By Alhaji Haruna Sani
Early last week, President Bio with a high-level-delegation returned from a six-day visit from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The purpose of the state visit, according to the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, was to strengthen political and economic ties with Vietnam.
The Press Secretary explained that Vietnam is a rising economic power in Southeast Asia and, like Sierra Leone, Vietnam has had a challenging history including a prolonged period of war, yet it has surmounted those challenges and made tremendous progress towards economic development.
He said in just over two decades, Vietnam transformed itself from being a rice importer to the second largest rice exporter in the world.
Since he became President in April 4th 2018, President Bio has been travelling from one place to another for which he has faced a lot of criticism both home and abroad.
Eventually, the president’s regular travelling have been regarded by many Sierra Leoneans as one that has yielded little or no gain for the country, this they said because his four years in governance has been marred with massive hunger, recent power cuts, fuel scarcity and poor water supply and corruption.
Critics have stated that the current leadership of President Bio seems to be losing grip of its duties and responsibilities in serving a poor nation that is yearning for a massive transformation.
But amidst all criticism, the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi said their visit was very successful, noting that the outcome of their engagement was going to benefit the country in diverse ways.
He also assured that all agreements signed between Sierra Leone and Vietnam will not be left to take dust but will be rather taken to parliament for ratification and subsequent implementation. He shared some of the key outcomes and agreement with newsmen, assuring that the President’s visit to Vietnam will benefit Sierra Leoneans in diverse sectors.
The Press Secretary made the statement on Thursday March 24, during the weekly press briefing at the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Conference Hall, 8th floor Youyi Building Brookfields in Freetown.
According to the Presidential Spokesperson, it was the first time a Sierra Leone President has visited Vietnam since forty years ago. He said the two countries agreed in principle to strengthen political ties and also agreed to collaborate at the multinational levels, including at the United Nations and the African Union.
He said President Nguyen Xuyan Phuc assured Sierra Leone of collaboration to boost productivity of the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone, adding that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh requested Vietnamese research institutions to work with Sierra Leonean institutions to provide expertise and share technologies especially around rice production.
“The Sierra Leone delegation also engaged a range of private businesses in Vietnam, including banks, shipping, and logistics companies to understand how to facilitate trade between the two countries. Vietinbank and TP bank, both the largest trade financing institution in the country expressed a willingness to establish corresponding bank arrangements with Sierra Leonean banks to ease payment challenges in trade between the two countries”, he said.
The press Secretary also mentioned that the two Presidents witnessed the signing of MOUs including the facilitation of government-to-government collaboration, Economic and Political Cooperation, Agriculture and Rural Development, Aquaculture and commercial Fish farming.
He intimated that the delegation also signed other MOUs with the Vietnamese private sector institution and companies including the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science (VAAS) to facilitate collaboration in agricultural research and technology transfer, AnGiang Import Export Company (ANGIMEX), one of the biggest rice processing factories and exporters in the Mekong Delta, to support Sierra Leone in establishing state-of-the-art rice processing factories.
He maintained that MOUs were also signed between Sierra Leone and Nam Viet Corporation (NAVICO) to support the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to establish large scale commercial fish farming and FPT, the biggest technology giant in Vietnam to support the digital government and digital economy drive through the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation.
Similar promises have been made following the president visit to many countries but ratifying those agreements and actualizing them has another story. Therefore, many have argued that the president’s regular travels have not impacted Sierra Leoneans.
Nevertheless, we hope that the Vietnamese Sierra Leonean agreements will not only come to pass, but will also positively impact the lives of Sierra Leoneans.