For Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurs, business
people, policy makers and investors Le 55,000 / $10
In This Issue:
Dr Samura Kamara on economic diplomacy
& a vision of prosperity
Is a cashless SL really on the cards?
Need to know - Crown Bakery’s Fadi K talks
survival & success
The real Amara Kuyateh
Cordaid & the missing middle SMEs
Aspen’s prescription for healthy resilience
Incisive, decisive, concise - opinions from
the sharp end
Welcome to the launch issue of FT Insight. Aimed at Sierra Leone’s existing and future business people, the
magazine translates the initiative, creativity, vibrancy, sheer doggedness and drive for change that is at the
heart of Sierra Leone’s business sector, into words. Our aim is to drive progress within Sierra Leone’s private
sector by telling its story.
We publish six times a year and our first issue takes economic and business resilience as its theme.
Post the commodity price dive, post-Ebola and post one of the worst rainy seasons the country has
experienced, we have a tough time ahead. FT Insight asks Dr Samura Kamara, Minister of Foreign Affairs
& international Cooperation, how the work of his ministry is contributing to building the country’s long
Sierra Leone is a country of entrepreneurs and the private sector is key to its sustainable economic
growth. The Survive and Succeed section profiles an individual who has been tried and tested by
some of the most difficult business conditions on the continent. With 25 years and over in business
in Sierra Leone, Fadi Keserwani of Crown Bakery’s wisdom is a must-read for every up and coming
entrepreneur. Resilience demands new ideas and inspiration. A bold and innovative solution to
one of Sierra Leone’s toughest challenges – the health sector is emerging from Aspen Health.
We highlight the company’s plans to contribute to our economy’s durability.
The MSME pages will be a regular staple, including advice, initiatives and case histories. Tech
Talk will keep readers up to date with Sierra Leone’s technological developments, and this
month Erik Holst-Roness, advisor to central banks, governments, financial institutions,
and merchants across the globe, brings his extensive experience in alternative payment
systems to look at the Switch from a cash economy in Sierra Leone to an electronic
+44 771 722 1023
Our magazine has a social purpose. Globally youth are 1.6 times more likely to want
to start a business than adults. We hope to address the entrepreneurial instincts
of Sierra Leone’s rapidly expanding youth population, by providing free access to
the digital version of the publication to registered users. Find us online at www.
ftinsight.net . Your voice matters. At the Sharp End canvases readers’ opinions
on a business issue of interest and in the future, we look forward to publishing
your letters to the editor. We hope you enjoy the magazine and look forward
to hearing your suggestions, comments, feedback and feature ideas. See you
again in February.
Edleen B Elba
Erik Holst Roness
+44 771 7221023 / +232 79953382
38 Spur Road, Freetown | Tel: +232 77 399399 | Website: www.swissspirithotels.com/freetown
Typically, micro-enterprises are def ined as
enterprises with up to ten employees, small
enterprises as those that have ten to 100
employees, and medium-sized enterprises as
those with 100 to 250 employees.
According to data from the World Bank Group Enterprise
Surveys, access to finance tops the list of constraints faced by
SMEs, with 16 per cent expressing it as their biggest obstacle
across countries. Access to electricity ranks second, with 14 per
cent of SMEs expressing it as their biggest obstacle; competition
from the informal economy ranks third, at 12 per cent. Some
42 per cent of all SMEs consider these three obstacles to be the
most significant ones. Other important constraints of SMEs are
tax rates, political instability, an inadequately educated workforce,
corruption and disorder.
Increasing the number of women in prof itable and sustainable
businesses in Sierra Leone will generate huge social and
economic benef its, strengthening both local communities and
the country as a whole.
Sevi Simavi, CEO, Cherie Blair Foundation
“Contribute to one woman’s success and she will help
many others.” – Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation
At this year’s Trust Women Conference in London, Cherie spoke about tackling
gender inequality in the economy and fostering women leaders. She was
joined by Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN foundation, Jane Moran, Global Chief
Information Officer of Unilever and Isha Johansen, President of the Sierra
Leonean Football Association.
More than 17 million formal
SMEs in developing countries
have unmet f inance needs.
Small and medium-sized
enterprises make crucial
contributions to job creation
and income generation; they
account for two-thirds of all
In sub-Saharan Africa, 22 per
cent of enterprises of all size
classes stated that access to
electricity was their biggest
Women start businesses
at a faster rate than men
thereby contributing to
On the Transparency
Perceptions Index (2014),
Sierra Leone ranks:
38 Spur Road, Freetown | Tel: +232 77 399399 | www.swissspirithotels.com/freetown
In terms of enterprise performance, there is no gender gap with regard to enterprise survival
or employment creation. Men and women owned sole-proprietor enterprises have similar
survival rates and make similar contributions to job creation in the first three years after startup.
However, there is a large difference in the size of the operations as measured by sales or value
added. The average turnover of enterprises owned by women is only a fraction of those owned
CHANGE IN RANK
Previous research using the World
Bank Group Entrepreneurship Database
has shown a signif icant relationship
between the level of cost, time and
procedures required to start a business
and new f irm registration.
As of December 2013, internet
users in Sierra Leone stood at
97,643, or 1.7
Dr Samura Kamara on
change and prosperity
By Memuna Forna
“We need to introduce a
culture of accepting change in
Sierra Leone. We need to build
patriotism and national pride
and create attitudinal change
throughout society. These are
the missing threads in taking
Sierra Leone to prosperity.”
I caught up with Dr Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in
London, the morning after his return from the India-Africa Summit in New Delhi. He was heading to Malta to join
over 50 leaders from Africa and the European Union for a two-day summit to explore solutions to the burgeoning
migration and refugee crisis.
Dr Kamara has been a pivotal figure in the present administration of His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma since
its inception. Throughout, he has been consistent in his forward-looking agenda for Sierra Leone’s economic
development. He began work on the Agenda for Change, while he was Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone,
completing and implementing it as Minister of Finance and Economic Development. His appointment as Foreign
Minister brought a much needed economic dimension to Sierra Leone’s foreign policy. He then went on to lead the
development of the ambitious Agenda for Prosperity, President Koroma’s strategy to take Sierra Leone to middle
income status by 2035.
We are meeting to discuss whether or not the Agenda for Prosperity is still relevant post-Ebola, and just how
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fits in to its implementation. Dr Kamara remains optimistic. “The targets that we
set in the Post Ebola Recovery Strategy– health, education, social protection, economic revival and the private
sector – remain the same as in the Agenda for Prosperity, but with a greater sense of urgency, partnership and
inclusiveness. In every crisis, the biggest challenge is understanding, diagnosing and looking for opportunities and
effective implementation. Crisis recovery creates opportunities. We now understand how to handle epidemics like
Ebola and we can incorporate our improved understanding of the country’s needs into our ongoing strategy for its
development,” he says.
Dr Kamara’s approach to our economy has always been to highlight Sierra Leone’s strategic challenges and
achievements, address the negatives and set high objectives, and he stresses that the road to economic resilience
is through a series of building blocks, interlocked in an integrated and mutually reinforcing fashion: “A piecemeal
approach is not the way to approach development. Every movement is incremental. Sierra Leone has made terrific
progress in its post war recovery journey. Functional institutions, visionary leadership, and participatory governance
mechanisms are key ingredients in our transformative journey. They underpin economic and social development
by favouring long term investment, unlocking the potential for domestic resource mobilisation and unleashing
With their respective business and economic backgrounds, President Koroma and Dr Kamara were united in seeing
the importance of marketing Sierra Leone as a destination for international business and investment, and Dr
Kamara entered the Foreign Office with a presidential mandate to reconfigure it into a vehicle which would support
the Agendas for Change and Prosperity.
