March 21, 2017 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has noted that Union Trust Bank is an indigenous business entity that every Sierra Leonean should be proud of.
President Koroma was speaking in Freetown last Friday, 17th March, 2017, at the official opening and dedication of the new Corporate Headquarters Building of the Union Trust Bank (UTB) Sierra Leone limited.
“The opening of the new building is a celebration of a true indigenous entrepreneurship, hard work and commitment. The pace of the bank and its growth as the only indigenous commercial banking institution over the past 22 years is a manifestation of the development in the private sector,” he said.
He added that it was also a true testimony to the possibilities for growth in the private sector.
He said his government has also allowed the private sector to carry on their cooperate objectives and business unhindered, adding that they have provided a level playing field through the promotion and implementation of appropriate regulatory mechanism for the growth of the private sector.
“Regulatory mechanisms, coupled with my government’s implementation of the local content policy, have seen the growth of indigenous businesses as well as given hope to those Sierra Leoneans who may want to venture in the business world. On entrepreneurship promotion, the UTB Chief Executive Officer clearly stands out as a national pride worthy of admiration and emulation in the financial world,” he said.
He recalled that as a leader of the opposition in parliament before he was elected president, he was guest-of -honour on three memorable occasions marking the opening of the Yoni Community Bank, Marampa-Masimera Community Bank in 2003 and the UTB Kambia branch in 2006.
“As president, I have been a guest-of-honour on the occasions marking the opening of the UTB branches in Lunsar in 2013 and Yoni in 2015. I am also honoured to formally open the first glass tower of capitalism of success in private entrepreneurship in the country,” he stated.
He urged Sierra Leoneans to enhance private sector development, noting that people should not limit themselves to government contracts or facilitation of government officials to enhance their businesses.
He said his government has provided the space and environment for the private sector to grow but that the private sector is not growing because a good number of the players are merely middlemen with no productive activity.
Founder and Chief executive Officer of Union Trust Bank, Dr. James Sanpha Koroma, said it has been a long journey between two worlds of public service and private sector for 40 years, adding that he has endured many personal trials and tribulations that a very few in his generation have experienced.
“I believe that the lessons and experiences I have learnt have strengthened my instincts towards this country. My biggest disappointment may be my inability to sufficiently influence more of my compatriots, particularly the young generation, away from negative perceptions towards entrepreneurship and service to the country,” he said.
Today, he said, Sierra Leoneans have less than the per capita number of successful business enterprises because their quantifiable wealth was in the custody and control of foreigners.
He added that a greater percentage of the net earnings of the financial sector were transferred to overseas and shareholders were robbing the country of the opportunity to re-invest those resources in the national economy.
He said the general perception out there was that Sierra Leoneans are petty traders, even in the traditional professions like law, medicine, accountancy and finance.
Deputy Minister of Finance and Country Planning, Momoh Vandi, commended UTB for the impressive structure in the financial district of Freetown, and that the massive investment of the bank was commendable.
“We will continue to play our part in order to support national institutions to grow. Despite severe impact of the Ebola and the lapse of iron ore prices in the world market, the country’s economy has remain resilient as activities in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transport, tourism, banking and trade are kicking up again,” he said.
He noted that the pace of the economic recovery was strong with an estimated growth of 5.2 percent in 2016, adding that they were projecting that the economy will grow by 6.1 percent.
Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ibrahim Stevens, disclosed that there were 14 commercial banks in the country, with a network of 115 branches nationwide including 13 UTB branches.