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Sierra Leone: beyond the image of a virus-stricken nation

March 6, 2015 By John Baimba Sesay

The Western Media narratives for the three nations most affected by Ebola – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – present a true picture of the typical journalistic raw materials they go in search of, coupled with the traditional stereotype affixed to the continent.

Acceptable to submit that the African continent has struggled with a seemingly endless array of development challenges, from civil war and political instability to epidemic disease, chronic food insecurity and pervasive poverty. However, in recent years, the continent has experienced an economic resurgence. The emerging economies, particularly Brazil, India, South Africa and China, have recognised Africa’s potential as an investment destination and a source of natural resources – (Africa in 50 Years’ Time:  The Road Towards Inclusive Growth African Development Bank, Tunis, Tunisia September 2011).

In terms of economic growth, five of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa to which Sierra Leone is no exception. In fact, analysts believe that the performance of most African economies during the global economic crisis of 2008/2009 was testimony to their underlying resilience and robust fundamentals, given that it made it possible “to preserve macroeconomic balances and to implement economic policies that alleviated the impact of the crisis”. So the extrapolation of economic performance of a number of countries in the continent is suggestive of what awaits the continent in the coming decades.

Projections by the African Development Bank indicate that both Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and GDP per capita will increase steadily throughout the period 2010 to 2060 in the continent, and “by that time, most African countries will attain upper middle income status, and the extreme forms of poverty will have been eliminated”. – (Africa in 50 Years’ Time: The Road Towards Inclusive Growth African Development Bank, Tunis, Tunisia September 2011).

Added to such development is the growth in agricultural productivity as well as a surge in infrastructural development. With a number of reforms undertaken by a number of countries, reforms necessary for private sector development, including macroeconomic, exchange and trade liberalization, infrastructure could not be a major player in boosting trade and growth.

Notwithstanding these positive narratives, the raw materials prescribed for Western Media correspondents across the continent speaks volumes as per their search for items on outbreak of disease, corruption, poverty and political instability. This is as challenging and difficult to come to terms with as it is in reshaping the image of the continent.

As we speak, three of four Mano River Union states – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – are crippling with a major health challenge as a result of the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease. With thousands infected and affected and thousands also dying, the three leaders of the said countries have continued to work towards the eradication of the virus thus also now preparing for the post virus challenges.

In the case of Sierra Leone, there has, in my view, been the required political leadership and will to get this challenge behind us. There has been the collaborative support provided by traditional development partners like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, among others and friendly nations like Great Britain, the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

President Ernest Bai Koroma has not only taken the lead in the country in terms of providing the required leadership, but he also has been underscoring the need for openness in the fight and the need for public funds to be judiciously and prudently utilized in lieu of the fact that monies coming towards the fight against the virus should be seen as “blood money”.

This was clearly demonstrated when he allowed for an audit of Ebola funds and providing the Audit Service Commission the free will to operate, and now state institutions like parliament and the anti-graft agency are checking the books to see how funds have been utilized. The presidency of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma should even be commended for opening up the space of political accountability as seen with the operations of Sierra Leone’s audit commission.

But again, what is crucially significant is the fact that as a country, Sierra Leone will never give up in her development strides. Indeed, the EVD has affected a lot of our development aspirations but it should be noted that with the government’s strong desire to move Sierra Leone to the apex of growth, such lofty and desirable goals shall be achieved. And when that is done, our country will at the end not be defined by a virus but by what we achieved after years of challenges.

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