This has resulted in a comprehensive four-year strategy – the Sierra Leone Foreign Service Transformation Strategy
2014-2018: Sierra Leone Foreign Service Renaissance in the 21st Century. A key aspect of this is ensuring that Sierra
Leone’s international relations approach makes a priority of economic diplomacy.
It is a subject Dr Kamara is vocal on, and earlier this year his Wall Street Journal opinion piece on developing
Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola economy reiterated that point: “There is no question that West Africa has benefited
from the help of international aid and the global donor community to help fight this deadly virus. But aid alone
is not enough. The ability to treat and contain Ebola is inextricably linked to a country’s sustainable economic
development. Achieving long-term success requires robust trade and investment. The private sector must be
strong and the economy diversified,” he wrote.
He is only too aware that potential investors still experience certain frustrations with our business climate, despite
the significant strides made so far, as reflected in the Mo Ibrahim, Transparency International and World Bank’s
Doing Business governance indices. He lists some of them - “energy, water, ICT, Human Resources, infrastructure.”
He also believes that investors would appreciate more stability in government policy and regulations: “International
investors believe we must demonstrate greater resolve in our own governance policy. We need policy consistency
and respect for the agreements and contracts we enter into. Investors want to know party or stakeholder
responsibilities; and what and when to expect policy shifts. There will, of necessity, be changes to our policies
and business regulations but in order to create a more attractive business environment, foreign investors must be
given a period of stability. For example, three to five yearly reviews should be written into initial contracts with
major international investors, but they should be exempt from policy changes within that period, unless by mutual
consultations and agreements. Locked-in investment capital needs predictable protection. When the business
thrives – the economy will thrive.”
“We initially addressed issues such as over-centralisation, poor public service delivery and distribution and weak
transparency, accountability and overall economic governance. We created new vehicles for these as well as for
improving internal revenue generation, public sector budgeting and spending, and consistency and collaboration
across the board in the new institutions like the National Revenue Authority, National Public Procurement Authority,
the National Commission for Privatisation, NASSIT, Local Government and Decentralisation Secretariat, and Public
Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS). These are the software of the country, locked in a comprehensive system of
public sector capacity building and financial management reforms. They are strengthened by a new framework of
civil society oversight responsibilities as well as by President Koroma’s Presidential Task Force system in ensuring
effective and prompt project execution. They were created to lay a solid foundation for re-establishing state
authority and rebuilding national and international confidence and trust after the war, and were consistent with our
resources at the time, directed mainly toward emergency and humanitarian assistance.
Dr Kamara’s four-year strategy for the Foreign Service, puts the Ministry at the centre of foreign resource
mobilisation and a better protector of the national interests. It makes his Ministry a crosscutting department which
he says “is the eyes of the country. Every ministry has a foreign service component, which we as the Ministry
should lead. We are working on rebuilding attitudes and moving forward with the right people - economists,
lawyers and individuals with strong diplomacy skills - so that we can strengthen our presence internationally.
We are rebranding the country and building a “truly national identity” in our national foreign service in terms of
competency, ethnic and gender diversity.”
Ultimately it all comes back to change. “We need to introduce a culture of accepting change in Sierra Leone. We
need to build patriotism and national pride and create attitudinal change throughout society,” he says. “These are
the missing threads in taking Sierra Leone to prosperity.”
“Today we are addressing the hardware – road infrastructure, power, water supply, the health and education
system. We are attending to both the drivers of economic growth and human development at the same time,
while not forgetting the continuity required in pursuing the software. People don’t see the software, but they are
the foundations of good governance and a progressive nation. They cut across the ‘who you know’ culture and are
intended to create a good business culture by ensuring a more level playing field. Our economic resilience depends
on them and an orderly and efficient mix with the hardware.”
Where does all that start? According to Dr Kamara, it starts with education and he has his eye on using the foreign
service to complement the effort of his colleague minister in encouraging international investment in education
in Sierra Leone, with at least 1000 educational scholarships a year, properly equipped science laboratories with
teachers trained in friendly countries like India, Malaysia, China, Kenya, South Africa, Cuba and Brazil through South-
South cooperation; and promoting a computer laboratory in at least one senior secondary school per chiefdom.
“You can’t sit and wait patiently for things to happen. You have to make them happen for yourself. This is President
Koroma’s doctrine and we must practice it to the fullest. “
Switching to electronic
payments in Sierra Leone’s
banking sector will
transform our economy
By Erik Holst-Roness
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Sierra Leone’s civil war destroyed the national economy, introducing a period of
sustained negative growth and leaving around 75-80% of the population living
in extreme poverty. The period of reform and resourcefulness that followed the
civil war changed that economic trajectory, as evidenced by record economic
growth 1 in 2013 of 20.1% - considerably more than most of sub-Saharan Africa,
if not the rest of the world. The Ebola crisis coinciding with the collapse of
the price of iron ore during the same period, acted as an economic Tsunami,
washing away the foundations of economic growth that had been built over
the years after the war. It has sunk GDP growth into negative territory, with
some reports estimating we can expect the economy to contract by between
21.5% to 23.9% in 2015.
The Government has submitted a
resilience-focused budget which
stresses, amongst other measures, the
need for private sector development
to support economic recovery.
However resilience is not just about
springing back; it is about ensuring that the country uses the recovery
process to “build a better mousetrap” 2 , which will encourage people
and resources to return and invest in growth.
Investor conf idence needs to be rebuilt
in all areas from tourism to agriculture.
Facilitating this necessitates that
the government institute improved,
streamlined, more transparent and more
eff icient infrastructure, processes and
Providing that improved infrastructure places an even greater pressure
on the banking sector. Any incoming investment requires a robust,
transparent and efficient financial system on which to sit and that is
exactly what the government and the Governor of the Central Bank are
planning to build.
What are the cornerstones of resilience for the banking sector in Sierra Leone?
An openness to new technologies
A determination to improve on the status quo
A confidence in the country’s capacity to deliver
A target of greater financial inclusion
2 Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door is a phrase attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our cash-based economy hinders the achievement of these objectives. In Sierra Leone without cash in your
wallet you cannot buy fuel, groceries, eat out or even get medical attention in hospitals. Although cash
economies are highly liquid and well understood, they also facilitate corruption and bribery simply because
cash doesn’t leave any audit trail. For the individual as well as businesses cash is simply inefficient, costly and a
security risk. For the government it creates much more serious issues like identity and reputation management,
debt enforcement, credit scoring and access to financial products like insurance and even savings.
Taking advantage of technology to fast track the development of a robust financial services infrastructure, the
Bank of Sierra Leone will soon be supporting consumers and businesses in Sierra Leone with a National Financial
Switch. This will connect all banks, ATMs, e-commerce and Point of Sale (POS) terminals throughout the country
and drive the use of electronic payments on domestic and international fronts. Expected to be up and running
before the end of 2016 the platform will embrace all sectors of the economy including employers, employees,
merchants, banks, the government and its agencies.
A National Financial Switch is probably one of the most important building blocks for growth as it will allow the
implementation of a wide range of services around electronic payments – most of which are prerequisites for a
stable environment for investment.
Those who use cards to pay in other countries may be excused for thinking that paying by card, or online is
nothing special, but it is a major step forward for Sierra Leone. A National Switch will create a unified financial
network which will allow visitors and locals alike to pay by credit card in shops, restaurants, hotels and more
widely; it will also allow local electronic transactions through a local debit card and this is where it gets
This infrastructure will usher in an era of greater transparency and a significant reduction in fraud and corruption.
