Readers must forgive me for opening today’s column by acknowledging the compliment paid to me last Friday by no less a person than my nephew who has become a legendary columnist not simply in his own right, but among the best, in his style, humour, and his play with the Queen’s language in his very popular and educative regular “Ponder my Thoughts” column. Yes, Andrew Keilie, also fondly referred to by his middle name of Karmor, is an acknowledged literary gem among his peers; no, compared with the majority of his peers in the journalism profession (it’s a misnomer when applied to him because he is by profession a distinguished engineer of some repute rather than a journalist.) Andrew is a member of the very successful Sierra Leonean Engineering enterprise CEMATS. There is very often in the best of us a “BUT” and my nephew is no exception as on one occasion when I and many others thought that he went a little too far. He had reached up for my jugular in 2016. I had in a public statement advised the SLPP family to unite behind the then Presidential aspirant Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, our current “Talk and Do” President. Poor Andrew, he was attacked from every angle. That was then; thank you Kamor for your lavish compliment. No one can now rightly accuse you of family bias for your expressed opinion.
Koroma, Salia, Sierra Leonean accordionist and singer; Segbwema, Sierra Leone, 1903
Salia Koroma was born in Segbwema although his parents had come from Kpa-Mende country. As a young man, Salia's father left Salia Koroma him in the care of his mother while he went to seek his fortune elsewhere. Salia was anxious to go to school but his uncles, who were responsible for him in the absence of his father, did not feel disposed to send him to school. Rather, they sent their own children.
8th August 2019••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••The current state of SL's economy is in a mare’s nest. The US dollar and UK pound sterling are increasing at an increasing rate against the Leone, thus; having a negative multiplier effect on the purchasing power of the ordinary local citizen: both in the cities and villages.SL's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the end of Quarter 3 (Q3) is estimated to be about 4.5 billion US dollars, which accounts for 0.01 percent of the world’s economy (World Bank, 2018).
According to the 2018 UNDP report on SL, 70% of SL's youthful population (aged between 15-35) are either unemployed or underemployed, with about 800,000 youths actively seeking employment (UNDP, 2018).
Worse still, approximately 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans currently live below $1.25 a day. SL is ranked among the lowest in terms of Human Development Index (HDI).
Interestingly, SL's economy, like many other developing countries, have been facing similar challenges for the past 50 years on. Thus, this phenomenon is not purely a SLPP or APC issue, though critics on both side of the aisle will tend to squarely blame each other for the country's status quo.
However, clobbering both political parties who have alternatively steered our economy since independence is not the intention of this piece. Rather, this specific piece is centred on the author’s viewpoint on what can be done to improve the economic status for not only the current generation but for generation yet unborn.
The author believes that complains, especially those that do not offer concrete solutions to what is being complained about is nothing but a waste of time. It is, therefore, the aim of this piece to proffer possible and pragmatic solutions that may be useful to help our current policy makers to fast track our country’s human and economic development.
The rest of the piece will present a brief comparative analysis of Sierra Leone and Singapore and lay down possible solutions to help kickstart and sustain our economic growth.
You may ask: Why do a comparative analysis between Sierra Leone and Singapore, who are miles apart and located in different continents of the world?
It will interest you to know that both countries were once ruled by the same colonial masters, thus by default adopting the same economic, legal, educational and political policies.
Both countries secured independence about the same time; Sierra Leone in 1961 and Singapore in 1965. Also, as at the time of independence, both countries had about the same Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Per Capita Income and about the same unemployment and economic challenges.
Further, both countries had about the same population; Sierra Leone had 2.2 million and Singapore 1.6 million and their major trading partner was their colonial master - the United Kingdom.
Fast forward, 50 plus years on, Singapore is currently ranked among the world’s developed and competitive economies whilst Sierra Leone is still facing the challenges that have been hitherto explained. The per capita income (average income per person) in Singapore is approximately US$54,530 whilst Sierra Leone is about US$480; a whopping difference of USD$54,050 or 114 times multiples.
In the current World Bank Human Capital Index, Singapore is ranked among the best countries in the world.
