October 14, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
“People and places should be at the centre of development strategies that create productive jobs and accelerate demographic transition. We have to invest in education and promote intermediary cities to capitalize on urban/rural dynamics. This will make spatial development much more even on the one hand and on the other educe the diseconomies of urban primacy where Freetown burst at the seams with sprawling slums, increasing pollution, pilling garbage dumps, and increasing risks of floods and other disasters,” said UNDP Country Director, Sudipto Mukerjee.
The UN diplomat made the statement during the launch of the 2015 African Economic Outlook (AEO) and the Sierra Leone Country Note, 2015 last Friday at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development conference room with the theme: ‘Regional Development and Spatial Inclusion’.
The AEO, he said, assesses Africa’s performance and prospects in crucial areas, as well as addresses a special theme and provides 54 Country Notes and statistics annex.
He said the Country Notes summarize recent economic growth, forecast major macroeconomic aggregates for 2015 and 2016, and highlight the main policy issues facing each country.
Mukerjee said the thematic section of the 2015 AEO examines in-depth challenges of unlocking Africa’s regional development for greater spatial inclusion, and that it also suggests policy options to ensure that no one is left behind because of where they live.
Narrowing down his presentation to Sierra Leone, the UNDP country boss said: “Developing the potential inherent in Sierra Leone’s diverse regions is key to accelerating economic transformation and spatial inclusion. We need to take a fresh look at regional dynamics, such as the fast evolving urban-rural linkages, and spatial distribution of poverty and employment opportunities.”
Recommending further, Mr. Mukerjee underscored the need for the country to have targeted policies and programmes to connect and improve welfare in remote areas, adding that the more remote a settlement is, the more it is unlikely to be actively served by the State.
“Well targeted policies and programmes can help increase lagging areas’ connection to markets, accelerate the provision of access to quality essential services, mobilize untapped resources for development, reinforce human capacity and very importantly, strengthen the sense of belonging to the nation,” he noted.
Dedicated strategies, he reiterated, could help unlock the potential of lagging regions and progressively develop local resources, including attracting foreign direct investment and exploiting their backward and forward linkages.
“Additionally, improving service delivery at the local level encourages the youth and educated to participate in the local economy, while connective local infrastructure reduces the costs of transportation and economic transactions,” he said.
The United Nations envoy underscored the need to design efficient and effective local-based policy making at the regional, district and chiefdom levels to better mobilize local resources and accelerate structural transformation.
He further underscored the importance of better data and their proper timely use to help improve mechanisms and inform policy design and implementation for spatial inclusion.
Resident Representative of the African Development Bank, Dr. Yero Baldeh, said the AEO has evolved to be one of the recognized sources of quantitative and qualitative information on Africa.
He observed that although there was no dedicated strategy for spatial inclusion in Sierra Leone but that its elements are subdued in the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, which he said recognizes broad based economic growth and development.
He noted: “The time to unlock Sierra Leone’s internal potential is now, and it is for this reason that the African Development Bank will continue to pay special attention to addressing regional disparities and promote spatial inclusion in line with the aspiration of the Agenda for Prosperity.”
He cited the water supply and sanitation services supported by the Bank in Makeni, Bo and Kenema, coupled with their planned intervention in the rehabilitation and revamping of the energy distribution systems in Bo and Kenema.
He further noted the need to supporting decentralization, community-driven development and agricultural value chain.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Alhaji, F.B.L. Mansaray, recounted on the economic gains the country achieved before the Ebola outbreak before launching the report.