Employers will be able to pay their staff electronically knowing that their employees will be able to use their
cards in shops and ATM’s throughout the country. E-commerce will bring in the ability to develop new business
services around home delivery and online ordering for B2B. It will also integrate locally based businesses into the
international markets, allowing our business owners to make sales to anyone in the world. Mobile POS will allow
for remote payments of electricity, water and other utility bills; all improving efficiency, all making for a better
environment for growth and all reducing corruption. In short, the less cash is used or accepted, the more people
are pulled into the formal, taxpaying economy. It cuts delays and corruption and increases revenue.
LUMA TESTS SIERRA LEONE’S APPETITE FOR MOBILE APPS
Sierra Leone’s mobile phone use is escalating sharply and in its wake is a small but emerging mobile
app economy. One of the most innovative is Luma, which applies smart phone technology to Sierra
Leone’s street markets.
Luma is the brain child of local business owner Bimbola Carrol. He developed and launched the app
to encourage trade between individuals, and give them an easy way to generate cash by selling their
unwanted or unused items. “A Luma is a sort of mobile local market, popular in the provinces. If a
location is having a Luma, all the people in the surrounding towns and villages will bring items they
have for sale,” he explains.
In Q4 of 2012 the total number of mobile subscribers in Sierra Leone was approximately 3,504,000.
By 2015, the figure had increased by 30% to over 4,570,000 according to figures from GSMA
Intelligence, making the mobile app market one that has significant potential for growth. Mobile apps
aimed specifically at the Sierra Leonean user have focused mainly on mobile money or health – most
noticeably to support the recent Ebola response. Carrol’s offering is something different. Targeted at
18-45 smart phone users, he markets Luma via social media and using direct marketing. “Feedback
has been positive, but it needs continuous marketing,” he says. “It’s a great idea, but tech penetration
in Sierra Leone is still low. I imagine it will take about 24 months before it becomes a self-running
For the moment listing on Luma is free, but in the future users will pay to list the items they have for
sale. Luma sales reps would also list items on behalf of trade and take a commission in the event of a
Luma is currently only for Android mobile phones. Available for download on Google Play.
Taking it further, government payments will be able to be made electronically. Salaries, taxes, fees, social
security deductions and payments can all be done electronically, improving efficiency, improving tax collections,
reducing wastage and providing a solid anchor which both the local community and the incoming investment
community can trust for their payments and therefore focus on their core business. E-payment systems also
provide data and financial statistics which are crucial in making decisions regarding the economic development
of Sierra Leone.
And as the post-Ebola focus shifts back to the fundamentals of improving health services and education,
electricity and water supply, and creating jobs, it is important to note that a secure, reliable and efficient means
to pay for these goods and services will contribute to the success of many of these programmes.
The move to put in place a National Switch is a milestone in
the development of Sierra Leone. It demonstrates that the
Sierra Leonean banking sector will be ready for business and
playing a critical role in the resilience of the nation. It is a f irst
and crucial step towards a “cashless” society, the foundation
on which the country can grow commerce and reduce
corruption; and it establishes a platform for secure payments
in which local businesses, consumers and foreign investors
can have conf idence.
FT Insight Contributor
The Private Sector,
By Joshua C. Huminski,
Deputy Director of
Aspen Medical Sierra Leone is Freetown’s leading private medical clinic, providing a full range of western standard medical
services, care, and assistance. Located at the site of the former NACTIB New Life Hospital, AMSL is a fully licensed and certified
General Practice Clinic operating exclusively for client members.
On the 7th of November, the World Health Organisation declared Sierra Leone to be Ebola-free, having passed 42
days (twice the incubation period for the virus) without another case. On the same day of the announcement,
hundreds of Liberians took to the streets to run the third annual Monrovia Marathon – a race with special
relevance this year as it commemorated those who lost their lives to Ebola.
• Comprehensive primary care services
• Clinical expertise to initiate critical care and short term
management of life threatening medical issues & trauma
• Advanced Cardiac Life Support qualified staff
• Evacuation of critical patients internationally for
• Appointment based consultations with internationally
registered general practitioners & specialists.
• Specialized equipment for diagnostic and critical care
support, e.g. ultrasound, ECG, advanced life support
• Emergency room & patient stabilization facilities with life
• Observation/recovery room.
• Minor surgical procedures
• In-house laboratory testing for hematology, serology,
biochemistry and electrolytes
• Pre-employment medical assessments, fit-for-task exams,
occupational health exams and reports
• Travel medicine
These two geographically disparate events herald the ongoing and promising resurgence of West Africa in the
wake of the vicious outbreak that claimed thousands. While the end of the disease is worth celebrating it is
what lies on the horizon that is perhaps even more exciting – the recovery and growth of Sierra Leone and
With the end of the crisis those engines are gradually beginning to restart – international companies are
returning along with their employees and capital and the lifeblood of the local economy is beginning to flow yet
again. But what happens next? What happens in the event of another outbreak or some other natural disaster?
That eventuality demands a resilient environment – a system that
is able to withstand external shocks and continue to operate
and function even under the most demanding of circumstances.
Resiliency is more than just a plan in a three-ring binder resting on
a shelf in a civil servant’s off ice; resiliency at its core is a cultural
concept that permeates all aspects of civil, political, and economic
life, and healthcare is a critical element.
• 24-hour emergency ambulance service with a 20km
• Fully equipped vehicle with emergency and life support
• Staffed with healthcare providers trained to assist with
any medical emergency
• Internationally Registered and Experience Paramedic
• Internationally Registered and Experienced Doctor
qualified in Advanced Trauma, Cardiac, and Pediatric
Life Support (when necessary)
• Licensed and Experienced Ambulance Driver
Aspen Medical Sierra Leone is linked to Aspen’s broader
aero-medical evacuation network operating out of Monrovia
and servicing the West African region. Based on a B1900
aircraft, Aspen Medical Sierra Leone coordinates, supports,
and executes medical evacuations.
Sadly, the world witnessed what happens when a healthcare system is not resilient and experiences an external
systemic shock – the Ebola outbreak in West Africa quickly overwhelmed most local and national healthcare
systems. Localised infection clusters rapidly became outbreaks as clinics and hospitals were unable to first
recognise the disease, second contain it, and finally implement protocols to roll back the disease’s onslaught.
It should be said that the Ebola Virus Disease and its sister viruses are a breed apart. An outbreak in any city,
anywhere in the world would be a challenge to contain, but in West Africa – a region in which the healthcare
infrastructure is under-resourced and underdeveloped – conditions were ripe for a rapid and expansive spread.
How do we create a resilient healthcare system in West Africa? It is more than the application of plasters and
paracetamol. It is a generational effort that requires the participation of the public and private sectors, business
and government, non-governmental organisations and civil society.
Want to know more?
Today and most immediately, hospitals and clinics in Sierra Leone and Liberia need basic supplies – indeed
personal protective equipment (PPE), had it been present in sufficient quantities may have staunched the early
spread of Ebola.
