February 17, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) yesterday conducted a private sector development roundtable at the Radisson Blu Hotel on the theme, ‘Post Ebola Economic Recovery’.
Delivering the keynote address at the occasion, President Ernest Bai Koroma noted that, “My home is the private sector and will return to where I belong when I retire from politics,” adding that his government strongly believes in the private sector, hence they have created the enabling environment for private sector growth and development.
He noted that the private sector should serve as the engine of recovery after the Ebola outbreak, though he acknowledged that the sector has been badly hit by the disease, with sectors such as mining and tourism negatively affected.
President Koroma said his government has developed a post-Ebola recovery plan encompassing all sectors, but noted that the private sector, which his government has been friendly to and always engaged, is key to the recovery plan.
He said Ebola has not taken the country’s capacity for business and that people should come up with sound initiatives and ensures quality service delivery to the nation.
Country Representative for the African Development Bank, Dr. Yero Baldeh, recognized the role played by the private sector in the fight against Ebola by way of devising and supporting initiatives in assisting the government’s Ebola response plans.
“We have also seen the outstanding work being done by the Ebola Private Sector Mobilization Group through contributions in the fight against Ebola and the promotion of recovery across the entire Mano River Union,” Dr. Baldeh said.
Through such contribution, he noted, the sector has proved to be a critical partner to government, development partners and civil society in the fight against Ebola, including in the post-Ebola recovery era.
He said the private sector has been adversely affected by the Ebola outbreak, leading to sharp slowdown in economic activity in 2014, with similar projections for 2015.
He emphasized the need for institutional and policy reforms geared towards the creation of conducive business environment, and disclosed that the ADB was closely working with the government to develop a short to medium term ‘Doing Business Reform Action Plan’, including communication and sensitization strategy to facilitate preservation and strengthening of business environment for recovery.
He called for the need to create access to finance for small and medium enterprises, good sea port operations with sound business procedures, reform the agribusiness sector and continue the fight against corruption.
He reaffirmed the importance of public-private partnership as conduit for the synergies between the private sector and public sector, and for the leveraging of additional resources for post-Ebola recovery.
Acting Minister of Trade and Industry, Mabinty Daramy, noted that the Ebola outbreak has had devastating consequences on the country’s economy by derailing private sector activities.
She said the government recognizes the private sector as the engine of growth by ensuring a good business environment, thus the urgent need to collaborate with development partners and adopt needs and opportunities created by the Ebola outbreak.
She observed that the private sector has contributed immensely to the government’s ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ through job creation, and called on the need to revive the sector through dialogue.
Chairman, Board of Director of SLIEPA, Oluyemi Robbin-Coker, said the Ebola virus disease has devastated the country in all spheres and urged the need to abandon old practices and adopt new ones.
He emphasized the need to revitalize regional integration and fully implement the Local Content Policy to promote private sector development in the country.
Other speakers at the event were the president of Sierra Leone Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, Mrs. Gladys Strasser-King; Chairman Chamber of Mines, John Sisay; and Usif Rahman Sesay of the Kayeigorma Company, who all voiced the need for capacity building for private sector actors and access to finance, among others.