February 19, 2019
By Joseph S. Margai from China
China, the world’s most populated country and second largest economy, is a friendly country to Africa including my very country-Sierra Leone.
Africa, a continent of over 1.2 billion people has her colonial masters (the Europeans) who have been greatly supporting the continent and her people. But in recent years, Africa has turned to China for support in various areas.
China’s support to Africa has been in the areas of education, infrastructure, agriculture, health, electricity, etc.
This was the reason for the formation of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, which summits have been simultaneously held in China and Africa respectively.
It was in 2018 that China’s Beijing Automative Group Co., Ltd., opened its branch in South Africa. The purpose is to start manufacturing about 50,000 vehicles in 2019 for sale in the African continent.
This would subsequently lead to a very large employment of South Africans and eventually contribute to the employment rate in Africa.
Of course, South Africa hosts the largest number of Chinese citizens in Africa and Guangzhou, China’s Guangdong Province, hosts the largest number of Africans in China.
Sierra Leone’s relationship with China started in the 1970s, when both countries established bilateral ties some 47 years ago.
From 1971-2019, China’s influence in Sierra Leone has grown like a wild fire in the harmattan.
Of course, the Chinese presence could be felt in Sierra Leone once through the National Stadium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Youyi Building, some portions of Sierra Leone’s Parliament, the Wellington-Masiaka toll road, among others.
Transfer of knowledge is critical to national development. There is a popular saying that instead of giving someone a fish, teach him/her how to fish. The Chinese have embarked on teaching Sierra Leoneans how to fish.
But our fishing nets and hooks, lines and sinkers must also be ready to catch the fish, which we are taught to catch.
This is evident in the number of training programmes and scholarships they have been and continuing to award to Sierra Leoneans.
On 29th January, 2019, during the Spring Festival Serial Cultural Experiencing Activities of Confucius Institute in Sierra Leone, held on Fourah Bay College (FBC) campus, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wu Peng, disclosed that there was a total number of over one thousand four hundred (1,400) Sierra Leoneans that received various training in China last year (2018).
He stated that one thousand three hundred (1,300) of that number were people from all walks of life that received the training with sponsorship from the Chinese government.
“100 of that same figure were students who embarked on a journey to study in China through Chinese Government scholarship program. In October 2018, 18 college students from the University of Sierra Leone (USL) were awarded with Chinese Ambassador scholarship. This scholarship is an annual program for outstanding performances in studies as well as their knowledge in China and China-Sierra Leone bilateral relationship,” the Ambassador said.
Head of Chancery (HOC) at the Republic of Sierra Leone Embassy in Beijing, Unisa Sahid Kamara, disclosed in an exclusive interview in August 2018, that 98 percent of Sierra Leoneans living in China are students.
On 31st August, 2018, while addressing both the Sierra Leonean and business communities in Beijing, President Bio urged Chinese investors to invest in Sierra Leone, while assuring them that his government has created a lawful environment so that they could conduct businesses without fear.
“Come to Sierra Leone, invest and employ our Sierra Leonean compatriots. We will ensure that we create an avenue for you to make profits from your investments. We have a new government that is serious about investments, and we will do everything to protect it,” President Bio told the business community.
In order to help boost government’s agenda in transforming Sierra Leone, the Communist Party of China (CPC), in November 2018, invited the executive members of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).
The purpose was to teach their Sierra Leonean counterparts how their party has helped to transform China.
Headed by SLPP’s National Secretary General, Umaru Napoleon Koroma, the delegation had the opportunity to be taught on the Chinese development model and how it has helped to transform China and eventually making it become the giant of Asia.
On 30th November, 2018, during a meeting of the SLPP delegation with the officials of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Beijing, Umaru Napoleon Koroma stated that they were invited to get first-hand knowledge on how the Chinese were able to develop China and possible ways in which the SLPP executive could learn from China’s development path.
“Since we came, we have held meetings with top CPC officials who asked us what plans have the SLPP got to develop Sierra Leone. We told them the SLPP plans and we put together a memorandum of understanding demanding them to assist us to transform our country,” he told a gathering at the Sierra Leone embassy in Beijing.
The SLPP Secretary General noted that his delegation was taught party discipline, eradication of corruption and poverty alleviation, including strategies used to map out poverty-stricken provinces, among other things.
The SLPP delegation was also taken on provincial tours, where they saw how some communities were before, and the steps taken by the Chinese government to transform residents’ social and economic status.
In the area of defense and security, China held a China-Africa Defense and Security Forum in Beijing on 26th June, 2018, during which, Sierra Leone’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt. Gen. Brima Sesay ,urged China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), under the Central Military Commission, to support African militaries with modern and technological security courses.
At the event attended by two high ranking officers from militaries of 53 Africa countries, Lt. Gen. Sesay said the forum was the right time for the Chinese and African armies to come together and share ideas on how to solve the security problems in the African continent.
During the 2018 Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Chinese President Xi Jinping, announced a whooping sum of sixty billion United States Dollars (US$60bn) as financial support to Africa.
The support would be provided in form of government’s assistance, investment, and financing by financial institutions and companies.
It is expected that Sierra Leone would surely get her own share of that amount, which the government would use to implement projects gearing towards the transformation of the country.