By John Baimba Sesay
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogun Koroma, on May 6 arrived in Macau (Special Administrative Region-SAR) in the People’s Republic of China to participate in the 5th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum, which commenced on Thursday 9 May.
Participants were drawn from key institutions, including China International Contractors Association, the Export and Import (Exim) Bank of China, Chinese Government representatives, other financial institutions, delegates from over 50 countries including Sierra Leone, and the expected outcome will be sharing of thoughts and insights in the coming days on this thought-provoking issue as well as searching for a way forward that could put countries represented on the path to economic success.
Currently, countries around the world are pushing forward the need for strong and effective regional economic integration, which is said to have taken infrastructure connectivity as fundamental part.
Speaking about the event to the Press and Public Information Office at the Sierra Leone Embassy in China, Minister Koroma said countries today generally attach great importance to infrastructure connectivity with their neighboring countries and within a regional framework.
Infrastructural connectivity, he believed, would play a major role in globalization as it provides a new impetus for international cooperation particularly among African countries. “In the case of Sierra Leone, it can be seen in our integration with the Mano River Union (MRU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) countries,” he said.
Commenting on China’s role in Africa’s infrastructural development, particularly so in his native Sierra Leone, Minister Koroma said at the moment, China is playing a leading role in Africa’s infrastructural connectivity and in the case of Sierra Leone such a role is expected to “result in more economic opportunities”.
Speaking on challenges to economic development, Mr. Koroma pointed on the need for continued road construction projects under President Koroma, airports and ports infrastructural development and construction of a national railway network with service to the mining corridors to enhance national development, progress and economic sustainability.
According to the minister, “increased connectivity to districts, chiefdoms, towns and villages will boost trade and in the process, prosperity”.
Given these facts, the need for the Ministry of Transport and Aviation to play a pivotal role in the realization of President Koroma’s ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ through new and upgraded transport infrastructure projects in the country cannot be overemphasized.
Sierra Leone’s future economic development, he added, is based on massive investment in infrastructural development, particularly in port and rail infrastructure which will be used to efficiently transport the country’s vast mineral resources between geographical boundaries, with a corresponding maximization in revenue generation.
Minister Koroma is accompanied by Hindolo Sharka, Director of Airport Transfer Project.
Whilst in China, in the coming days, the minister is expected to hold talks around the Mamamah Airport Project with China Exim Bank and with China Railway International, amongst other high level meetings.