Looking at Sierra Leone’s economy, one will refer to it as container economy, which heavily depends on import. It is a natural resource economy (meaning it relies on iron ore, diamond, gold, bauxite among others), which had been gravely affected by the downtrend of their global prices.
Such situation forced the two major mining companies, London mining and African minerals, to close operation, which did not only affect the country’s economy, but also put it in an unstable position.
Presently, Sierra Leone’s economy is in a very bad shape as the import level far exceeds that of export, which is largely responsible for the continuous increase in the exchange rate and forced the prices of commodities in the country to rise up sharply; a situation that is affecting the standard of living also.
Also, it is no secret that currently the world economy is experiencing an unstable situation by moving downwards which is also affecting Sierra Leone’s economy, which is donor driven but the donors are also affected by this situation right across the globe.
Responding to this situation, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Momodu Koroma, explained that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has just concluded their review on the country’s economy, and put out a statement highlighting that ‘under difficult circumstances the government is managing the country’s economy well’.
The Minister accepted that the country’s budget support is drying up as the international partners are not providing supports as they used to do, which is why they (International Partners) are asking for economic diversification.
According to him, the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease was another contributing factor that affected the country’s economy as if not all, but most economic activities were put to a halt and businesses closed and investors fled the country.
Minister Kargbo disclosed that the donor partners in trying to address the current world economic crisis have now tabled the issue of economic diversification, adding that during the discussions he had with the Governor of the Export and Import Bank (EXIM Bank) and the General Manager of the China Development Bank, after the Coordinators’ meeting, he made a request for support to the agriculture sector as they want to squeeze things to production.
“Immediately I return to Sierra Leone with the delegation I will try to secure support from the appropriate authorities so that we can ask for a line of credit to support the agriculture sector. We want to bring in fertilizers, tractors, power tillers among others to increase on our agricultural output so that the country will be food self sufficient and start exporting on a massive scale” he recalled.
The Finance Minster argued that the people are saying they should diversify the economy, but I am saying production should first be enhanced and modernized in the agricultural sector, enhanced production in the fishing sector, got the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) going, work out programs with the Tourism sector as these are the key productive sectors that should be kept going in line with the Agenda for Prosperity.
According to Minister Koroma, they intend to create space in the budget so that there would be enough money to support the productive sector.
“It is clear that there is no Sierra Leonean who owns a trawler considering the size of the sea which is far bigger than the available land of the country, meaning the country’s fishes are in the hands of foreigners” he says.
He explained that they are planning on a program of empowering Sierra Leoneans to take over command of that part of the economy, as if they fail to take charge of the economy, it will be very difficult as there are threats everywhere especially with the emergence of the robotic technology that is gradually taking over the world as the only advantage of developing countries was cheap labour but this new technology is gradually affecting the cheap labor which is a serious challenge.
“The country needs to invest more in cattle rearing to increase milk production, invest in agriculture which will increase production and the issue of foreign exchange will be a thing of the past” according to him.
Looking at the Minister’s plans, one will clearly realize that he is trying to implement and adapt the Chinese Economic success stories by diversifying the country’s economy from that of a container dependent on minerals realization to that of making use of every sector.
Just after the Chinese opened up and reformed their economic policy in 1978, their economy was largely based on agriculture, which was later transformed to industrialization and modernization which rapidly increased their gross domestic product and make them food self-sufficient, despite their 1.37 billion population.
Currently, the Chinese economy is suffering from over capacity which is forcing them now to look for options to invest and they have now found Africa, their long serving friend.
It no secret that establishment of foreign investment in China did not only help improve their economy but also help train their local experts who were employed by those foreign investors, a situation from which Africa is set to benefit from, if only the leaders and people are willing and ready to accept the industrialization proposal.
Sierra Leone have beautiful and natural beaches, rich historical sites and cultures, mineral resources, fertile agricultural landscape, pure drinking water which if judiciously utilized will be enough to transform the lives and living standard of the very small population.