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‘Sierra Leone not ripping benefits from urbanisation’

- World Bank Country Manager

February 19, 2019

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

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World Bank Country Manager, Dr. Gayle Martin

Country Manager for the World Bank has stated that Sierra Leone was not ripping the benefits from urbanisation because of enormous challenges.

According to Dr. Gayle Martin, even though the city of Freetown accounts for almost the third of the country’s development and growth, it was also one of the few areas where poverty has increased over the past decades.

She was speaking at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown on Thursday, February 14, 2019, during the official launch of the Freetown Urban Sector Review and Multi-City Hazard and Risk Assessment reports.

The two studies focused on Freetown, which dominates Sierra Leone’s urban landscape with the aim of providing the government, World Bank teams and development partners with a range of recommendations across institutions and sectors for priority areas in policy and investment reform that will enable the city to become prosperous and resilient.

She reckoned that low development in urban centres and rural areas increase the urbanisation pressure on the capital.

“It is a little bit striking that not only that Freetown is benefiting from urbanisation in terms of economic growth, in fact poverty is worsening,” she said. “The challenges are enormous which highlighted the timelines of this analytical work and the government’s strategic planning that is taking place.”

She also noted that the solutions to the urbanisation pressures felt in Freetown did not only reside in the Western Area, but the country generally.

Dr. Martin said the reports were not only responding to the challenges but also pointed to potential solutions, as well as technical and institutional insight on how to address the challenges documented.

She added that issues highlighted in the reports related to fragmented urban development, lack of access to basic services such as water and sanitation, among others.

“We know that Freetown is already exposed to multiple natural disasters, which has the risk of worsening during climate change and demographic expansion. In the aftermath of the August 14, 2017 [mudslide] disaster, the World Bank conducted a damage and loss assessment and the estimate at the time was that its impact was about US$30 million and annual loss of about US$2.5 million a year,” Dr. Martin noted.

She commended President Julius Maada Bio for the priority given to planning for the disaster risk management law and strategy and the legal reforms that have been proposed, as well as the establishment of a disaster risk management agency.

As the World Bank is preparing its five years strategy, the Country Manager said they were in the process of developing the Country Partnership Framework (CPF), noting that the symptoms highlighted in the reports were really symptoms of what was happening in Freetown.

“No city or country can finance its infrastructure needs, which is why I want to emphasise the role of the private sector in contributing in investment infrastructure in Freetown,” she added.

Also, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Nabeela Tunis, said the reports have the potential to transform the outlook and resilience of urban settlement, especially Freetown, which has a population of over a million inhabitants.

She stated that understanding disaster risk reduction approaches and disaster risk management was critical for saving lives and making the city of Freetown a safe and better place for inhabitants.

“Cities should not be left to grow by chance and therefore, deliberate efforts must be made to ensure that human activities do not have a negative impact on their settlement,” the minister said. “Both reports are going to serve as credible reference documents for future urban development planning as we seek to address the diverse urban challenges that face the city of Freetown.”