In her opening statement, the Country Representative for UNIDO, Mariatu Abionor Swaray said the overall objective of the training workshop, which attracted participants from a good number of Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs) owners from Moyamba, Port Loko, Gbagbatoke, Shenge, Freetown and other parts of the country, was awareness raising and capacity enhancement for the identification and promotion of Renewable Energy focused innovative entrepreneurs, start-up as well as SMEs, directly or indirectly linked with energy generation, transformation and consumption.
She added that the sessions of the workshop would also create a space for dialogue on critical small and medium enterprises and public and private partnership related issues relating to SMEs development in Sierra Leone.
She further stated that SMEs constitute one of the main driving forces of economies in Sierra Leone and that apart from providing a range of products and services, they were significant job-creators.
She said in order to assure that SMEs could successfully engage in their productive activities, UNIDO focuses on promoting efficient partners of energy use through renewable energy such as fuel-switching from fossil fuels to locally available renewable sources.
“UNIDO will focus not only on creating an enabling policy and market environment for such activities, but also on the development of technical and business skills. I am happy to see that with your cooperation and with training like this, action for de-risking investment to ensure renewable energy is attractive to the private sector,” she said.
In his statement, representative of the Minister of Trade and Industry, Charlse Mereweather Thompson, said he was gratified for being one of the speakers at the workshop, considering the fact that most Sierra Leoneans were inactive with the rate of establishing new businesses low.
He said the training workshop is expected to improve the capacity of participants, especially in the creation of more SMEs.
He noted that government has developed a policy to address some of the problems facing the business sector, and that with the aim of revitalizing the economy through the SMEs, government established the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency in 2017.
“It is within this context that I congratulate UNIDO, the EPA and the Ministry of Trade and Industry for jointly organizing this important workshop which seeks to enhance capacity building of entrepreneurs and in the process create more SMEs and reduce poverty in the country,” he reiterated.
In his keynote address, representative of the Minister of Energy, Cyril Grant, thanked all partners involved in organizing such an important workshop, adding that renewable energy was a major concern in Africa.
He said the availability of energy in the rural areas would foster social and economic growth and stimulate employment.
He said government commitment to nationwide energy access and renewable energy were enshrined in two of the four pillars of the New Direction.
“Our ministry is introducing two different projects which are the Rural Renewable Energy Project which is implemented by UNOPS, while the other is the 16mega watts bio project that would be established in Moyamba District,” he said.