Aspen Medical Sierra Leone
11A King Harman Rd, Bass St 3, Brookfields
Freetown, Sierra Leone
T +232 (0) 99500800
Logistics networks that can sustain supply lines of pharmaceuticals (including cold chain drugs) need to be
established that will link manufacturers in Europe and Asia with end users in Monrovia and Freetown. In the
FT Insight Contributor
longer term, local manufacturers need to be encouraged to develop through the provision of business loans and
Bio-medical maintenance programmes need to be established to ensure that basic and advanced medical
equipment is properly maintained and preventive care implemented to ensure continued operation. What
good is a diagnostic tool such as an x-ray or MRI if it is broken and missing a part? In this same vein, the
aforementioned logistics network needs to ensure a sustained supply of spares to help the upkeep of these
Perhaps the most important and longest-term investment that can and should be made in Sierra Leone and
Liberia’s healthcare infrastructure is in education and training. The critical shortage of trained healthcare workers
speaks to the fundamental problem facing African governments in building resilient healthcare systems –
insufficient numbers further stressed by the ‘brain drain’.
Neither Liberia nor Sierra Leone differ from most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in that they have a huge pool
of young people who place high value on education. Those who can afford tertiary education and go on to train
in the medical professions are almost all highly skilled, so much so that they are in great demand elsewhere in
The future of these countries’ healthcare system is in its administrators, nurses, and doctors, and the associated
workforce development programme. This is a long-term project that must start at the earliest levels of
education and continue through to professional development. Identifying promising students early, channeling
them into challenging and rewarding programmes, and providing incentives for them to return to or stay in their
home countries will pay dividends for generations. Students who wish to study abroad in the United States or
Europe should be incentivised to return home – loan or grant programmes should be offered that would cancel a
student’s debt if they practise in Freetown or Monrovia.
Doctors and nurses must also be incentivised to stay and work in Sierra Leone and Liberia not just through
monetary compensation, but also robust support networks and opportunities for professional growth and
development. Partnership programmes with universities in the United States and Europe should be expanded
including critical exchange programmes. These will provide invaluable reciprocal training to students on both
sides of the equation and develop lifelong networks that will enhance the medical practices of both countries.
Successful healthcare systems around the world have proven that the key is quality human resources and that
requires a successful business model able to pay for quality and to provide working conditions where modern
healthcare science can be practised.
Where does the private sector f it in to all of this? The role of
business is central through direct and indirect means. Direct
means include foreign investment, capital infusion, and business
incubation. Opportunities are legion in West Africa for the
development of domestic industry, manufacturing, and associated
business support systems. The talent is there, the interest is there;
all that is missing is that initial spark and application of proven
Further, the development of a resilient healthcare system presents significant business opportunities in both
sales and investment. Opportunities exist for the development of the aforementioned logistics networks, sales
of basic and advanced medical equipment, consulting contracts for the establishment of effective administrative
networks and many others.
Beyond money, business and the private sector can play a two fold role. First, foreign business entry requires
certain levels of support such as healthcare. This demand generates a market opportunity, such as the one
Aspen Medical presently fills. Thus, having started the cycle new business – seeing stable opportunities – seeks
to start new operations or restart old activities that have fallen dormant.
Second, the private sector can and indeed should play a mentorship role within the local community for both
altruistic and business purposes. Helping the local community is a good in and of itself and should be undertaken
by all companies. More importantly, by partnering with and supporting local businesses, foreign companies
impart valuable best practices, knowledge, and additional opportunities.
Aspen Medical is committed to both Sierra Leone and Liberia, having launched its first clinic in Monrovia and
recently opened a second in Freetown. Our Liberia clinic operated throughout the duration of the Ebola crisis
providing uninterrupted care for patients and coordinating and support services for the relief effort.
Aspen Medical also operated several Ebola Treatment Units in both countries, working with foreign governments,
the governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia, and non-governmental organisations. Our commitment to West
Africa was recently demonstrated by the introduction of a twin-engine B1900C aircraft. This aircraft will provide
general aviation and aero-medical evacuation services throughout West Africa.
We are proud to be a part of the business community in Sierra Leone and Liberia and are very excited for what
the future holds. We are already witnessing the first steps towards recovery and believe that growth and new
opportunities will rapidly follow. Building resiliency will not happen overnight and it is not a one step process, but
a process built on many incremental improvements, and we look forward to being a part of the resurgence of
Aspen Medical International is a leading provider of healthcare solutions in remote and challenging
environments. Aspen provides clients in the public and private sectors enabling services, allowing them to focus
on their core mission, confident that a proven and trusted partner stands ready to provide preventive health
services and reactive assistance in the event of an emergency.
Survive & Succeed
Fadi Keserwani, Crown Bakery:
“Relying on one product
is not a bread winner!”
When the phone rings and it’s a PA in the UK ordering a takeaway for his or her boss in Freetown; when your
customers call from the USA to thank you for a great meal; when retirement looks uncertain because some of
your customers won’t eat lunch anywhere else; and when you’ve survived 25 years in business in Sierra Leone,
you know you have hit upon a very successful business model.
But if proprietor - Fadi Keserwani is celebrating Crown Bakery’s Silver Jubilee, he’s keeping it quiet and it is
business as usual in one of Freetown’s best-loved restaurants. Among the city’s professionals and expats, Crown
Bakery is well known for quality food and service. In addition to an extensive menu of European, Sierra Leonean
and Lebanese dishes, there is always a daily special chalked up on the board. Open Mondays to Saturdays, it is
invariably busy at lunch time with eat-in customers and several people waiting to pick up takeaways. In Sierra
Leone’s notoriously difficult business environment, Fadi Keserwani makes service with a smile look easy.
But behind the scenes is a man who believes in very hard work and it takes six 11-hour days and infrequent
holidays to serve up the restaurant’s commitment to service, good food and a warm welcome.
“I get up at six in the morning to beat the rush hour and get to work at around 7.15. The first hour is spent on
paper work and admin, and then I sit down with the chef and discuss what needs to be done in terms of a daily
special, ordering and purchasing,” Fadi explains. “We know our customers, understand what they want and
how to deliver the results; and we make sure we deliver service, consistency and quality no matter what the
Crown Bakery is the brainchild of Fadi’s father. It first opened its doors in 1990 as a patisserie/bakery – hence the
name. “My father was in the textile business for a very long time. As the textile trade started to dwindle, he saw
an opportunity to start a patisserie as you could not find one in town. He saw a niche in the market and went
along with his instincts. The business was self financed; he used every last penny of the capital he had available
to him to start-up,” Fadi says.
At the time, it was a classic family business operated by Mr and Mrs Keserwani and their two sons Fadi and
Omar, who now runs the Wilkinson Road offshoot – Crown Express. With no background in the restaurant/bakery
business, the family drew on all their resources – financial, entrepreneurial and educational (the family’s two
sons had been educated and attended university in the UK).
Over the years, the bakery diversified into a restaurant: “Relying on one product is not a bread winner,” Fadi
jokes, “and we started introducing sandwiches, pizzas and fried chicken. We were always creating new menus
and recipes. My parents played a big part in the success of the business.
“We were very popular from the onset. There used to be a large missionary community back then and this was
their favourite hangout. Saturday was packed with missionaries eating. I jokingly used to call it Missionary Day.
We had friends who worked in Kabala and their treat when they were in Freetown was to come and visit us at
Crown Bakery. One of them used to say to his kids “we are going to Macfadi’s to eat the best fried chicken.”
Sierra Leone’s restaurant industry faces several well-known challenges and Crown Bakery is not immune. Fadi
lists just a few: “Staffing, procurement – sourcing good quality, fresh ingredients is not always easy, and training.
We have loyal customers – mainly local businesses and local people, but a section of our target market are the
expats, that is an always changing group.”
The company believes in empowering its staff and providing them with the best possible training and
experience. “Basically all our training is done in-house - making guests feel comfortable and welcomed makes
all the difference.”
