April 29, 2019
By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry in collaboration with officials from the Ministry of Trade and Standards Bureau, last week made a familiarization tour at the Sierra Leone Local Content Agency and Sierra Leone Bottling Company.
Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Veronica K. Sesay, said under the New Direction, there has been laid down plans for the development of the country, hence as operators and promoters of the country’s products, there was need to meet on regular basis to discuss important issues.
She commended the Bottling Company for their sustainable operation across the country, thus adding that as representative of the consumers, they have the mandate to oversee their operations.
She said the visit was to get firsthand information about the challenges and successes since they commenced operations across the country.
Hon. Sesay stated that the Local Content Agency is one of the key agencies for the country’s development, noting that a lot needed to be done in making sure that the nation’s local products are prioritized in and out of the country.
She called on the Director General to work collaboratively with Standards Bureau and the Tourism sector in ensuring that the local products in the country are promoted.
According to the Finance Manager of the Sierra Leone Bottling Company, Madam Rebecca Priddy, since they started operations in Africa, more than 20 years ago, ‘we became actively involved in the development of the communities we operate. Therefore, we participate alongside the Coca-Cola foundation for Africa in projects that focuses on improving education, access to safe drinking water, health, entrepreneurial spirit and sustainability’.
She said for the past ten years, they have faced with numerous challenges including the unfair competition in the market; the usual increase in exchange rate which she said was hindering their importation process as 55% is spent on import cost.
She however stated that they have been able to overcome some of those challenges.
She maintained that they have not only been committed to their Corporate Social responsibility within the communities they operate, but have also supported many hospitals and the national cleaning exercise through the Freetown City Council.
The Director General of the Sierra Leone Local Content Agency, Fodeba Daboh, said the development objectives were focused on supporting the private sector in the country which he considered to be the engine of growth for the overall economic development of the Country.
“Through wide-range legal and policy reforms, the government seeks to create an environment that promotes the development of the private sector. Efforts are also being made to address the challenges that are faced by entrepreneurs including lack of access to finance and entrepreneurial skills development particularly amongst the small and medium term enterprises,” he said
He said as a result of all those efforts, there was an in increased private sector participation and growth from national, regional to international actors.
He noted that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Sierra Leone has particularly seen an increase as investors take opportunities available in agriculture, agro-processing, mining, tourism and other sectors.
“Such investment is not only expected to improve Sierra Leone’s economic performance through competitiveness of its products, but will also lead to transfer of technology, employment and transfer of skills to the local population,” he noted.
Despite the increase in investment flows, the director said the private sector has not been integrated with the new investments as there has not been sufficient integration with the domestic market through utilization of locally sourced products, employment of Sierra Leoneans at managerial level, and transfer of knowledge and skill to domestic firms and individuals.
He observed that without the necessary regulatory and policy framework, the investment to Sierra Leone will not yield significant benefit to the economy of the country.
He stated that building on the efforts of the government to promote foreign direct investment; it will require investors to meet a set of performance targets in their operations.
He disclosed that only 19 out of the 54 companies registered with them have submitted their local content plan, while the rest have not responded despite letters have been sent to them.
He pleaded with the committee to help them address the issue.
However, the committee advised the Director General to write a reminder to those institutions that have refused to comply, quoting the relevant sections of the Sierra Leone Local Content Agency Act and copy the committee.