By Jariatu Bangura & Hawa Amara
Without private sector-driven growth, economic and commercial interactions, Sierra Leone will be unsuccessful in her quest to eradicate poverty, and to mobilise the requisite domestic resources for education, health and social services, according to the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Ahmed Akar Ahmed was speaking last Friday during the official launch of the annual trade fair exhibition of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture at the National Stadium.
He said Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are important agents of development throughout the world and Sierra Leone is not an exception. He said that promoting a country’s SMEs sector plays a crucial role in maintaining high employment and income generation and is critical to achieving sustainable growth, adding that the current global economic situation warranted a need to make SMEs competitive in dealing with the aforementioned situation. “We should all be aware that global competition brings pressures on SMEs to innovate and manage their businesses in a more efficient way,” he added.
He revealed that majority of the SMEs in the country lack adequate resources to invest and thus find it increasingly difficult to grow, adding that his ministry was happy to work with the indigenous chamber of commerce in identifying a roadmap for SMEs in the country, and that the ministry has implemented various reforms which are in line with the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ development plan.
Mr. Ahmed said: “The sector is still experiencing slow growth rate and the most commonly cited problem affecting SMEs is the difficulty of gaining access to financing and the difficulties that SMEs face in obtaining credit are more pronounced when it comes to obtaining financing for investments,” adding that “We will work towards formulating policies and strategies necessary for the promotion and development SMEs that want to establish new business ventures.”
Speaking at the event, Mayor of Freetown, Franklyn Bode Gibson, said the crusade against poverty and economic advancement could only be won by building capacity to create wealth, with SMEs being the bedrock of the economy as no government can create employment for all its citizenry. He said SMEs must be sufficiently enhanced to guarantee their survival and the prosperity of the nation.
On her part, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Mrs. Gladys Strasser-King said that it is only when the development of SMEs is placed at the centre of the development agenda that a nation can prosper. She said this year’s trade fair has attracted the highest number of participants from outside and within the country.
“We live in interesting times that are rich with unique opportunities for businesses to tap and exploit. Even as we encourage the government to fully implement the Local Content Policy, we also seek for establishment of future markets, engagement in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations to enhance increased trade across the region and beyond and fostering the competition in our products,” she said.
She noted that giving the theme for this year’s trade exhibition, they hope that the scope and variety of today’s products and services would not only empower and reassure the consumer public, but will also provide insights and inspiration for potential entrepreneurs to join the community of development partners in wealth and employment creation.