers waiting to be shipped to Sierra Leone; and stipends for the students. To those issues, the President assured that his government would take care of them.

The Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa assured the students that the costs are nothing for the ‘New Direction’ government, adding that the government will create an enabling climate for students that want to do business. “This is a new government and a new era,” he told the students.

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping announced at the FOCAC Summit that China will extend US$60 billion financing to Africa. The financing, according to the Chinese President, will come in the form of government assistance, and investments and financing by financial institutions and companies.

It includes US$15 billion of grants and interest free loans and concessional loans, US$20 billion of credit lines, setting up of a US$10 billion special fund for development financing and a US$5 billion special fund for financing imports from Africa.

Chinese companies are also encouraged to make at least US$10 billion of investment in Africa in the next three years.

China, President Xi Jiping said, has honoured its 2015 pledge at the FOCAC Summit held in Johannesburg to provide Africa with US$60 billion funding. He said the financing has either been delivered or arranged.

 

By: Murtala Mohamed Kamara