The only magazine for those who do business in Sierra Leone
ISSUE 1 2018
Photo © Vickie Remoe
“The Truth and
report recommended that
an adequate voice be given
to young people and women.
The Government hadn’t been
forthcoming in making that
happen. I saw a gap and
stepped in.” Anthony Navo
Junior, founder and CEO of Africa
Young Voices Media.
Find out more about Insight at
AYV’s Anthony Navo Junior – redefining the media landscape in Sierra Leone | Beatrice Chaytor, AUC
trade advisor, brings her authoritative eye to the African Continental Free Trade Area | Fadi Bassir –
our new contributor and expert in SSA investment discusses the benefits of equity finance | Mariama
Seray Barrie, agriculturist and writer, makes the case for an integrated approach to agricultural policy
The Mistake That Made Me – our new series dips into the wisdom of making mistakes
The Future is Female – a look at the changing landscape of African entrepreneurship
Did you make money during the elections? Most of you say no!
Find more on www.insight.sl
INSIGHT’S TOP 3 ONLINE MAY DAY NEWS
STORIES. FIND MORE NEWS AND ANALYSIS AT
Welcome to our first issue of 2018. Sierra Leone entered the second quarter of the year, with a new President – His
Excellency President Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, and we join the rest of our country
in congratulating him on his victory.
WHY THE APC HAS MORE MPS THAN
SLPP EVEN THOUGH THE SLPP WON THE
PRESIDENCY BY YUSUF BANGURA
In this in-depth analysis of voting patterns, Dr Yusuf
Bangura explains why the APC has more seats than the
SLPP. Firstly, he says - there are more registered and actual
voters in the APC’s strongholds in the North and Western
Area than the SLPP’s strongholds in the East and South.
Secondly, and more importantly, given that the SLPP won
the presidential election despite the lopsided regional
distribution of voters, the electoral system of first-past-thepost
is not proportional.
HEAD TO HEAD: A RESPONSE TO DR. YUSUF BANGURA’S
ARTICLE BY ALLIEU SESAY
Allieu Sesay goes head to head with Dr Bangura in this response. In it he argues, that
during the process of de-amalgamation, two new districts were created in the APC
strongholds - Karene and Falaba. This means extra constituencies were created for the
2018 elections compared to 2012. In 2012, there were 112 constituencies, and 132
constituencies in 2018, representing an addition of 20 constituencies. He concludes
by saying that “your analysis on population dispersion and concentration was spot
on. But it was merely advocating for PR than debunking the widely held view of extra
constituencies being one and a major factor explaining the current representation in
the Sierra Leone Parliament.”
His election has ushered in a period of rapid change. The new government has introduced more exacting austerity
measures, including suspending all import duty waivers except those under the Vienna Convention, and exercising the
President’s executive order which directs that funds collected on behalf of the government be transferred “into the
Consolidated Revenue Fund with immediate effect”. It’s safe to say we can expect to see more changes of this nature.
While not quite business as usual, for Sierra Leone’s private sector the post-election period brings a welcome end to the
widespread election-induced business lull. The results of our survey on the business impact of the elections showed that
the majority of firms in Sierra Leone were adversely impacted by the election period. You will find the full report on pages
We are delighted to welcome a number of new contributors. Pieces relating to the elections by investment specialist - Fadi
Bassir, Queen’s Young Leader and governance advisor - PJ Mandewa-Cole, and social and political analyst - Yusuf Bangura
can be found on our website www.insight.sl. Fadi Bassir also brings his investment expertise in the Sub-Saharan region to
a piece in this issue on the under-appreciation of equity by SSA business owners and why, in the current under-supplied
environment, it can be an important form of capital.
In an in-depth analysis of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, another of our new contributors –
international trade lawyer - Beatrice Chaytor argues that fostering intra-African trade and unifying the continental market
is essential for its future growth. Also new to Insight is agriculturist, Mariama Seray-Barrie. She argues that Sierra Leone’s
agricultural sector needs a strategy of integration and provides examples of success from Nigeria and Morocco.
Habiba Wurie, Director of Corporate Affairs at Insight, looks at the competitive advantage provided by Africa’s female
entrepreneurs and gathers advice from some of Sierra Leone’s most notable business women. Our new series – the
Mistake That Made Me – in the Smart Tools for Smart Business supplement - seeks to identify how mistakes can be a
learning opportunity that shouldn’t derail professional success. This month we hear from Ash Songo-Williams of Pendrax
Security, Alfred Akibo-Betts of the NRA and Dr Yakama Manty Jones of the Peninsular Innovative Group.
There is a wealth of information on Sierra Leone’s business environment on our website www.insight.sl, and as always
we’re keen for your feedback. Thank you from all of us at Insight Media and Communications for your continued support.
Q&A WITH PJ COLE - QUEEN’S
YOUNG LEADER AND OPENING
SPEAKER AT CHOGM
Queen’s Young Leader and Insight contributor - PJ
Cole was invited to speak alongside Her Majesty The
Queen and world leaders at the Opening Ceremony
of the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting, in London on Thursday 19th April. In this
Q&A he talks about his motivation, the impact of
becoming Sierra Leone’s first Queen’s Young Leader
and the potential of Sierra Leone’s young people.
