Launched in 2012 the British Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone has the objective of “Aiding and encouraging the development of trade, commerce and investment between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom”.
Recognising the need to stimulate prudent, credible and proactive dialogue with the government of Sierra Leone, the Chamber last week held a meeting with Ministers at Freetown’s Radisson Blu, Mammy Yoko Hotel, leveraging the experience of the Chamber in Sierra Leone and in other geographies. The meeting was graced by Frank Ajilore IFC Country Manager, Dr. Gayle Martin, Country Manager World Bank, HE Tom VENS EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Representative from the IMF, the Ministers of Finance and of Trade and Industry, and Deputy Ministers of Planning and Economic Development, of Finance and of Labour and Social Security.
In his statement opening the occasion Mr Guy Warrington, the British High Commissioner, said: “The British Government shares the objective of the Sierra Leonean Government to move our relationship from one based on aid to one based on trade. But for that to happen, for that to be a reality, there has to be investment and the attraction of foreign capital to Sierra Leone “
“When trying to attract investment to the UK, the British government focuses around 80% of our resources on existing investments, existing investments that are most likely to make further investments and we spend a huge amount of time to ensure they are happy in the way they are treated within the country. I think that will be a useful focus of the government of Sierra Leone to ensure that the existing investors are content. They will then become Sierra Leone’s most effective Ambassadors in attracting new investors – For this to happen there has to be a Public and private sector dialogue. This could be helped through direct private sector interface with the new Investment Board. This meeting itself is a welcome first step in that direction.”
Addressing the audience on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone, Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy, echoed Mr Warrington’s sentiments saying: “The Investment Climate is a critical catalyst for the growth of any economy. This lays the foundation for driving the economy on a sustainable basis. It is observed that a well-functioning private sector, an efficient and resilient investment climate are a pre-requisite for achieving sustained economic growth as well as attracting foreign direct investments. Attracting investments is not the end of the story, sustainable development depends on the economy’s ability to retain quality investment.
Responding to the position paper prepared by the Chamber, Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Patricia Laverley stressed government’s desire to learn from, and cooperate with, the private sector observing that: “The paper contains some interesting insights and recommendations. I note that the Ministry will not have all the answers here today but will rather reassure the Chamber that the Government is committed in adopting measures and policies design that will seek to move Sierra Leone up the “Ease of Doing Business” ranking, with resultant benefits to companies and institutions like you already operating in the country. As a Government, we can only make progress by creating the right level of strategic alliance and attracting the much-needed foreign direct investment to stimulate private sector investment and drive economic growth”
“Like the Chamber, our Government is determined to see this country develop away from aid. We will work to create the enabling environment so that the private sector can thrive and provide the much-needed growth, opportunities and resources for the country. We applaud the Chamber and note that we are ready and will support all your activities as we work with you to aid and encourage the development of trade, commerce and investment between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom.”
The Deputy Minister of Labour, Lansana Mohamed Dumbuya in his response to concerns on the position paper said: “The Ministry is aware of the gaps in the laws and is trying to review the labour laws taking into consideration the current operating context, sub-regional and international best practices.”
Commenting on the morning’s proceedings Chamber Committee Member and Chair of the event Mr Sheka Forna noted that “The turnout spoke for itself. For its part the attendance of such a senior line up of officials demonstrated the importance with which Sierra Leone’s government takes investment and investors, whether current or future. Equally the attendance of so many of the Chamber’s members speaks to the concerns they have for their investments here and their relationship with government. It is particularly opportune, and due in no small part to the leadership demonstrated by our Chair, Mr Idrissa Kamara, that this event preceded the Sierra Leone Investment Conference, thereby sending a clear message that the government of Sierra Leone’s concern for its investment partners extends beyond mere platitudes.”