July 12, 2021
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Sierra Leone Foreign Affairs Minister, Professor David Francis, has called on the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, to invite more investors to come and invest in different areas.
He said Sierra Leone has a lot of areas to invest, including the mining sector, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, tourism, among many others.
The minister was speaking during an online symposium on China-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Cooperation, as one of lined up events marking the 50th anniversary of bilateral relationship between the two countries.
The event was co-hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Freetown.
Professor Francis recalled that the bilateral relation between China and Sierra Leone that was established in 1971, has been helpful to both countries.
He said the relationship has benefited both countries economically, infrastructural and politically, noting that having such symposium will help both countries to further strengthen their bilateral relationship and further strengthen trade cooperation for mutual benefit.
He reckoned that Sierra Leone has benefited immensely from the bilateral relationship especially in the areas of infrastructure, mining, trade, agriculture and other areas including energy.
He reiterated call for more Chinese investors to come to Sierra Leone and invest in mining, fishing, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and many other areas.
Speaking on the theme, Seize Opportunities and Forge Ahead to Elevate China-Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Cooperation to a New High, the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone Chinese, Hu Zhangliang, said the symposium was held against two major backgrounds, including the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-Sierra Leone diplomatic relations and the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1971, China and Sierra Leone have always been genuine friends that enjoy mutual understanding, mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual support, and that over the past 50 years, economic and trade cooperation have always been an important part of and a strong driving force for the development of both countries’ bilateral relations.
He said over the past one year or so, the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the world and severely affected all countries including China and Sierra Leone, and like all other countries, China and Sierra Leone face the arduous task of fighting the pandemic, stabilizing the economy, and ensuring people’s livelihood.
He said the symposium was to review the achievements of the counties trade and investment cooperation, explore new opportunities, discuss ways of overcoming challenges, and promote the alignment of the cooperation with Sierra Leone’s development diplomacy and the National Medium-Term Development Plan.
He said in recent years, protectionism has been on the rise in certain parts of the world-the world economy being in the doldrums, the global market been shrinking, and that the COVID-19 pandemic intensified the inward-looking trend of some countries.
He said in a situation where global trade and investment cooperation encounters headwinds, China has actively upheld true multilateralism, unswervingly pursued a win-win strategy of opening up, worked earnestly for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and actively promoted the Belt and Road Cooperation.
He said last year, China took the lead in bringing the pandemic under control and resuming work and production in the world through tremendously hard efforts.
Ambassador Hu said China was the only major economy that achieved positive economic growth, noting that in the year 2020, China’s GDP reached about 14.7 trillion US$, accounting for 17% of the global economy.
He said the total value of China’s imports and exports in goods reached a record high of about five trillion United States Dollars,an increase of 1.9% over 2019 and China’s outward foreign direct investment amounted to 133 billion US$, a year-on-year increase of 3.3%.
He said China’s foreign trade and investment has injected strong impetus into the recovery of the world economy.
“In light of the new situation, China is actively building a new development pattern in which the domestic cycle is the mainstay and the domestic and international cycles reinforce each other. It is meant to cultivate new advantages for China to participate in international cooperation and competition under the new circumstances,” he said.
He said strengthening friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation with African countries has always been the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy and that President Xi Jinping has put forward the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith in developing China’s relations with African countries, and advocated for upholding justice while pursuing shared interests in China-Africa Cooperation.
He said early this year, during his visit to Africa, Wang Yi, the State Counsellor and Foreign Minister of China, made it clear that China firmly supports Africa’s efforts to accelerate economic recovery and upgrade China-Africa Cooperation.
He said over the past decades, especially since the founding of FOCAC in 2000, China-Africa mutually beneficial cooperation has made remarkable progress, noting that China helped Africa build over 6000 kilometres of railways, 6000 kilometres of roads, nearly 20 ports and more than 80 large power facilities.
He said China-Africa trade volume exceeded 200 billion United States Dollars in 2019.
The top Chinses diplomat in Sierra Leone continues that China’s stock of direct investment in Africa reached 52.7 billion United States Dollars in 2020, and that China is working with Africa to expand cooperation in digital economy, smart cities, clean energy, and 5G, and is promoting the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Projects, stating that all those have brought significant changes to Africa’s economic and social development.
He said over the past 50 years, fruits of China-Sierra Leone cooperation can be seen everywhere, from the Youyi Building, the National Stadium, the China-Sierra Leone Friendship Hospital, the Friendship Highway, to the Office Building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Fibre Backbone Network Phase 1 and 2, the newly started Sierra Leone Foreign Service Academy, and the newly completed 3.2-kilometer Ring Road in Freetown and many others.
He said numerous tangible projects have been witnesses to the ever-growing friendship between China and Sierra Leone.
He said in August 2018, H.E. President Xi Jinping held official talks with President Julius Maada Bio in Beijing, when President Bio visited China and attended the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the two heads of state agreed to consolidate the counties bilateral friendship and mutual trust, expand bilateral pragmatic cooperation, push forward China-Sierra Leone comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and bring more benefits to our two peoples.
He said since 2018, the Chinese side has completed 16 government aid projects or programs for Sierra Leone with another 15 under implementation and some others in discussion.
He said in May this year, President Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation with President Julius Maada Bio, during which the two heads of state reached new and important consensus on the development of China-Sierra Leone relations, setting the direction for the next step of cooperation between our two countries.
He said the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone has been working closely with the Sierra Leonean side, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and all sectors of the society, to enhance cooperation in various fields.
He said the total trade volume between China and Sierra Leone in 2020 was $530 million, up by 4.4% year on year and from January to May this year,the combined bilateral trade volume is approximately $287 million, an increase of 63%over the same period in 2020.
He said Chinese companies have invested in infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and other industries in Sierra Leone, a total amount exceeds $3 billion, and that Chinese investment has created about 5,000 direct jobs for the local people, and has made important contributions to Sierra Leone’s social economic development.
He said the achievements of China-Sierra Leone economic and trade cooperation are the result of the hard work of the companies and people of the two countries, as well as the strong support of the successive governments of Sierra Leone.
“Standing at the new starting point of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries, I see great potential for deepening trade and investment cooperation between China and Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is rich in natural resources. Under the strong leadership of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio, the government of Sierra Leone is committed to realizing the mid-term national development plan and has embarked on Development Diplomacy, both of which set the promotion of trade and investment cooperation as a major task,” he said.
He said at present, the government of Sierra Leone has also taken attracting investment and expanding foreign trade as one of the main driving forces for economic development, and has set up the Investment Board to coordinate relevant matters.