Like most businesses in Sierra Leone, the Ebola outbreak had a major impact and the restaurant lost of lot of
business. “Sales were down by 60% for an extended period of time. Luckily we have seen an improvement in
sales and now that we are Ebola free, we pray that businesses throughout Sierra Leone improve.”
Fadi has some parting words for would-be restaurateurs: “It’s relatively easy to get into the restaurant industry.
It’s what happens after that makes all the difference between success and failure. You must be present, involved
and leading. We continuously strive to convey a winning attitude.”
Fadi Keserwani’s Survive and Succeed Takeaway
Know your customers
Work hard – there really is no substitute
Commit to providing the best – the best service, the best food, the
Crown Bakery, Wilberforce Street, Freetown.
Opening hours: 8.00am – 4.30pm.
Famous for its daily specials, fried chicken and a wide range of sandwiches.
• Family firms account for 2/3 (two thirds) of all businesses around the world
• An estimated 70%-90% of global GDP annually is created by family businesses
• Between 50%-80% of jobs in the majority of countries worldwide are created by family
• 85% of start-up companies are established with family money
• 65% of family businesses are looking for steady income growth over the next five years
• Family businesses show higher profitability in the long run
• Family businesses are less likely to lay people off and more likely to hire despite the
possibility of an economic downturn
• Family businesses are more likely to give charitably to their respective communities and
engage in extensive philanthropic activities
• Family businesses have a more long-term strategic outlook due to their main motivation
consisting of creating a legacy for generations to come
NASSIT’s Amara O Kuyateh
talks about bright
futures and big plans
By Memuna Forna
Amara O Kuyateh is a workaholic with big plans. The Deputy
Director General of Sierra Leone’s National Social Security
and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), has become such an integral
figure within the organisation, it is hard to believe that
he was recruited less than a year ago. He comes with an
invaluable range of international know-how gleaned from
senior roles at Watson Rice LLP, Grant Thornton LLP and
PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he worked with clients
such as the US Social Security Administration, Government
Employees Retirement System of the Virgin Islands, Arcadian
Health Plan of North Carolina, Inc., Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services, US Department of Education, the US
Department of Agriculture, and US Department of Housing and
He had just made Partner at Watson Rice LLP, one of America’s
largest and oldest accounting firms when he accepted an offer
from NASSIT to serve as Deputy Director General. “I returned
to Sierra Leone because of a strong desire to return home
and serve our people and the availability of an opportunity
which I believe was a good fit for my educational background,
professional experience and skill set. I personally believe
NASSIT should be as strong as the Central Bank of Sierra Leone
and the desire to be part of a team that could make that
happen was an irresistible pull factor,” he explains.
He is part of a reinvigorated management team, which includes the Director General and the Chairman of the
Board of Trustees, that is driving change at NASSIT. “The current Director General has worked at NASSIT since
its inception so he has a lot of institutional memory and experience. Our Chairman of the Board of Trustees
is a retired Bank of Sierra Leone Director of Banking Supervision. She has a reputation for being tough and
very disciplined. I bring to the table experience of two social security systems. In addition, I worked in public
accounting for over 13 years in the United States gaining experience in best practices in commercial and
governmental entities. This new team was designed deliberately to bring about change at NASSIT.”
At 13 years old, NASSIT is a relatively young organisation and its growing pains have been well documented
in the media. Management theorists have described the process where organisations face a set of problems
related to their youth, as the ‘liability of newness’. Kuyateh is candid about these, presenting them undiluted:
“We are currently faced with challenges that are strategic and operational in nature. Some of the challenges are
related to the timely processing of benefits, dealing with legacy investment issues and some emerging ones,
data quality issues, inadequate information about NASSIT programmes, negative media coverage and poor public
perception. However, we are on top of these issues and we are working assiduously as a team to address
Nevertheless, he says, the organisation has come a long way in its existence and is on the up and up: “The Social
Security Administration in the United States is 80 years old and in the West African sub-region our sister social
security institutions are on average at least 30 years old. Our commitment is to own up to our past mistakes
and endeavour to ensure that we follow a disciplined approach to investment going forward. From an individual
or organisational point of view, if you hold a portfolio of 14 companies some of the companies will throw up
challenges. NASSIT is no exception to that rule. However, we have at NASSIT a young and highly educated
workforce which I believe is the best in Sierra Leone. Added to which we have a new leadership team. NASSIT’s
future is very bright.”
Improving the governance of the scheme in general, including management of members’ records, timely
processing and payment of benefits, aggressive registration and collection of contributions from new and
existing establishments, and the enforcement of compliance actions, as well as a robust and disciplined
approach to investments, is the organisation’s present strategic focus.
“We have implemented a performance management system and everyone from the top down is empowered
and required to actively participate in the process. The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are selected carefully
to be central to our core operations. They are based on a logical framework of the Trust’s goals, targets and
indicators and are used to reflect the long term success of the organisation.”
NASSIT has a raft of impressive new initiatives in the pipeline.
It is working on extending coverage to Sierra Leoneans in
the informal sector and Diaspora, starting a social health
insurance scheme called SLESHI, and a workers’ injury
compensation scheme. In recent months Diaspora consultation
and outreach teams visited the Gambia and United States.
Study tours have been sent to Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania to
learn how they have implemented social health insurance and
informal sector schemes and the current challenges that they
are facing. The pilot phase of these programmes is scheduled
All in all, it has been a good year. Improved cash management of the organisation’s investments has increased
budgeted interest income from Le 5.91 billion to an impressive Le 15.07 billion, surpassing targets by 155%.
And that is not all. An electronic payment system will be operational in 2016, and “as a result of our robust
compliance efforts we were able to meet and surpass our contribution targets even with the negative effects
of the Ebola epidemic in 2015. The projected contribution income as at year end 2015 exceeds the actuarial
target by 7.1%. For an institution that is only 13 years’ old this is a significant achievement,” says Kuyateh with
justifiable pride. In the same breath he adds: “However, I strongly believe NASSIT can and should do better.”
‘Can and should do better’ is perhaps Kuyateh’s defining characteristic. “I am inspired by the belief that if you
can dream it you can achieve it, especially if you are willing to work relentlessly hard. My mother comes from a
small village called Yonibana in Northern Sierra Leone. Even with her limited formal education she is one of the
most intelligent people I know. Her humble beginnings never stopped her from envisaging great things for her
FT Insight Contributor
The Sierra Leone Diaspora
Shows Resilience, Recovery
By Amadu Massally
It is no surprise that the World Bank is interested in the
pulse of the Sierra Leonean diaspora with regard to their
appetite for investment opportunities in their home country.
In recovery efforts, diaspora investors and/or philanthropists
are often the first ‘port of call’ to provide relief for countries
that have experienced a national disaster. Haiti’s earthquake
and Singapore’s/Asia’s SARS are good illustrations of that. It
was no different in Sierra Leone with the Ebola epidemic.
The World Bank saw an opportunity to leverage resources
from the Sierra Leone diaspora for investment and trade
and help the country move from the emergency response
phase to recovery and beyond. Under the auspices of its
Trade and Competitiveness unit, it has created a programme
to facilitate this objective.
The first step was to capture up to date, representative
information on the diaspora’s attitudes, behaviours and
overall experiences with investing at home. This meant
an extensive research exercise which included focus
group discussions, one-on-one interviews, a global survey,
informal discussions and anecdotal data and a post-survey
The following stood out:
• The need to build trust is a common theme in diaspora conversations.
• The mobilised diaspora possess substantial and diverse human capital, robust middleclass income levels,
and some limited available wealth for investment.
• Huge gaps exist between current levels of diaspora investment (volunteerism, entrepreneurship, and
portfolio investment) and diaspora investment interest.