This implies that a Singaporean born today will be 88% as productive when he or she grows up (World Bank, 2019).
Singapore is the world's 4th largest financial hub and the only country in Asia to be given a AAA credit rating from Standard and Poor's, Moody's and Fitch Rating. With a population of about 5.5 million people, Singapore reportedly has the highest number of US$ millionaires per capita in the Asia region.
You should ask:
1. How did Singapore with much lesser resources than Sierra Leone catapult itself to the list of developed countries?
2. What did Singapore do and is still doing that SL can learn from and adapt within our context?
The answer lies in the secret force that the leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew found: the powerful force of ENTREPRENEURSHIP.
For centuries, countries have been searching for answers on how to create the wealth of nations. In other words, political leaders as well as economists have been constantly searching for what key ingredients lead to the creation of a nation’s wealth.
The physiocrats who were a group of French economists hugely believed that the wealth of every nation can be created by primarily developing its lands and/or value of its agricultural products. On the other hand, the classical and neoclassical economic theorists led by proponents such as David Ricardo, Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall et al. believed that the productive capacity of any nation is hugely dependent on the combination of three (3) key factors: land, labour and capital.
In this context, land refers to the minerals (diamonds, gold, bauxite etc.), soil and the climate used in the production of products whereas labour refers to all human efforts (skilled and unskilled) used to produce goods and services.
Capital on the other hand, refers to the goods produced by labour (human effort) that are in turn used to produce other goods and services e.g. machinery, buildings etc. The neoclassical theorists’ further divide capital into three broad categories: fixed (machinery, equipment, building, technology etc), working (inventories), and financial (money).
Meanwhile, neo-classical theorists like J. B Clark et al. added a fourth factor of production: ENTREPRENEURSHIP.
Entrepreneurs are responsible for taking the risk to effectively co-ordinate the other factors of production (land, labour and capital). Every car or ship needs someone to steer it to its designed destination. The entrepreneur is that person who takes that responsibility to do so with all the associated risks that goes with it. He or she decides how the other three factors of production are apportioned towards the full production capacity of a nation.
The government of Singapore understanding the powerful effect of entrepreneurship on other factors of production helped to provide one of the world’s most business-friendly regulatory environment for their indigenous entrepreneurs and ultimately foreign investors.
The ease of doing business in Singapore including registering a business, paying taxes, getting loans, obtaining a construction permit, trading across borders is easier and more formalised than in Sierra Leone. This sort of ease and formalise structure of doing business has attracted not only indigenous entrepreneurs to start Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) but has also been a major factor for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country.
The Solution: Operation One Million Local Entrepreneurs
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••The author strongly believes that for Sierra Leone to grow and sustain its economy as well compete with others, it will need to do the following captured in the author’s STAR (SMEs, Teams, Action and Result) framework:
1. Establish/Develop one Million Viable SMEs (S)
The government needs to proactively identify and develop 1 million Local Entrepreneurs with innovative ideas across the country within 5 years; an estimate of 200,000 entrepreneurs per year. This can be done through a dedicated department whose sole responsibility is to oversee the personal and business growth of these entrepreneurs. The approximate cost of producing each entrepreneur (including training, seed capital etc) is US$5000 over five years. This amount is expected to be covered by key players like the banks and other financial institutions (in the form of loans to each start-up), government (in the form of subsidies and the creation of shared office spaces), Non-governmental agencies (in the form of expert trainings and access to technology) etc.
The creation of one million entrepreneurs will automatically lead to the creation of one million jobs and if those entrepreneurs go on to employ one person each, the unemployment figure would have been reduced by 2 million. The collective productive capacity of these young entrepreneurs coupled with the right ecosystem will help our local entrepreneurs to effectively produce goods and services which can be exported to neighbouring countries within the Mano River Union, thereby increasing the value of our currency and Gross Domestic Product. The OECD (2019) estimates that “in emerging economies, SMEs contribute up to 45% of total employment and 33% of GDP”. Thus, it is estimated that the total contribution from the 1 million start-ups will range between 10 to 30% over the first five years and rising up to 50% in subsequent years.
