Speaking to President Bio at State House on 13th August, the new Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone Hu Zhangliang, said that the first two consignments of 2,000 tons of food aid has arrived in Freetown and are being delivered.
However, there has been no information from the government as to how this large consignment of food aid from China is being distributed and where.
Another 1,500 tons of food support will arrive in the next few days, and 3,400 tons arriving soon, said the Ambassador, who according to State House was there to discuss bilateral relations and development projects with President Julius Maada Bio.
“I extend warmest greetings from His Excellency Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, who is very much impressed with your presidency, particularly in areas of territorial integrity, sovereignty and security, diplomacy and development,” the Chinese Ambassador said.
The Chinese Ambassador also spoke to President Bio about feasibility studies being conducted for the rehabilitation of the Wilberforce Military Barracks, which houses the Hockey Pitch and 34 Military Hospital in Freetown, as well as the construction of the Foreign Service Academy. He added that the studies have been completed and contract tendering process underway.
China is also providing Sierra Leone with a loan (figure not known), for the implementation of phase two of the rolling out of fiber optics cable across the country to improve access to the communications superhighway.
“The Chinese government has also made special arrangements for the loan application for the Optical Fiber Network phase two project and we have already approved the loan application. Once the Ministry of Finance is done with the loan deal, the work will commence within three weeks,” the Chinese Ambassador informed President Bio.
The Chinese government will also help develop the country’s international airport in Lungi. In particular, China will modernize the airport’s VIP lounge.
“In terms of improving the capability of receiving state guests, my government is considering to help your government set up a VIP convoy with bikes, cars and support cars. And I believe that all of these will be delivered by February 2020. We are also looking at the rehabilitation of the VIP Lounge at the Freetown International Airport,” he said.
President Bio said he is happy to receive the new Chinese Ambassador to discuss issues relating to the two countries’ current and future projects.
“I am happy with the development of ongoing projects, the fiber optic extension which is visible, the food aid, VVIP Convoy, the rehabilitation of the Wilberforce Military Barracks, and improving on the number of Sierra Leonean students. We think this falls in line with the government’s human capital development agenda. As true friends we will also work together,” President Bio said.
But there was no mention of, or discussion about the proposed $2 billon Lungi Bridge-Freetown Bridge, which was launched by President Bio a few months ago.
Critics of the government say the government should be focusing on meeting the most basic needs of the people, such as improving the nation’s healthcare, improving access to clean drinking water and electricity, low-cost housing, investments in key sectors to create jobs, as well as fixing the broken economy.
Sierra Leone has cancelled its mining agreement with the Chinese iron ore mining company – Shandong Minerals Ltd, because of serious breaches by the company.
Iron ore was Sierra Leone’s largest single export revenue earner. But production slumped in 2015 when global prices of minerals fell. The country was also hit by Ebola. Sierra Leone’s economy is yet to recover from those double shocks.