By Ishmael Dumbuya
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has yesterday, 14th February, 2023, held a public private dialogue on the cocoa sector at Cabenda Hotel, Signal Hill in Freetown.
Declaring the engagement open, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Hinga Sandy,thanked and welcomed everyone for attending the dialogue. Dr. Sandy went on to state that Sierra Leone’s economy relies heavily on agriculture and it contribution to the country’s GDP is 57.4 % and 54.5 % have been employed across the country.
He explained that agricultural development is one of the priority areas of the president and that it has the potential for bringing sustained macroeconomic growth and economic development as well as contributing towards achieving the objectives of the Sierra Leone Medium National Development Plan 2018-2023 and the Sustainable Development Goals 1& 2 ‘No poverty and zero hunger’.
Thus, crops such as Cocoa, Cassava, and palm oil are known to have great export potential and involved many households
He further stated that the cocoa value chain is of significant importance to Sierra Leone as it is both a major revenue and forex earner, adding that all businesses want public policies that will make doing business easier.
“The private sector engages with policy makers to seek reforms through dialogue and advocacy and the ministry is a strong advocate of this approach,” he maintained.
He continued that regional trade as an opportunity to engage its development objectives especially in the light of its membership of Regional Economic Communities, ECOWAS, MRU, and is a signatory to international treaties and commitments on trade.
He ended on the note that his ministry has developed and reviewed various policies regarding trade across the country so there could be a level playing ground.
The Program Officer, Private Sector Development and Trade, EU delegation, Nikola Kutin, started by stating that the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP).
He added that the Programme is geared towards promoting structural transformation and better access to regional and international markets while taking into account social and environmental concerns, noting that the Programme was adopted under the 11th EU Development Fund (EDF).
He disclosed that the major objectives of the programme are to strengthen the competitiveness of West African countries and also enhance their integration into the regional and international trading system.
The project aims to enhance the competitiveness of the cocoa, palm oil and cassava sectors in Sierra Leone in order to boost the country’s connection to regional and global value chains, create more jobs and strengthen its resilience against economic challenges.
A market driven and flexible approach will be embedded in the project interventions such that other value chains can benefit from the project activities and outputs.