October 29, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
The Sierra Leone Bottling Company (SLBC), which started operations in the country in the 1930s as Freetown Cold Storage, producing a number of drinks, has been transformed with the installation of modern machinery.
It was renamed the Sierra Leone Bottling Company in 2008 when the Spanish Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company bought it over and injected millions of dollars into the business.
The company yesterday unveiled three completed projects including a modernised bottling plant, waste regulatory plant and a new administrative building.
Speaking at the unveiling event, Country Manager Israel Okujagu said the ceremony was a manifestation of the commitment of the Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company to the development of Sierra Leone.
He said the company spent over ten million dollars to upgrade production and that the newly installed plants are ready and prepared to produce quality drinks to the satisfaction of consumers.
He thanked the government for what he referred to as the provision of the ideal business environment, and promised to continue to partner with it to develop the country.
Okujagu called on staff to do their best and ensure the growth of the business.
“There is no room for failure. We are witnessing a re-assurance that we are here to stay and provide reliable business and reliable products to the consumers,” he said.
Chairman of the Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Alfonso Libano, reflected on the negative impact of the Ebola and how the company contributed in the fight, partnering with the United Nations, the Sierra Leone Red Cross and the National Ebola Response Centre.
He expressed the company’s commitment to aiding development in the country.
“The Ebola has negatively affected the country, and life in Sierra Leone is still tough,” he observed. “We are committed to effecting development in the country, and Sierra Leone is ready for an impressive take off with a bright future.”
He disclosed that they would provide training for about 300 women who were affected by the Ebola virus disease and empower them to be self-reliant.
“The future is today and we can work together to make a better future,” he noted, adding that the company protects the environment in which they operate, hence the installation of waste regulatory plants.
In his remarks, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Mathew Theambo, said the company is a manifestation of globalisation in which the country is seen benefiting and enjoying foreign direct investment.
“Sierra Leone is one of the least developed countries enjoying globalisation through the Sierra Leone Bottling Company. The company is one that we can rely on. They take great pride in their corporate social responsibility with support in the fight against Ebola,” he said.
He added that despite the Ebola, the company maintained its staff, and that with the installation of modern plants, he is confident the company would provide more technical knowledge to local staff and enhance the concept of the Local Content Policy.
National Coordinator of the Ebola Response Centre (NERC), Stephen Gaojia, said they recognise the contribution of the private sector in the fight against Ebola, citing SLBC as a shining example.
Director of Trade in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Charles Merreweather, recounted the support provided to small and medium enterprises, while noting that the training of 300 Ebola affected people was in line with the government’s ‘Agenda for Prosperity’.
He said the SLBC is a shining example of partnership and that they would continue to work together and provide them with the ideal business environment.
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Kaifala Marah, said the installation of the plants was a brilliant and wonderful venture that should be lauded by all and sundry.
“They have positioned and strategised themselves to compete in the sub-region. This is a demonstration that Sierra Leone is open for business. Their expansion would bring more revenue to the country,” he said.
He called on the company to do more in fulfilling their corporate social responsibility in addition to what they have been doing before, and lauded the management for being “real business minded”, adding that private sector investor is key to national development.