In an exclusive interview with the Chinese Economic Counselor, Mr. Shen Xiaokai, said that by the end of 2015, Chinese enterprises have invested US$2.26 billion in Sierra Leone, which is a major foreign direct investment (FDI) source of the country.
He made this statement at his OAU Village office where he reiterated that in 2015, FDI from China reached US$33 million despite the Ebola outbreak. “Chinese investment mainly flew to the sectors of mining, agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, fisheries, catering as well as retailing.”
Giving an example, the Economic Counselor said Shandong Steel, the largest foreign investor in Sierra Leone, invested US$1.5 billion in Tonkolili iron ore project, which was then operated by the African Minerals Limited. “Due to the low iron ore price in the global market and the ebola outbreak, the project was shut down by the end of 2014, causing a huge revenue loss for Sierra Leone.”
Mr. Shen averred that in April 2015, Shandong Steel took over the project without hesitation, saving it from closing down, and tried their best to start full operations in January 2016.
“Even though the iron ore prices still tumble, because we know this project is crucial to this country economic growth, we sincerely hope this good intention and practice will always be encouraged by the Sierra Leone government and people.”
Talking about the fishing sector, the Economic Counselor said it is another important sector for Chinese investment in Sierra Leone. “Chinese fishing companies are legally operating in Sierra Leone waters, employing more than 5000 Sierra Leoneans, producing fish as the main source of protein for the population, and contributing significantly to the economic growth and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone.
“Chinese investment plays a positive role in driving the growth of the economy of Sierra Leone, employing thousands of Sierra Leoneans, using local products, training the people, increasing tax revenue, upgrading industries, improving infrastructure, etc.” He said they believe that as long as the Sino-Sierra Leone relationship continues to flourish and stick to promotion of investment corporation they can jointly make Sierra Leone achieve the Agenda for Prosperity promptly.
Talking on the Mamamah airport, the Chinese Economic Counselor reiterated that this is the flagship project proposed by the Sierra Leonean government that China positively responded to. “It is expected to enormously elevate the tourism, upgrade the investment environment and boost the economic development of Sierra Leone. Because of the importance of this project, Chinese government made huge efforts to make the project ready to go, with respect to the choice of Sierra Leonean people.”
Giving a brief background on the ebola, Mr. Shen reiterated that China was the first country to support Sierra Leone to fight the epidemic by providing medical materials in 12 chartered flights, dispatching doctors and nurses, deploying mobile laboratories, building Sierra Leone-China Friendship Bio-safety Laboratory, training thousands of health workers, donating pickups, ambulances and motorbikes, etc.
“I believe the friendship between China and Sierra Leone is one of ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’”.