Ambassador Ndomahina presents business opportunities to Chinese investors

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December 6, 2018

By Joseph S. Margai in Beijing

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Embassy staff and potential investors posed for a group photo after an interactive meeting

Officials of the Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone in Beijing, have on Tuesday, 4th December, 2018, presented numerous business opportunities to potential Chinese investors.

The event, which took place at the conference hall of the embassy in Beijing, brought together potential investors from Beijing Investment Promotion Bureau, World Tourism Union, Accounting firms, Beijing Shunyi District Enterprise Development Promotion Association, Beijing Chamber of Commerce for Cultural Industries, among several others.

Sierra Leone Ambassador to China, Ernest Mbaimba Ndomahina, said Sierra Leone-China relations started 47 years ago, adding that it’s now time to work collaboratively in the interest of both parties.

He recalled that when former President Ernest Bai Koroma visited China in 2016, he told President Xi that he wanted to boost investment opportunities in Sierra Leone.

“Similarly, when President Bio came for the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in China this year, President Xi mentioned Sierra Leone’s adherence to the one China policy, and the boosting of investment opportunities in the country,” he recalled.

He said Sierra Leone, China and other partners fought against the Ebola virus disease in the West African country, adding that China’s President Xi has once said he would never forget old friends.

When introducing the business opportunities to potential investors, he said Sierra Leone is a politically and economically stable country, noting that it’s a resource-rich country with a former head of state and military leader as its current president.

“Sierra Leone is a religiously harmonised state with over a decade of peace after the civil conflict ended in 2002. We have since held peaceful, free and fair elections. The country is one of Africa’s best business reformers with tougher anti-corruption laws,” he described the current state of affairs in the country.

He said over the past years, Sierra Leone has made significant gains in order to attract investors in the areas of oil and gas, minerals, agriculture, education, infrastructure, among others.

“We have embarked on infrastructural development and most recently, our president, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, has launched a free and quality education. We will continue to attract investment in the areas of agriculture and fisheries, education, etc.,” he said.

He revealed that Sierra Leone is strategically placed for doing business and have access to over 225 million people in neighbouring countries, noting that the country has one of the world’s largest natural harbours.

“Our port has been expanded and is still under extension and it will soon be ready to host any kind of cargo vessels.  We are ready for significant business investment,” he said.

He told the investors that Sierra Leone is recognised by the World Bank as one of the best business reformers, noting that since 2009, the country has been ranked as one of the best places to start and do business, and top five countries in Africa for ease of doing business.

He also said the country is ranked second in Africa for providing security for business, adding that the country is ahead of most of its peers in the sub-region and it is always ready to host all kind of investments.

Dilating on the area of investment protection, Ambassador Ndomahina assured investors that Sierra Leone has laws to protect investors, saying the country’s laws were second to only South Africa.

“Sierra Leone laws give freedom to investors to hire managerial, technical and unskilled workers. There is no exchange restriction. There is guarantee on capital repatriation and loan remittance,” he said.

In the area of incentives for investors, he said since 2009, general incentives were announced, noting that there was a three-year tax exemption for importation of machineries, 3% reduction of duty rate on import and export of materials for investors, 125% tax reduction on research and development (R&D), among many other exemptions.

Speaking on tourism, he said China is good at tourism development, adding that there is 66 billion United States Dollars ($US66bn) tourism market in Sierra Leone.

He revealed that the country has one of the best beaches in Africa with white and brown sand, recalling that in 2010, Sierra Leone won Tourism Promotion Agency award in Africa, among others.

“If you invest in hotel and tourism, there is an income tax exemption for five years. I am also enjoying that incentive because I have a hotel called Kona Lodge in Freetown before I became an ambassador. I want to assure you that if you invest in Sierra Leone, you will be well looked after,” he noted.

In agriculture, he told the investors that there was an exemption of import duties for farm machineries and plant equipment and from 2022-2025, there will be exemption on income tax for those investing in that area.

“Sierra Leone’s traditional investment is the extractive industry. We are blessed with diamonds, gold, bauxite, iron ore, oil and gas, rutile and only South Africa and Australia have more rutile than us,” he said.

According to him, the emerging investment area is the marine and fisheries, adding that the sector has been identified as the best after the extractive industries.

He revealed that plans were underway for the government to establish special economic zones (SEZs), disclosing that those zones will have factories, banks, hotels, hospitals, among others.

Ambassador Ndomihina continued that the energy sector is a key investment opportunity in Sierra Leone, noting that Power China has been identified for the construction of Bumbuna Phase II project.

“Sierra Leone is working to reduce investment risk. There is a great assurance that one can do business with ease and confidence now than ever before,” he said.

He urged potential investors that to invest in the country they should consider being discipline, good planning, sacrifice and self-denial, sensitive and discerning, among others.

Head of Chancery, Unisa Sahid Kamara, thanked the potential investors for attending the event, revealing that the embassy has appointed a Chinese, Madam Guo Li Shuang, as one of the senior commercial counsellors that will help to woo investors to take advantage of the business opportunities in Sierra Leone.

Deputy Ambassador, Saffa-Woya Rogers, thanked Ambassador Ndomahina for showcasing the investment opportunities in Sierra Leone, saying that the country has a rich environment and favourable policies for investment.

Chang Qing, President of World Tourism Union, asked the ambassador to explain more about the transport situation to and within Sierra Leone.

In response, Ambassador Ndomahina said there are many routes from China to Sierra Leone from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, noting that they could go through Paris, Brussels and London.

“From these European cities to Sierra Leone is six hours and from China to Europe is 10 hours. We are looking forward to any investment in direct flight to Sierra Leone. The port and hotels are in Freetown. It will take 45 minutes from the port to anywhere in Freetown,” he responded.

Dong Liqing, from Jin Chenlixin Accounting Firm, said her firm is interested in education, construction and project assessment, asking as to what they facilities they would enjoy if they go to invest in Sierra Leone.

Amabassador Ndomahina said President Bio’s free and quality education initiative, among many other public and private enterprises, could be audited by accounting firms.

“Also, the embassy in Beijing will facilitate investors’ trip to Sierra Leone by offering quick visa. Our consulate is 24-hour basis and it will take at most two days to get a visa to Sierra Leone. Our president and his Chinese counterpart have signed an agreement for free visa for holders of diplomatic and service passports,” he revealed.

Many questions were asked by potential investors and Ambassador Ndomahina gave positive answers to the appreciation of the guests.