To Promote Agro-business… Govt. Disburses Le 14.3 Bn. Grant To SMEs Across the Country

The Government of Sierra Leone through World Bank Support has disbursed a grant of Fourteen Billion Three Hundred and Seventy Four Million Five Hundred Thousand Leones (Le 14, 374, 500,000) to Twenty Five (25) Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the country.

The grant is part of Sierra Leone’s Agro Processing Competitiveness Project to promote SMEs in agro-business, according to the Minister of Trade & Industry Dr. Hinga Sandi during his key note address in the symbolic disbursement  of Grants to cohort one SMEs  at the Eden Resort in the Western Rural District on last Friday.

While commending the World Bank for adding another layer in the country’s agro business, Dr. Sandi said the government has developed a National Microcredit Scheme targeting Small & Medium Enterprises and stressed the need to develop our local enterprises.

He went further to state that in estimation Sierra Leone spends USD 400 million in importation of food items and USD 200 Million in importation of rice despite its viable land.  He said the government is working assiduously to overturn these figures.

On the synopsis of Sierra Leone Agro Processing Competitiveness Project, Programme Coordinator, Dr. Martin Gbonda said agro-business is the fastest growing business in the country’s economy as it constitutes 57% of the Country’s GDPand 90% of population in the rural areas engages in Agro business. He said the project if invested in will save the government billions of Leones from importing food items.

Dr. Gbonda said SMEs are facing challenges to growth in Sierra Leone including: low access to information, poor infrastructure, limited access to finance, and weak capacity to scale up businesses. These constraints, according to him, disproportionately impact women entrepreneurs. He therefore commended the government and its partners for setting the platform for the growth for Small and Medium Enterprises in the agro business as the project hopes to address them through public goods investment, SME and start-up acceleration, and early-stage financing.

On her part, Deputy Minister of Finance Patricia Lavalie assured the SMEs of her ministry’s support and urged that the money is used for the intended purpose.

Agro Processing Competitiveness Project is part of Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project that will help strengthen the business enabling environment by promoting reforms to facilitate business entry and operation, facilitate strategic public investments to improve competitiveness and private investments, support SMEs and entrepreneurs, and build the capacity of public institutions and private sector operators.

The project is consistent with the Government’s Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023) and its strategic objective to prioritize private sector-led growth for job creation, poverty reduction and economic diversification.