Also, the constant economic activities that will be undertaken by these entrepreneurs through their ventures will help attract foreign investors who will invest in some of the fast-growing ones.
It is important to note that entrepreneurs especially those who run Small Medium Enterprises are the backbone of every major economy. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for instance “SMEs are the predominant form of enterprise, accounting for approximately 99% of all firms. They provide the main source of employment, accounting for about 70% of jobs on average, and are major contributors to value creation, generating between 50% and 60% of value added on average” (OECD, 2019) and as stated earlier, in emerging economies, SMEs contribute up to 45% of total employment and 33% of GDP.
2. Creation of Teams (T)
There is a need to mobilise the selected entrepreneurs into core teams/clusters. This can be done by regions or towns and by using the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB) which helps to segregate the macroeconomy into industrial clusters i.e. education, agriculture, health, fashion, food and beverage etc.
In a nutshell, the Regional Teams or clusters should have a strong flavour of Specialisation like in the US: Silicon Valley (Tech); Las Vegas (Entertainment); Dallas, Beverly Hills; Hollywood etc.
Similarly, we could have Bo (Agriculture), Freetown (Technology and Tourism), Kono (natural resources), Makeni (Farming), Bonthe (Fisheries)etc. This kind of structuring will not only help those regions to specialise in key economic activities but could also help to decentralise our already currently centralised economic system.
The essence of teamwork is to enable the effective sharing of information and experiences. In addition, the dedicated department can work alongside the universities and private institutions to develop incubator hubs across the country where these young entrepreneurs can constantly learn from one another as well as from practitioners and experts (both foreign and local) on how to both develop and market their ideas locally and across borders.
Universities should align their trainings to feed into each relevant sector/team/cluster; to contribute ideas and innovation efficiently. Such trainings should primarily focus on changing the attitudes and mindsets of the selected entrepreneurs towards risking taking, constant innovative practices, proactiveness, opportunity spotting, networking, resilience, self-confidence etc. The universities can liaise with the key actors in the informal sector for instance to help impact these core entrepreneurial traits.
In the informal business sector, the Lebanese, Fulas and Nigerians remain the key dominant players. The government can use tax incentives and a Honour’s List to get them to work with the selected universities to help mentor these young entrepreneurs.
3. Action (A)
The government needs to take series of actionable steps around the creation of a viable entrepreneurial ecosystem which makes it easier for anyone anywhere with little or no resources to start and effectively run their own business. The government can specifically take the following actions: levy a lower tax rate or give tax holidays to start-ups, create an online platform that makes it easier to pay for and register a business within 24 hours, negotiate business partnership deals with neighbouring countries to make it easier for our businesses to trade and promote the concept of entrepreneurship as a primary not secondary source of our development.
4. Result (R)
On a regularly basis, each team/hub/region will be required to develop and present a performance-based report, carefully highlighting the key gains and challenges which will inform the next government action (s). This report should be made readily available to investors and the public at large via a dedicated government website or intranet.
In summary, the government of any nation including Sierra Leone cannot feasibly create all jobs it needs. In fact the Government should not be in the business of creating jobs but should rather focus on facilitating the smooth running of businesses by creating a thriving ecosystem that includes a higher HDI, less crime, easy access to seed capital, good technological infrastructure, lower taxes and other specific policies that will help to promote businesses especially SMEs.
It is important to note that the major creators of jobs in any economy are entrepreneurs especially those that run SMEs. We, therefore, need to redirect our efforts towards creating the right environment for our local entrepreneurs to thrive and compete with their counterparts around the world; only then can we grow and sustain the SL’s Economy.
Dr Alfred Mbeteh is a Researcher, Entrepreneur, Author and Lecturer (REAL). He currently resides in the UK, lectures at Roehampton University, University of West London and Nelson College London. He is also the founder and CEO of De VICTORS; a UK based success company which helps to Discover, Develop and Deploy (3D) the talents of our youths. He has worked with the UK National Citizen Service (NCS) as a Youth Programme Leader facilitating the personal development of the youths in the UK.
