The International Trade Centre (ITC),West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) funded by the European Union (EU) and managed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in collaboration with Sierra Leone Chamber for Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD) conducted a three-day training on advocacy skills and Public-Private Dialogue for 30 Agribusiness Companies, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Cooperatives from Kono,Kailahun, Bo, Moyamba, Pujehun, and Bonthe districts respectively.
The training was held from 24th to 26th January 2023, in Dohas Hotel Bo City.
The objective of the training was to build on the advocacy and lobbying capacities of existing cooperatives, SMEs, Agribusiness companies and sector associations to improve on the Business Environment and Trade Integration for the Cocoa, Cassava and Palm Oil value chains in Sierra Leone.
ITC has been working in close cooperation with SLeCAD, an organization with long standing expertise and broad membership in the agribusiness and agriculture sectors in Sierra Leone and around the globe.
The activity relates to providing support to key institutions like SLeCAD in the provision of services to their members and engagement in effective policy dialogue with the government on sensitive topics for farmers, producers and exporters (access to inputs; product inspection rules; etc.).
In his opening statement,the SLeCAD Executive Secretary and CEO of SLeCAD,Ahmed Nanoh welcomed the participants to the training session and encouraged them to use the session as an opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills in advocacy,to ensure the improvement of the business environment and trade integration for cocoa, cassava, and oil palm that are key commodities for export for S/Leone that will create jobs and wealth, reduce poverty and enhance economic growth in support of the Government New Direction Agenda.
He said the business environment has a lot of challenges and red tapes in the government corridors and that it needs high-level advocacy skills of the agribusiness value chains operators to unlock the Agribusiness and Agro-industrial potential for the betterment of S/Leone.
“This could only change if the private sector continues to engage the public sector to bring the desired changed,” he stated.
He encouraged participants not to mix politics with business as it will always end to be a defunct business, adding that the agribusiness sector is the largest private sector in the country and if properly managed it would be able to create the needed jobs for the youths, and women in S/Leone where there will be no need for the citizens of S/Leone go for greener pasture overseas.
He said should S/Leone manage the agriculture sector well the country will be one of the best economise in the sub-region but this could only be achieved through advocacy and public private dialogue.
He further emphasised that the training will also provide the introduction to the principles and key functions of trade-related advocacy and policy dialogue, shares practical examples on how trade-related advocacy and policy dialogue can contribute to improve livelihoods and performances of your members and clients, improve on participant skills to discuss key linkages between domestic business environment and international trade agreements, help to address opportunities and challenges for Sierra Leone’s businesses in the agricultural sector.
Siaka Kawa, ITC WACOMP National Coordinator, commended the effort of SLeCAD in advocacy and confirmed that ITC finds it vital to partner with SLeCAD to champion the training of agribusiness private sector companies, SMEs and Cooperative in the cocoa, cassava and oil palm to improve on the business environment especially in the area of export promotion and trade integration that will help the Sierra Leone economy to grow and reduce poverty.
He said the ITC was excited to support the training since it will unlock the potential of the agriculture sector and promote internal and regional trade key to the economic growth of every country. He encourages the participants to be focused and take the training seriously to enhance their business growth through improved business environment.
Ibrahim Bockarie Sannoh, Coordinator for Heuwolacheo Cooperative thanked ITC, EU, UNIDO and SLeCAD for offering the Agribusiness Companies, SMEs and Cooperatives the opportunity to be trained in advocacy skills to enhance the improvement of the business environment that promote agribusiness growth.
He said that he is coordinating over 2,500 farmers producing cocoa, but stated that the value of S/Leone cocoa in the world market drastically fallen due to poor quality bought from other countries and mixed with S/Leone high quality organic cocoa.
He said that there has been non check and balances in the supervision and regulation of the cocoa sector and making the country to lose huge forex that currently negatively impacting on the depreciation of the Leones against the US dollar. He concluded by encouraging all agribusiness private sector players to work with the Chamber head by Ahmed Nanoh to improve on advocacy and make their business competitive and profitable.