• Diaspora capital currently is impeded by numerous perceived obstacles to investment, particularly
issues related to government policy/practice, weak infrastructure, finance and some local human capital
• Several differences in investment attitudes, behaviour, and perceived obstacles exist among segments
of the diaspora according to country-of-residence, generation, and gender.
• Majority of study participants (83%) plan to return to Sierra Leone in the future.
• High levels of education among Sierra Leonean diaspora are reflected in the study sample.
• The percentage of study participants interested in almost all categories far exceeds the percentage of
respondents actually doing so. The closest gap between interest and current investment is in real estate
• Respondents find many sectors attractive for investment; the education sector garners the greatest
amount of current investment interest.
• The desire to make a social impact is a particularly important emotional motivation driving Sierra
Leonean diaspora investment interest.
Despite their interest, potential diaspora investors were put off by issues such as the difficulty in obtaining
energy, a lack of strong ICT infrastructure, difficulty in identifying suppliers, the lack of skilled mechanics and the
lack of strong physical infrastructure.
We are currently putting together an action plan that will involve the Sierra Leone diaspora stakeholders we
have been working with in the UK, Canada and the US. But we also hope to go beyond just these communities
and leverage Sierra Leonean organisations in other countries and cities we have not actively engaged. We have
got to broaden the scope of participants and identify how we can use community outreach programmes to
synchronise diaspora interests into one or more collective efforts.
The research looked at the demographic prof ile of the Sierra
Leonean diaspora, with a focus on Canada, the United Kingdom,
and the United States. It examined how the mobilised diaspora
community currently engage in Sierra Leone’s development and
its interest in investing human and f inancial capital in charity,
volunteerism and business investment in Sierra Leone and in
what particular types of programme, products and services?
Finally, it asked what are the diaspora’s perceived obstacles to
investment in Sierra Leone?
I have no doubt however that many Sierra Leoneans, given the right opportunities, will step up and act to fill
this void if the right institutional arrangements are in place. Without that, we are not going to proceed. In that
regard, we have sought the assistance of the MIEUX II programme which is a joint effort between the European
Union and the International Center for Migration Policy Development to assist the government and us in
developing a Diaspora Engagement Policy. A proven methodology would be used that will encourage diaspora
input. Successful implementations have been done in several African countries already to include Burundi and
Cape Verde, among others.
Coordination of the variable entities that will play a role would be a key success factor. Similarly, there has
already been overlapping work within the private sector at home with two events; one by the Sierra Leone
Chamber of Commerce and the Independent Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding hosted by the OECD in
Paris and in conjunction with the World Bank, International Finance Corporation and some Sierra Leonean private
sector actors whose slogan of resilience, recovery and resurgence forms the title of this piece. We hope more of
our kinfolk can join us in this important initiative.
It all came together in September at a stakeholder’s conference at the World Bank Headquarters. Participants
included representatives from the diaspora community, donor partners, financial institutions and international
NGOs amongst others. We heard personal, hands-on experiences of doing business in Sierra Leone from the
diaspora. We listened to successful implementers from other diasporas such as Connect Ireland, and examples
from Western Union and others. A series of workshop sessions were aligned with the five investment priorities
identified by diaspora Sierra Leoneans. These include real estate, social impact, volunteerism and skills transfer,
entrepreneurship, and private equity and venture capitalism.
Amadu Massally is the Study Coordinator of the World Bank – Sierra Leone Diaspora Investment and Trade
More information on the study can be found at the following link:
And the executive summary to the report can be found here:
Cordaid’s Resilient Business
focuses on the missing
middle SMEs of Sierra Leone
By Sharron Kelliher,
Traditionally Sierra Leone’s private sector consists primarily of a large number of informal microenterprises
operating alongside a limited number of large firms. Like so many developing countries, Sierra Leone has far
fewer small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
In high-income countries, SMEs are responsible for over 50% of GDP and over 60% of employment, but in lowincome
countries they are less than half of that: 30% of employment and 17% of GDP. 1 This SME gap is called
the ‘missing middle’.
Centre for International Development, Harvard University
Given the right combination of support, Cordaid recognises that these missing middle SMEs would have the
potential to be the change makers in Sierra Leone in terms of growing employment and adding to GDP.
Without a doubt, these missing middle SMEs are already
resilient. Many of them have withstood the shock of this post-
Ebola era and have managed to survive without permanent
damage to their business. However, these same SMEs were and
are still struggling to mature in any meaningful way that
can break through the glass ceiling that is their potential
for growth and prosperity. All things considered, the missing
middle SMEs of Sierra Leone have done well, nevertheless they
can and should be doing better. They remain constrained by
lack of access to business knowledge and best practice and
similarly a lack of access to the f inance necessary for further
Cordaid believes that if these barriers to their growth are removed, SMEs will contribute more to Sierra
Leone’s economic development by creating jobs, increasing income, broadening of the tax base and ultimately
decreasing poverty levels with a domino effect that can permeate all levels of society and community.
Cordaid’s Resilient Business Development Support (RBDS)
Following a rigorous selection and due diligence exercise a number of businesses with high potential will qualify
for RBDS services. Cordaid recognises that the range of business challenges for Sierra Leone’s SMEs calls for a
broader and multidisciplinary approach. Thus the RBDS programme offers an integrated support system that
includes business training, one to one coaching, bespoke in–business technical expertise, access to information
and networking opportunities. This new kind of business development support covers all the traditional topics,
such as financial management, marketing and operations etc., but also new topics that address the specific
challenges prevalent in challenging contexts, such as professionalism, delegation of responsibilities, social
responsibility and adapted risk management.
Cordaid’s initial aim is to achieve improvement of the SMEs bottom line and business capacity with an end goal
to make the SMEs ‘investment ready’. After investment, RBDS supports SMEs to continue their growth, delivering
services that are relevant at that period. This leads to step growth of the financial and social performance
entrepreneurs and successively the results of the investors. Finally, the programme offers second growth spurt
support with the objective of continued support for the SME through their continued growth and onto business
Stability Impact Fund (SIF)
Cordaid is convinced that RBDS and access to finance are both equally important. They reinforce each other
when supporting the missing middle SME to overcome obstacles to business growth, harnessing their true
potential and becoming change makers in terms of job growth and GDP.
In 2013, Cordaid created the Stability Impact Fund (SIF). This is an impact fund that invests in missing middle
SMEs and has a Sierra Leonean fund in place that invests between $10,000 and $100,000 per SME for growth
support. Whilst foreign investors and local banks are rarely willing to invest in SMEs due to the high costs and
risks involved, the SIF, with the confidence that the RBDS programme supplies, is targeting its investment directly
Consequently the RBDS programme supports the creation of a potential deal flow for direct investments of
Cordaid’s SIF in the ‘missing middle’ segment. The end game is to help unleash economic growth — “not just for
the few at the top, but for the many, because an essential element of dignity is being able to live a decent life.
That begins with a job. And that requires trade and investment.” (Obama speech to African Union, 2015).
1 Ayyagari, Beck, & Demirguc-Kunt. “Small- and medium-enterprises across the globe: a new database
Bad off ice etiquette
is bad for business
By Edleen B. Elba,
AIRPORT MEET & GREET
V EHICLE TRACKING
CLEARING & FORWARDING
A prospective investor visited Sierra Leone intent on building a partnership with a company with whom he had
liaised online and on the phone. His plan was to seal the deal and this was his experience: his potential partners
were an hour late for their first meeting, during which they interrupted him constantly by taking phone calls. It
was clear they were lacking in business etiquette.