Managing Director and Editor:
Memuna Forna – email@example.com
Director of Business Development:
Mohamed Wurie- firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of corporate affairs:
Habiba Wurie – email@example.com
What effect did the
election campaign period
have on your business?
What sector do you represent?
Arts and entertainment
Banking and finance
Energy and utilities
Hotels and hospitalities
Media and publishing
54.17% of respondents say the elections have had a
negative or very negative impact on their businesses.
Mining and extractives
Transport and logistics
37.5% say the elections have had a neutral impact on
2.5 5 7.5 10 12.5 15 17.5
8.33% say the elections have had a positive impact on
0% say the elections have had a very positive impact on
level has dropped
been taken for
prior to elections.
Junior - an
It’s been a stellar couple of years for Anthony Navo Junior. His TV
station’s ‘Sierra Leone Decides’ series became compulsory pre-election
viewing for Sierra Leoneans home and abroad. He pulled off a stunning
media coup with the Presidential Candidates’ Debate on the 15th
February. BBC Media Action has Africa Young Voices (AYV) radio down as
the most listened to radio station in the North and West of Sierra Leone,
and his media empire has won awards from AWOL and the Sierra Leone
Chamber of Commerce.
If anyone was to debate whether entrepreneurs are born or made – Anthony Navo would be almost conclusive proof of
the former. He is an entrepreneur to the bone. The ability to identify and maximise business opportunities is in his blood.
Freetown-born Navo attended the Prince of Wales School. From there he went to the UK where he studied business and
management at the University of Essex. He began his business activities early: “I have always been entrepreneurial and
started taking an interest in business straight after school,” he explains. His family’s import/export business was where
he cut his teeth – pharmaceuticals, electronic goods and milk powder - gradually taking on increasing responsibility.
He is a man who recognises the value of networks both formal and informal, and stresses that they have been important
to him throughout his career. He says: “A fair proportion of my professional and social network are people I met
during my school days.” He has been a member of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce (SLCC) since 2004. He
was introduced by a man he describes as his patron – the late Alhaji Unisa ‘Awoko’ Alim Sesay, joining the Chamber of
Commerce in the same year that he opened Navo’s International Foreign Exchange Bureau Limited - which is still in
operation on Siaka Stevens St.
In the intervening 14 years, he has remained a committed and active member of the Chamber of Commerce, crediting
the organisation for having a “significant influence on his professional life,” both as a source of advice and of professional
development, by sending him on short courses and encouraging other forms of continuing professional development.
Last year, he was voted in as one of 10 council members of the SLCC and sees the role as an opportunity to give back.
The year 2007 was notable for Navo’s brief flirtation with politics. He was the Sierra Leone People’s Party’s candidate
for Constituency 104 which is also known as Freetown East 1. He lost to APC and took a couple of months out to reflect
on his future. He decided that politics was not for him and in 2008 he returned to handle communications and public
Relations for African Minerals (AML).
The company went on to give him a permanent contract and there he remained until 2014 when the company went into
liquidation. It was a challenging role which combined his local knowledge with the international acumen of Aura – AML’s
international PR agency. When Shandong took over AML, they kept Navo on as their Communications Director,
subsequently promoting him to Chief Officer – the most senior national in the country.
Perhaps his strongest driving force is his concern for youth empowerment. “I have always been a member of youth
empowerment groups. I’ve worked with students for over 15 years. I’m passionate about developing opportunities for
young people,” he says. “In 2009 the young Leaders Sierra Leone Network voted me as their youth ambassador. The
event was held at the British Council.”
He is a man who recognises the value of
networks both formal and informal, and stresses
that they have been important to him throughout
his career. He says: “A fair proportion of my
professional and social network are people I met
during my school days.”
It was this that impelled him to create a platform for young people. Africa Young Voices was the result. In May 2011, he
launched the newspaper. The radio station followed hot on its heels in November 2011 and AYV TV was launched in April
2015. AYV also has its own printing press and prints most of the country’s daily newspapers.
He explains his motivation behind the AYV conglomerate as the desire to create a platform for youth voices and for youth
skills’ development. “One of the reasons that so many young people in Sierra Leone resorted to violence and guns during
the civil war was the lack of education and opportunities. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report recommended
that an adequate voice be given to young people and women. The Government hadn’t been forthcoming in making that
happen. I saw a gap and stepped in.”
AYV is a combination of social enterprise and profit making venture. To set it up Navo took a $1.2 million loan from GT
Bank to be used for the purchase of necessary technical equipment and operating expenses. “GT Bank was the only bank
who had faith in my business idea,” he remembers. He used his house as collateral. His 10-year business plan, saw the
project as a long-term journey, with the first three years focusing on investment and the next three years beginning to
break even. His planning was spot on and he has paid off almost 90% of his loan.
He credits his success to P + P - a lesson he took to heart from a Chinese lecturer. “Preparation and planning,”
he explains. “I started planning two years prior to 2011. I was not in a rush. I did my research, employed technical
consultants, brought in the necessary expertise to get started.” He describes setting up AYV as “a herculean task”, but
adds that “planning and preparation are the key to getting where you want to be”.
