Undoubtedly, it had been popularly anchored that in this our beloved Sierra Leone, there are indeed good laws and policies but on the flip side, proper implementation or enforcement of them is quite a different kettle of fish; really nothing good to write home about. An in depth vox-pox recently conducted in many quarters to gauge the views of a large percentage of Sierra Leoneans to ascertain the veracity of that assertion proved that indeed, to a very large extent such is true and such is one of the main factors that is responsible for the current backward status in which the country finds itself making it from time to time quite common for injustice to rear its ugly head.
Forum is quite aware that Sierra Leoneans have been crying for quite a long time for liberation from the yoke of foreign dominance in nearly all spheres of the country, leaving indigenes in a very disadvantaged position.
In a neo-colonialist fashion, the country’s economy seemingly was mainly dominated by foreigners simply because they have huge capitals at their disposal and largely favored by the Powers-That-Be at various periods. Sierra Leoneans were left out in the cold as they could not effectively compete with those foreign owning companies and other businesses.
This unfortunate situation led to unemployment for indigenes as certain local companies were forced to shut down with the cascading effect of deepening poverty. These foreigners had the audacity to even import their brothers and sisters from their home countries to perform duties or tasks which highly educated and skilled Sierra Leoneans could best perform with relative ease. Even our local products, from the agricultural, furniture, food and beverages, tourism, hotel management were totally considered very inferior, were shunned preferably for those coming from overseas.
This effrontery has been identified as one of the biggest insult that Sierra Leoneans have so far suffered, our leaders not in any way making serious efforts to address such an anomaly that created dislocations in our economy.
Because the country was licking its wounds from the ugly 11 year old war, the hue and cry against this anomaly, ebb and tide. After considerable recovery, with the help of donor partners and assured that the country was enjoying relative peace and with the Government’s effort in convincing investors overseas that the country was now conducive to invest, coupled with concession promises, we saw the emergence of multi-national companies like London Mining, African Minerals both interested in mining iron ore, ADDAX Bioenergy, Bollore Logistics etc, all exhibiting the intensions to do business in this country. Many saw this new trend as a real turn around for this country not until the ugly hydra, Ebola, struck and the negative market forces that dropped down the price of iron ore in the world market. But we will leave that for another time!
Fast forward! What dawned in the wake of the operations of these companies made Sierra Leoneans to start thinking whether this was not the emergence of another era of naked exploitation. These companies started bringing “expatriates” to perform tasks that local talents here could really perform. There was no room for the transfer of knowledge or skills to the local workers; they were not purchasing local produce in-country, they outsourced foreign companies to undertake auxiliary tasks and the rest of it.
Forum is of the firm belief that when London Mining insisted on using the service of a foreign based company, an affiliate of Bollore Logistics, to transport mined ore from the mining sites to the Queen Elizabeth Quay in Freetown, something which Sierra Leoneans with the logistics here could equally perform that disagreement sparked a severe peaceful protest led by one Ambush Commander who strongly said that should be undone.
The APC Government, under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma, being a listening Government decided to take a decisive action. As a true leader, President Koroma, acted decisively, ensuring that the Local Content Policy was brought into being and later it became an Act of Parliament.
The Local Content Policy gives greater teeth to these provisions in the 1991 Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone: Chapter II, 7 (1) : “The State shall…: a. harness all the natural resources of the nation to promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy; b. manage and control the national economy in such a manner as to secure the maximum welfare and freedom of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of opportunity; c. protect the right of any citizen to engage in any economic activity without prejudice to the rights of any other person to participate in areas of the economy; d. place proper and adequate emphasis on agriculture in all its aspects so as to ensure self-sufficiency in food production; and e. ensure that Government shall always give priority and encouragement to Sierra Leoneans to participate in all spheres of the economy in furtherance of these objectives…”
In tandem with the passage of the Act the 2016 Finance Act also incorporated certain clauses which were not protectionist per se but put local businesses on a proper footing to compete with foreign owned businesses and companies. The advantage that have so far accrued are immense as today local farmers of sorghum are viably engaged in their farming activities and supplying the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited Company (SLBL) with the needed produce to manufacture Guinness Stout and Beer. The SLBL is now on an expansionist drive with the procurement of the requisite equipments to produce more to meet the demands of its esteemed customers. In doing so the company is steadily providing job opportunities (both formal & informal) for many, fulfilling its corporate social responsibility etc. Because of the enforcement of the Local Content Policy, other local businesses and companies are now fully operationally boosting the country’s economy.
With the manipulations of certain Shylocks, who are bent on getting Government to revoke those clauses in the 2016 Finance Act or for them to be expunged as reflected in the 2017 Finance Act, they want to reverse all the gains that have materialized as a result of the functionality of the Local Content Policy.
Forum is convinced that it is incumbent on the SLPP Bio led political administration to ensure that the Local Content Policy is alive and kicking because its immense advantages cannot be overemphasized. May Common Sense Prevail!