They did not improve on further acquaintance. They were late for subsequent meetings where they also
displayed unprofessional behaviour. The investor was so put off that he decided not to work with them. He is
now in the final stages of making a deal with another company, one where his new partners respond to his
e-mails within 48 hours and have been consistently professional in their interactions with him.
When principled, professional global companies decide which countries and companies to associate themselves
with, office or business etiquette and ethics play a much greater role than we may imagine. International
companies know that a partnership with an unprofessional or unethical partner can have a major impact on
their own image and operations. It is a risk most do not want to take. In 2001, the scandal which led to the
bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, also led to the dissolution of their accountancy firm Arthur Andersen and
prison sentences for a number of employees. One of the consequences of this scandal was the enactment of
new regulations and legislations which affect parent companies and their subsidiaries.
In today’s Sierra Leone, the absence of professional etiquette and ethics is evident in the lack of customer
service, the way products are marketed and haphazard procurement processes across all sectors. This can in
part be blamed on the interruptions to growth caused by natural and man-made disasters that the country has
suffered over the years. It is also partly the result of an insular business environment in which the majority of
employees have no exposure to internationally accepted business practice. Customers and employees complain
but are generally helpless as there are no consumer-watch bodies and the manner in which business is done is
not only widespread, but generally accepted.
Friends of Education
are friends of protec
Research shows that organisations which promote cultures with a focus on integrity, respect, working with
the community and professionalism build stronger brands and last longer because their customers and
employees remain loyal. Being credible gives them a competitive advantage. According to a study by 23red –
an international communications company - 91% of consumers say brand behaviour is an influential factor in
making purchases and requesting services. When business etiquette and ethics are set aside and the focus is
only on profit, everyone suffers – the company, its employees and the consumer.
Proudly Sponsoring The Tokeh Beach Regatta
030-550055 044-550044 www.slprotec.com
Savvy employers provide their employees with the tools needed to create a professional and ethical business
environment. They also ensure they lead by example. At JobSearch, we have designed the Employee of Choice
training course to assist employers do this. It uses real life scenarios to teach students, job seekers and workers
how to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner. Business Etiquette covers making a good
first impression, personal hygiene and grooming, communication, professional conduct in a meeting, on the
telephone, in an e-mail, at an office function, at a dining table and while dealing with customers. Business
Ethics looks at the point at which gifts and hospitality become bribery and corruption, equality and diversity,
responsible marketing, taxes, environmental and social responsibility and an employee’s responsibilities to his
or her employer. It is an interactive course which uses case studies, exercises and relevant examples from the
instructor and the attendants. The course doesn’t dictate, but gives participants options and allows them to think
about the right and wrong ways of conducting business.
As Sierra Leone’s economy develops, some companies will decide to set themselves apart from the herd. When
consumers and investors start voting with their feet, the advantages of an ethical company with professional
staff will become evident.
Edleen B Elba is a managing partner with JobSearch +232 44669199 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our private sector is the
def inition of resilient -
let’s give it some credit
By Staff Writer
The incursion of Donald Trump into mainstream US politics has thoroughly bloodied the waters between the
political and the commercial. In polls, his success in business regularly comes up as one of his best assets. The
public/private sector debate is at best tricky and the Trumpster’s growing popularity is not making it any less
In developing economies such as ours, the private sector’s role as a public sector partner will only become more
important. As Hilary Clinton has said: “… you cannot have development in today’s world without partnering with
the private sector; that has been our mantra ….” At it’s best the public/private partnership is a two-way street,
which generates opportunities for both to flourish and learn from each other, giving rise to important subtleties
that can drive the development of a nation or the success of an organisation.
In Sierra Leone however, a common private sector complaint is that
instead of being a key player in the policy-making process, it fnds
itself invariably relegated to a bit part.
It is more than an accidental oversight; it is our recurring Achilles heel. It might be partly due to the widely-held
view that our private sector is composed of a bunch of loot-toting carpetbaggers. Goodness knows we have our
fair share, but we also have dedicated businesspeople who have taken a long-term view and painstakingly built
their companies up from the ground, remaining committed to Sierra Leone through some very tough times.
Take the issue of the private sector’s participation in the Ebola response – national and international attention
repeatedly portrayed it as profiteering, when in fact there is more than enough evidence of the business
community’s willingness to step up and be counted. In small and big ways, Sierra Leonean companies
contributed. They provided information, funded health care, offered time, expertise and manpower, and donated
considerably to the Ebola response fund in very lean times. The country’s success and stability is important to
them. At the time, Ismail Mykay Kamara, managing director of A&A Investments and Services, was prompted to
write of Sierra Leone’s SMEs: “SMEs, like local healthcare workers, might not be getting the international acclaim,
but are at the forefront of the battle against Ebola …. Even as they face acute business challenges themselves,
these SMEs have contributed out of their own resources, without coordination or external prompt.”
The business community’s services may have been quietly appreciated, nevertheless it was noticeable that they
weren’t called to the table. In the same piece, Mykay Kamara also wrote: “The hope is that businesses will take
a more active role in the development agenda, particularly as it relates to Private Sector Development (PSD).
The private sector has ironically been largely absent in discussions and initiatives related to PSD in Ebola-affected
countries. Consequentially, governments and development agencies have driven the agenda. When involved,
businesses are invited late into projects and typically respond in a lukewarm fashion. This must change.”
Late and lukewarm remains the norm. The national discussion now is overwhelmingly focused on our post-
Ebola economy; and the private sector is still only an occasionally guest. Part of the problem is its own lack of
organisation. If the private sector is the engine of sustainable economic development, macroeconomic stability
and poverty reduction; effective employer’s and business organisations are its mouthpiece - with the ability to
help create the necessary conditions for economic growth. Their primary role is to ensure a positive business
climate, by influencing government policy and advocating for regulatory change. They can play a decisive role
in collective bargaining, training the workforce, setting professional standards and promoting best practice. In
developing countries, where enabling business environments are still in their infancy and business challenges
abound, the role of employer’s and business organisations should be absolutely central.
There is a sizeable body of research to substantiate this view. Empirical research for the Research Programme
Consortium on Improving Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth (IPPG) covers several countries and indicates a direct
positive correlation between economic growth and effective business associations, in South East Asia, East Asia
and Sub Saharan Africa. Another IPPG paper examining the Zambian business climate, found that membership of
a business association enhanced the performance of Zambian firms.
Unsurprisingly then, building the capacity of employer’s and business associations in developing countries is
seen as a priority. A 2011 report into employer’s organisations in West Africa argues that “the restructuring of
the Federation of West African Employers’ Associations is critical in vamping up the West African private sector
as African economic development is related to the existence of a dynamic and world class competitive private
sector.” Unfortunately, the same report went on to say that West Africa’s “employer’s organisations are ill
organised, lack resources, poorly execute their mandate and hardly deal with the challenges they face.”
One of the areas where ‘late and lukewarm’ currently evident is in the discussion of Sierra Leone’s skills
shortage. The mismatch between what our educational establishments are delivering and what Sierra Leone’s
commercial sector actually needs is the source of ongoing frustration for employers and employees. Skills
development has to be labour market oriented and this requires the equal input of both the private and
public sectors. Developing our educational establishments to deliver this is critical, but while we wait for the
educational sector to transform itself to meet new demands, the government should consider focusing resources
at the sharp end – and help businesses improve the training they presently provide for their employees.
Just as their Ebola response efforts went largely unrecognised, so too do their efforts to upskill their employees.