Fear and hatred of the naked posture of some deviants of morality and conduct in our society renders one timorous and unwilling to keep quiet no matter the urge to do so.The recent hue and cry raised over the so-called disrespect rendered the former head of state, Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, at the Lungi International Airport vividly comes to mind.
Mr. Koroma reportedly arrived at the Lungi International Airport just from the blues with no prior knowledge as far as government and the public were concerned, about where he came from. All the deviants of morality and conduct under the spell of the ex-president’s magic wand could tell the public was that he arrived at the airport and was denied the pomp and pageantry befitting a former head of state. He was denied the facility at the presidential lounge and other sinecure treatments that he deserves by the airport authorities, they claimed.
A male acquaintance called me. He told me he had a business deal to discuss with me. He came and we spoke about the deal which had to do with liquidating assets for a client. He is a lawyer.
Somewhere in the middle of that conversation he said that thing (pointing in the direction of my crotch) it must have been a long time since someone hit that. He said it was unfair. That he was waiting for the day that I would call him and ask him to come have sex with me.
We continued on talking about the business deal he had called me about. He said he would get back to me on specifics. I never called to follow up. He did not either. That conversation showed me that even though he always says he respects me, he doesn’t. In his eyes, I am but an object for sex. I didn’t tell him the extent to which that talk repulsed me but it did.
Special Assistant to the SG Envoy on South South Cooperation and Director of UNOSSC at United Nations.
The untold story of how dedicated people from private sector, the United Nations, the EU, space agencies, and the Government and Military of Sierra Leone worked together to respond to the 2017 landslides
In all the official reporting I have seen from the Sierra Leone landslides of 2017, I found that there were some stories — like the one I am about to tell — that seem to have gotten lost. During the response itself, there was no time for reflection and patting each other on the back. Afterwards, some of those involved had already left and others were working on their next projects. I have told this story to friends and colleagues, as one example of the importance of dedicated, forward-thinking individuals, but I also feel it deserves being shared more widely, before it is forgotten. These are my personal recollections and do not reflect those of the organizations I have worked for:
Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (alias De Monk) is the outgoing National Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists; Secretary General of the charity All ‘Works’ of Life development association, and President of Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone.
Nasralla is a professional Journalist and Sierra Leone’s foremost political cartoonist. He’s publisher of the famous satirical column called Ticha Lemp Lemp, which has now been registered as a newspaper with the Independent Media Commission and will soon hit the newsstands and online.
Thank God it is only now under the government of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio Sierra Leoneans could become champions of morality and conduct, constitutional rule and rule of law, national unity, peace and love for one another. It is only now Sierra Leoneans have appreciated the pang and humiliation of being discriminated against for your tribe, your region and for your very name as to be kicked out of one’s job, to be at the raw edge of the law, to be an object of police brutality and to be robbed of your rights and Sierra Leonean nationality.
As a young man, I grew up listening to the sounds of the Blind Musical Flames singing to their famous song ‘Poda Poda connection’. It was probably one of the greatest songs during that period. The song resonated with folks due to their struggle for transportation. One-time Deputy Minister, Mustapha Bai Attila was a member of the group. In an album titled ‘Moral’ released in 1989, The Blind Musical Flames took us on a roller-coaster ride of the world onboard the Poda Poda -the long queues, its hustle and bustle, the highly charged apprentices, the difference in fare and you name it. To cut our bluff, Attila and the rest of the Flamesmelodiously sang that they no longer ride Poda poda but Mercedes Benz.
The fact that no meaningful development can be attained in an atmosphere of chaos is indisputable. A society with turmoil is likely to experience retardation and stagnation rather than progress and sustainable development.
Growth and development especially in a multi-ethnic and diverse nation like Sierra Leone can only be attained when the people co-exist peacefully irrespective of their political views.
I’ve always been fascinated with stories. It’s one of the reasons why in high school I jettisoned physics, chemistry, and math in favor of literature and history. The decision has served me well in my media and communication career.
