July 20, 2016 By Sayoh Kamara- PRO
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Momodu Lamin Kargbo, on Tuesday, 19 July, 2016 launched the African Economic Outlook and Country Note on Sierra Leone 2016 with a note that Sierra Leone would not let urbanisation be a curse to her, rather, the country will transform it to her advantage.
He further noted that the theme of the report, ‘Sustainable cities and structural transformation’ could not be more appropriate for Sierra Leone’s urbanisation agenda and the experience with the Ebola outbreak. He said Sierra Leone, like other African countries, was urbanising at historically rapid rate, with 39.1% of her population living in urban areas as at 2015, compared to 34.2% in 1990.
He however maintained that the high rate of urbanisation brings with it considerable opportunities if accompanied by productive employment and sufficient urban amenities such as housing, transport, health, etc, but laments that a large proportion of the country’s urban labour force remains trapped in low-productivity informal service activities, with limited prospects of durably improving their livelihoods. He pointed that in that regard, that informality remains a critical challenge to the broadening of the country’s tax base.
Minister Kargbo also mentioned that climate change and urban growth were challenges that heighten environmental pressures on urban areas in the country, pointing out that these high environmental risks undermine development of the country’s urbanization, citing unsafe water and sanitation, air pollution, flooding in low-elevation coastal zones as some of these risks in Freetown and other cities.
The Minister of Finance was however forthright that “Government understands the problem and is working on delivering better infrastructure and services for sustainable urban development,” by pointing out government’s investments in affordable energy, sanitation, solid waste, transport and healthcare services with a view to providing a means by which urban citizens become more productive.
Mr Kargbo therefore referred to the African Economic Outlook Report and Country Note as a product of “critical knowledge” that proffers policy options to ensure that Sierra Leone reaps the dividend of urbanisation. He thanked the institutions that put the report together, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), UNDP and OECD Development Centre for the collaborative efforts that led to the production of the report, which is the 15th edition.
The Minister entreated all and sundry to read the reports – the African Economic Outlook and Country Note on Sierra Leone 2016 – noting, that they “are good reference documents” that could be very useful to the work of the Government of Sierra Leone, Development Partners, UN agencies and other stakeholders.