The misconception that the private sector in Sierra Leone does not invest in developing the workforce is perhaps
one of the most pernicious. Sierra Leone has a long indigenous tradition of on-the-job training and informal
apprenticeships. It is the method by which most tailors, farmers, fitters, mechanics, painters, carpenters, as well
as office workers in Sierra Leone learn or develop their skills. Supporting the business sector’s capacity to deliver
quality training to its apprentices and employees would help drive standards up in a system which currently
provides most of our workplace skills, and should be a priority.
Our business community is nothing if not a product of its
environment – rough, tough, hardwearing, and not always up
to international standards. Sierra Leone is not an easy place
to do business and the men and women who have guided their
companies through one national disaster after another are the
very def inition of resilient.
Several years ago when Barak Obama addressed the Ghanaian parliament. He said: “Africa doesn’t need strong
men; it needs strong institutions.” He is right, Africa does need strong institutions. It also needs strong leaders;
and as we begin developing Sierra Leone’s economy, we need men and women with the strength, vision and
resilience to come together as one, and contribute real solutions to Sierra Leone’s economic sustainability.
The sharp end
FT Insight asks
for their views
One problem is that there are different rules for different people. So if I’m in the same business of food import
into SL with another competitor, he or she might pay 70% less customs fees than me or vice versa! These huge
discrepancies mitigate against resilience. Legislation and regulations regarding import and taxes have to be
enforced. A body such as the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce needs to ensure and create a pro-competitive
environment for all businesses large or small. They could also foster mentorship programmes for young
entrepreneurs and youth. Internships are the way to give talented, educated youngsters the opportunity and the
work experience they need to be the next generation of business leaders.
Satta Helen Matturi, MD, Ideal Luminance Consulting PTY Ltd
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD RESILIENCE?
Resilience is the ability to adapt, respond and keep going in the
face of major changes - demands, disruption, disaster and other
threats. In states like ours, it’s a prerequisite. We canvassed
the people at the sharp end of Sierra Leone’s business and
investment community and asked how the government and
business sector can work together to create a more resilient
economy and more resilient businesses. Below are their
HOW CAN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY HELP CREATE A MORE RESILIENT ECONOMY IN SIERRA LEONE?
If we are looking for poverty alleviation to come from wealth creation, it is critical that economic recovery
is inspired and delivered by the private sector. This means we have to put the private sector in the centre
of decision making discussions, strategy and implementation. As I see it, the private sector is frequently
crowded out of the process by the public sector and our development partners. More often than not, the
business person’s voice is missing, both individually and collectively and this holds us back. It is a twoway
process. The private sector is not being invited to the table; equally we are not banging on the door.
We need better organised trade bodies and associations to represent the private sector more effectively.
Mykay Kamara, AA Holdings
The private sector must create sustainable
employment. We must identify and
promote a few strategic national
industries. These must be industries
geared towards the export market;
capable of creating mass employment and
harnessing local resources, and that
can easily carve a world market share.
For example, a cassava processing plant
producing industrial starch provides
the agrarian population a ready market
for an easily cultivatable crop. This can
immediately benef it a huge sector of
the population. Industrial Starch is a 15
Billion Dollar/annum Industry.
Jiad Swaid, CEO, Vulcan Holdings Ltd
We can as a business community create lobbying
groups to advise and where necessary pressure
government to provide more conducive environments
Randa Swaid, MD City Plaza and Swiss Spirit Hotel
Business resilience in a tough environment requires
thrifty management – overspending is fatal – and
excellent relations with local communities and
off icials. Businesses must be lean to survive, and
deliver a genuinely positive impact.
Paddy Docherty, Chief Executive, Phoenix Africa
The business community can help create
a more resilient economy by starting
a social project within their locality,
separate from central government.
Weakness in local government means
there are a lot of useful elements
missing from local communities -
libraries and community centres for
John Daramy, CEO Goldarama Ltd
The business community as a unit is a key driving
force for any economy and its ability to weather
through ups and downs in the economic cycle,
determines how resilient the economy is. A key
factor is investor conf idence; once businesses
have a conducive environment they are more
likely to continue their operations such as
trading, manufacturing and services through
Rajesh Hemnani, PeeCee & Sons
WHAT CAN THE GOVERNMENT DO TO BUILD A MORE RESILIENT BUSINESS SECTOR?
The Government must provide the foundation for the development of our local human resource by
promoting modern and effective training institutions. This can be achieved through bilateral cooperation,
or by duplicating success stories in other countries. The business sector also needs access to affordable
medium/long term finance - which necessitates the government modernising the banking sector.
Jiad Swaid, CEO, Vulcan Holdings Ltd
Identify and support those business investing in medium to long-term projects such as agriculture, fisheries, light
manufacturing, etc. The support can be in form of:
• Policies promoting good incentives to encourage investment in these sectors
• Help establish special funding (loans) at sustainable rates to these businesses. Current local rates (12-18%)
are not investment friendly
• Eliminate unnecessary ‘Red Tape” that often impedes utilisation of the provisions of existing laws.
Israel Okujagu, Sierra Leone Bottling Company
The Government can do f ive things:
• limit the role of government
• make it easy for business to function through more efficient registration and regulation
• deliver the necessary infrastructure – energy, roads and a seaport
• ensure currency stabilisation
• improve access to financing for SMEs, through better functioning of commercial banks and development of
alternate non-governmental channels of funding.
Mykay Kamara, AA Holdings
The Government of Sierra Leone should
have a two-pronged approach to build
a resilient business sector. Firstly,
revising tax structures and providing
cost-effective infrastructure can
help local manufacturing operations
to prosper. Secondly, funding and
incentive schemes for upcoming and
unique businesses have to be provided
in order to encourage new investors.
This ensures the incoming national
revenue stream is diversif ied and
Rajesh Hemnani, PeeCee & Sons
Government needs to involve the
relevant private sector organisations
when adopting policies or improving
infrastructure that concerns the
Randa Swaid, MD City Plaza and Swiss
The government can build a more
resilient business sector by ensuring
that rules regarding registration,
payments, collecting of revenue are all
within published government rules
and not subject to the whims of local
Encourage entrepreneurship, especially
amongst women! Bring in regulations
that make it easy to do business in Sierra
Leone, for example introduce a f lat and
favourable tax rate, sort out the Leone
currency maybe by pegging with another
($£) which would build trust and stability
amongst potential investors. Business
(SMEs) needs security today in the form
of infrastructure, technology and the
standard basic business facilities so that
investors can forecast their returns for
tomorrow. Businesses also need the right
demographics to utilise the products
and services on offer, so government
should be working to sort out welfare,
youth unemployment etc. They also need
to believe in their own; there are very
capable Sierra Leoneans out there with
international experience. I’m a living
example of this and after attempting to
move back home and settle, I have taken
my knowledge and talent elsewhere on
the African continent and registered my
own advisory and consultancy company
catering to the diamond mining industry.
Satta Helen Matturi,
MD, Ideal Luminance Consulting PTY Ltd
John Daramy, CEO, Goldarama Ltd
The government can support the resilience of small business by providing soft loans/ lines of credit
for new product development that adds value to raw materials, particularly in agribusiness. It should
support linking our universities or technical institutes to these small businesses for such product
development. It should offer the same tax breaks to national businesses as it does to foreign
investors, particularly where the small businesses employ at least 30 or more local employees in
lower and middle management capacities. It should do this consistently for at least five years and
see the result. Then it should replicate this for another five years depending on the result.
Beatrice Chaytor, Independent Consultant on Trade Law and Policy
Education, education, education.
Randa Swaid, MD City Plaza and Swiss Spirit Hotel
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