At the Bintumani Hotel, The Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL) and World Bank launched the Sierra Leone Agro-Processing Competitiveness Project (SLACP) on the 26th April 2019.
The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will implement this project with ten million dollars financing from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank Group.
In his opening remakes, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sierra Leone Chamber for Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD) and Chairman of the event, Mr. Ahmed Nano, said the objective of the project is to improve business environment in agribusiness sector and to increase productivity of targeted agro-processing firms in Sierra Leone and achieving this objective contributes directly to strengthening agro-processing competitiveness.
He named policy improvement, data and market information system, standards of products as take-away-message being the key burning issues affecting agribusiness sector.
In a presentation of the project by Dr. Martin Gbonda and Mr. Hamid Marah, participants learned that the project is most importantly consist of three components: (1) Promoting enabling environment for agro-processing sector competitiveness and growth of agribusiness firms, (2) firm-level support to increase productivity and strengthen competitiveness of agro-processing firms and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in selected value chains and (3) project implementation, coordination, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) which is managed by the Project Coordination Unit (PCU) under the supervision of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon Peter Bayuku Konteh, said the New Direction Government strives to promote and protect private sector and to support institutions to enhance competitiveness.
He said their Government believes in promoting sustainable agro-processing enterprises in order to achieve innovation and enhance productivity. He acknowledged the government’s awareness of the challenges encountered in the sector and it investment attractiveness. He therefore committed his ministry to working with the project, development partners, the private sector and stakeholders to address those challenges. He thanked the World Bank for providing the loan facility for the Government and admonished the beneficiaries to use the money given to them for its rightful purpose.
Hon Jacob Jusu Saffa, the Minister of Finance, who as well served as the Key Note Speaker, noted that the project is in line with the political manifesto of the New Direction and the National Development Plan of Sierra Leone and it seeks to address private sector development, economic diversification, Agricultural development, value chain and value addition, creation of jobs, improvement of living standard and reduction of poverty.
He said the project should embark on implantation support to ensure that the money reaches the right beneficiaries.
He added that his Ministry will set up two structures, one at the technical level that comprises all project coordinators that meets monthly to look at progress which includes activities carried out and challenges and inter-Ministerial Committee that will comprise Ministers of beneficiary projects to address the disconnection between political class and projects. He said gains made by the project should be adequately communicated.
He thanked the World Bank for its supports, as for the past one year together with international financial institutions, they have been able to sign nearly two hundred million dollars as worth of projects in different sectors. He added that by June 2019 a total of five projects amounting to two hundred and thirty million dollars will be submitted to the World Bank Board for approval.
Dr. Gayle Martin, the World Bank Country Manager, acknowledged the efforts of different players towards the formulation of the project. She said speeding up the GDP growth in the Country will require productivity improvement in agriculture and agro-processing investment plays a critically role. She said this project seeks to address exactly how agro-processing drives economic growth. It is expected that forty percent of the project beneficiaries will be women owning businesses, she noted.
Dr. Martin underscored that it will be encouraging that the people of this Country see and experience in their daily lives the transformative changes of the World Bank investment projects and achieving such depends on the actions of the Ministries, Department and Agencies involved in this project.