By Alhaji M.B. Jalloh, Information Attaché, Saudi Arabia :
When Sierra Leone’s President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma assumed office in 2007, his administration strived to chart a bold new path for accelerating the advancement of Sierra Leone on all fronts after a decade-long civil conflict that almost left the country’s infrastructures in ruins.
The vision and strategies of his government were therefore comprehensively articulated in his “Agenda for Change” which together with the outcomes of other consultative processes formed the basis of his medium term second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP II).
Before the implementation of PRSP II – an Agenda for Change –the country’s main economic indicators continued to lag behind sub-Saharan African, whilst abject penury remained pervasive.
Besides, over 60% of Sierra Leoneans were unable to afford one decent meal a day. The impoverishment of Sierra Leoneans was exacerbated by persistent problems in the health and education sectors. These poor economic indicators consistently ranked Sierra Leone at the very bottom of the UN Human Development Index.
Koroma’s Key Areas
In order to put Sierra Leone on the path of development, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s “Agenda for Change” focused on four key areas – to provide a reliable power to the country; to raise quantity and value-added productivity in agriculture and fisheries – which is critical to poverty reduction as two-third of Sierra Leoneans are engaged in agricultural and fisheries activities; to develop a national transportation network to enable the movement of goods and people and thereby facilitate increased investment and economic activity; and, to ensure sustainable human development through the provision of improved social services.
Goals Scored by the President
President Koroma’s vision and strategies saw through the successful implementation of his “Agenda for Change” much to the admiration of Sierra Leoneans and the international community, especially donors and our development partners. The President’s administration, for instance, succeeded, to a large extent, in providing electricity supply in the capital, Freetown, improving road infrastructure across Sierra Leone, giving more added value to agricultural productivity, providing free health care services to pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five years and fighting against corruption. The President also succeeded in upholding human rights, youth empowerment, information and communication, and even attracted multi-national companies to invest in the mining industry.
President Koroma further scored tremendous achievements in education, protection of the environment, bringing reform to the public sector, judiciously managed the national economy, and several ongoing development programmes and reforms.
Agenda for Prosperity
During the launch of the governing All People’s Congress (APC) Party Manifesto ahead of the November 2012 Polls, titled “Agenda for Prosperity”, President Koroma pronounced that the component entailed in his new agenda clearly addressed the sustainability of the progress his government has made in five years. The “Agenda for Prosperity” deals with important areas such as efforts to bolster the national economy, plans on how to maximize and sustain benefits from Sierra Leone’s natural resources, plans to improve on the country’s service in society, including the unemployed youth.
The “Agenda for Prosperity” also takes into account the determination of President Koroma and his administration to deepen Sierra Leone’s democracy and good governance, as well as the need to promote strategic foreign policy and international cooperation. It also touches on cementing national reconciliation, peace and national security which are the unlocking keys to national development. The new agenda further takes into account the President’s determination to put efforts together aimed at developing a robust healthy economy and intensifying the fight against graft. It also aims at diminishing reliance on food imports, and improving on the aspect of procurements and contract management.
Strategies for “Agenda for Change” also include pursuing policies that will enhance peace and stability, and those that promote donor confidence, President Koroma’s administration further plans to ensure the improvement of the business climate in the country by putting in place and implementing appropriate laws and administrative measures coupled with plans to ensure that more measures are instituted to control inflation and ensure that public borrowing from the bank allows money to flow and bolster the private sector.
Another major component of the President’s new agenda is the need to scale up agricultural productivity. It could be recalled that President Koroma’s administration in 2007 increased investment in the agricultural sector from 1.6% to 10% respectively. It was seen by Sierra Leoneans as a significant boost as two-thirds of them relies on agriculture for their livelihood. Agriculture is one of the backbones of the national economy as it contributes about 46% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We should also not forget that the agricultural sector generates about one fourth of the export earnings of Sierra Leone.
By and large, President Koroma’s determination to increase investment in the agricultural sector resonates with his desire for a better and improved Sierra Leone. And in the same agricultural sector, the new agenda aims to sustain the promotion of commercial agriculture through the smallholder programmes as well as working towards enhancing support for mechanization, coupled with the need to increase transfer of innovation of skills and knowledge to farmers. Strategies have been put in place to actualize President Koroma’s dream of making Sierra Leone a self-sufficient country in sub-Saharan Africa.
The aspect of irrigation will also be encouraged so as to increase cultivation of inland swamps and create incentives for farming. Another strategy is to improve research and extension service delivery in addition to the desire to continue promoting efficient and effective resource management at the Human and material levels.
The Trusted President
With the successful implementation of the “Agenda for Change” which has change the development landscape of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leoneans believe President Koroma is such a honest, astute and progressive leader that he will definitely make his new agenda another success story. He has the strong character of always delivering on his promises and this has won him accolade among his fellow citizens and the wider international community, especially donors, multi-national organizations and development partners.