I realized early on - to quote the poet Muriel Rukeyser - that "the universe is made up of stories, not atoms.”
As a close relative of President Kabbah on his mother’s side of the family (his house is less than a hundred yards from ours in Moabi, Mando Chiefdom Kailahun District), I was fortunate to deal with him on several family issues. I recall that at a meeting of our family association which some over exuberant uncle had convinced him to host, the fifty odd family members who were expecting the usual spread of food offered by the host were surprised when at the end of the meeting, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity for “item 13”, he simply and politely said goodbye to us. “Our wife IJ is unfortunately out of town”, he explained.
On Thursday, May 23, 2019, the Government of Sierra Leone gathered Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life at the Bintumani Conference Centre in the nation’s capital, Freetown to reflect on our national cohesion, public good, citizenship and democracy. Loathe or like, the National Consultative Dialogue Conference ushers a new beginning in the revival of civic nationalism and good citizenship.
Illllll!! Ooowww!!? Na wan man bin dae. E name Bra Spider. Wan day, Bra Spider go waka to in modeh-law. In modeh-law bin dae roast cassada. As di mammy go insai room so, Bra Spider tiff wan pa di cassada en hide am insai in cap…
Once upon a time, there lived a tradition and culture called folklore. Apart from being a major pastime, it was also a way of life. Myths, legends, history and identity, were handed down to younger generations. Children and young adults got together to either listen to an older person tell (or they themselves reproducing as told) tales of Bra Spider (also known as Anansi in some traditions).
Reading, the cognitive process of understanding a written linguistic message or being able to read and interpret what is written, is dead in Sierra Leone. It is noticeable every where that pupils and students of today do not make use of their school, college or university library.
Gone are the days when students clamoured and elbowed each other to lay hand on a nice book or a potential interesting book in a library. In yesteryears, pupils and students made a habit every Friday to go to their library and borrow two or four books to go and read over the weekend.
I had to change seat one Monday night while watching SLBC’s MAKE YOU POINT programme. A caller to the programme and was unashamed enough to say that invigilators are too strict and that they do not give the candidates chance to spy while sitting to the West African Secondary School Examination (WASSCE).This is due to the examination malpractice cankerworm eating into the country’s education fabric.
Land grabbing and fighting for land is a menace to our society. Unlike other countries where the citizens acquire plot/s of land to build a bungalow without fisticuffs; it is not so in Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone the process of acquiring a piece of land is one of the most tedious and one of the most life-threatening things on earth. It is daily occurrence especially in the big towns and cities to see one, two or more people fighting over a piece of land.
We have recently seen leaders of various political parties troop to State House to meet with the President. Reports of what transpired were scanty and certainly politically coloured by the time they got to the mainstream press and social media. What we do know is that the photos showed various party heads shaking hands with the President, with some grinning like Cheshire cats. This obviously did not go down well with some of their political supporters who would have preferred them to look menacing and “breathe fire’, in light of what they perceived as “very contentious and unsavoury circumstances in the country”.
Members of Parliament (MP) are honorable members expected to be role models of our future leaders. MPs are supposed to exhibit good character and good representation. To be honorable means to be honest, direct, downright, sincere, trustworthy, tec. That is, an MP must not defraud or cheat, nor be deceptive or fraudulent.
An MP must be honest, just, noble, reputable, revered, etc. That is why he/she must behave honorably. They are the direct representatives of their constituents. The role of an MP is crucial to the governance structure of any country.Their role has been important since Plato and Aristotle’s time of propounding democracy.
One of the basic tenets of a democracy is to hold regular and periodic election; election to elect the representatives of the people. These representatives must come from among the people.
Democracy itself is government by the people, for the people and of the people. In short, it means government and its elected representatives.
In Sierra Leone we call these representatives Members of Parliament. The responsibilities of these representatives according to Section 97 a and b) of the 1991 Constitution is; All Members of Parliament shall maintain the dignity and image of Parliament both during the sittings in Parliament as well as in their acts and activities outside Parliament.
b) All Members of Parliament shall regard themselves as REPRESENTATIVES of the people of Sierra Leone and desist from any conduct by which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people.
In Sierra Leone, parliamentary elections have been held even before the country gained independence on 27 April 1961. Those who were elected worked in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone who elected them. They ensured that the people got good roads, food, shelter, quality education. They ensured that the people got 24 hours electricity especially in Freetown and in all district headquarter towns.
They sacrificed their time, energy and resources to represent the people in their best interests. The laws they passed were all in the interests of their electors. They did not pass laws that were in the interests of Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai and his colleagues as it seems to be done today when parliamentarians pass laws in either their own interests or in the interest of the president of Sierra Leone.
The style of representation of the Members of Parliament was to work diligently for the people of Sierra Leone. They showed themselves as patriots of Sierra Leone. They feared God. They did not enrich themselves. In fact, their main aim was to remove their people from the claws of colonial administration and chart for them the way to positive development.
That is why they left good legacies for the children of Sierra Leone that are worthy to emulate. They entrusted virtues and other moral values in the people of Sierra Leone. They lived as exemplary leaders worthy of emulation.
However, it seems that the Members of Parliament in Sierra Leone today are interested more in themselves than in the interest of those that they were sent to represent. It is for this kind of attitude of our parliamentarians that Sierra Leoneans are yearning for good electricity supply, quality education, good roads, food self-sufficiency, affordable health service and housing for all Sierra Leoneans as it is done in Europe, America, some parts of Asia and Australia.
For instance, in Brazil, USA, Europe and South Korea, the parliamentarians have demonstrated that they are the real representative of the people who elected them. They never allowed their presidents to influence their legislative powers.
The Members of Parliament, House of Commons or Senate, are servants of the people. Every law or bill they pass is geared towards the interests and positive development of their respective countries.
Nevertheless, it seems our MPs who walked out of parliament recently during State Opening of Sierra Leone’s Parliament while the National Anthem was going on, are no longer prepared to be called ‘honorables.’
Their walkout was a demonstration of not only contempt for the people who sent them to represent them but contempt for the country and contempt for President Julius Maada Bio.
Those MPs behaved dishonorably. They should not have walked out if they actually went to parliament to represent people and not their respective egos.Their behavior was not an honorable course of action.
Being an MP is a privilege; not a right. A privileged position must be exercised with respect. Whatever grievance they have for President Julius Maada Bio and his Government must not be displayed at the well of parliament during such an auspicious occasion.
The APC MPs who walked out of Parliament may have a flimsy excuse/s for staging such a naive behavior if they are jittery of the petition against some of their members or if they are jittery of the Commission of Inquiry (COI).
If an MP who is supposed to behave honorably behaves dishonorably, then he is not fit to be called HONOURABLE.The COI is to ensure accountability and transparency which every leader in Sierra Leone has been paying lip service to.President Julius Maada Bio wants to bring sanity into the country by ensuring that tax payers’ money both within and outside are used in a fiscal manner.
Also, petitions have been held in Sierra Leone after elections even during the infamous one-party system of Government.The murder of a key witness in an election petition case led to the notorious ndoigboiswui in Pujehun District because the brothers of the murdered man sought to avenge his slaughter.
If these MPs who walked out of parliament are indeed honorable and stand for the truth, why behave dishonorably when they know it is neither witch hunt nor today that election cases have been held in Sierra Leone?
Walking out of parliament when the national anthem was on is a big crime. If these MPs know that they are not guilty of corruption neither are they not jittery of the election petition filed against them, let them behave as honorable MPs.
They should be role models; not the reverse. These Members of Parliament must be passing bills or laws that are geared towards ensuring genuine quality education, affordable health and housing, good roads, reduced cost of living, affordable and accessible food security, equal justice, etc. Are they in parliament for themselves or for the people?
How representative are they to the people of Sierra Leone who elected them? What legacy will their tenure leave? What will they tell their children as Members of Parliament of the USA, Brazil, India, Europe, Australia, etc, have done?