“Communications are the most important
component of nation building,” he believes.
“We are a youth focused organisation. We have
pioneered an entertainment focused approach to
encourage young people to use their voices and
learn new skills.”
The organisation is subscription based with around 62 members in Sierra Leone and roughly 200 around the world.
In 2004 AWOL launched the National Achievement Awards. The organisation is also building a school in Gondama, Bo
District. “We visited the area in 2011 to give out scholarships and discovered that it had no primary school,” Navo recalls.
“The children were using a mosque for their lessons and whenever there were prayers, they were sent out.” There are
plans to build a recreational centre when the school is completed.
His approach has paid off. He regularly pushes the boundaries. As well as the newspaper, radio and TV station, there
is an AYV app for TV and radio. He has the technology to be able to do live broadcasts. This was put to particularly good
use during the Presidential Candidates’ Debate. He says he has captured audience figures of 35% of the country’s TV
“Communications are the most important component of nation building,” he believes. “We are a youth focused
organisation. We have pioneered an entertainment focused approach to encourage young people to use their voices and
learn new skills.”
He has a particular skill for picking the right people. Ex pats - Angela Angwenyi, Tony and Habib Munzir have been a
positive addition to the AYV team. Navo gives them a free hand and emphasises that skills transfer is included in their
terms of reference and that they all have Sierra Leonean deputies that they are training.
His development agenda is also evident in his association with the organisation - All Works of Life (AWOL), which was
founded after the war. He tells the story with a smile. “A few business people decided to establish an organisation called
First Class People to give back and offer scholarships and human rights’ interventions. I was at the lands registry to
complete a land purchase and bumped into the late Moseray Fadika. I told him all about the First Class People concept,
but he was completely opposed to the name. I managed to persuade him to come to the first meeting. He came along and
insisted that we change the name. We ended up with AWOL and in 2001 President Kabbah launched the organisation at
the British Council. Fadika was elected as the Founding Chair. I was the Financial Secretary and Chericoko was Secretary
His relationship with the late Moseray Fadika was very important to him. He describes Fadika as “an inspiration, a
brother and a friend,” and he was hit hard by his death. As a fervent Muslim, he accepts Fadika’s death as God’s will,
but admits that it was difficult. “Fadika’s death was untimely and a shock. I had the same feeling when I lost my father. I
almost gave up,” he recalls.
He didn’t and continues to build his portfolio. There are seven new studios, including London, Bo, Makeni and Freetown,
with two more due in Kono and Kenema. He is aiming for true national and international reach. He has recently launched
the country’s first Sunday newspaper, and to ensure uninterrupted coverage he has invested $200,000 into ensuring
the station is fully solar powered. “It will save us money in the long-term,” he says, and he is on the verge of adding an
entertainment channel to the AYV stable.
Asked what business advice he would offer to future entrepreneurs, he returns to his tried and tested formula. “I would
say always invoke P and P – it substantially increases your chances of success.” Focus is another of piece of advice that
he offers up and coming business people. “People will approach you for all kinds of personal reasons and personal gain.
They will attempt to undermine your success. They will gossip about you. It is important that you learn to close your ears
to these kinds of distractions and continue to hold onto your convictions.”
He is a family man. His wife is a lawyer with a speciality in commercial law and the couple have two children – boys of 12
and three. His circle of friends is small and trusted. “When I was in my twenties I became caught up in social groups and
having lots of friends,” he recalls. “I realised it wasn’t helpful and I changed. Now I keep to a small group of associates
and focus on my business.”
He is a man who takes his own advice, and watching his quiet hands-on team-led approach at the Presidential
Candidate’s Debate, it is clear that it has stood him in very good stead indeed.
One of the first things AWOL did was to buy an X-Ray Machine for Connaught Hospital and refurbish the X-Ray
“AWOL shows that home-grown institutions can substitute the aid dependency culture,” he says. “That we can come
together to achieve development projects. The organisation is composed of people who want to give back and we have
paid the school and university tuition fees of many members.”
Sierra Leone, an
to harnessing our
Mariama Seray Barrie
Agricultural development is two to four times more
effective at reducing hunger and poverty than any other
sector (World Bank, 2017). Analyses show that the sector
employs over 70% of the population who live mainly in
the rural areas while non farmers spend most of their
income on food. Thus, transforming the sector is crucial to
economic growth, job creation, raised incomes and reduced malnutrition
In Sierra Leone, agriculture accounts for over 50% of the national gross domestic product (GDP), but is still largely
at subsistence levels. According to the 2014 Agriculture sector review, Sierra Leone is currently a net importer of the
nation’s key agricultural commodities such as rice, wheat and onions, with an estimated $267M being spent on imports
(Agriculture Sector Review, 2014).
The sector is generally marked by low quality agricultural inputs, and insufficient training of farmers and actors along
the agricultural value chains; and despite improvements in the last couple of years, significant pockets of food insecurity
remain in parts of the country with about 12,000 people still in need of food assistance (FAO, 2018).
The agricultural sector is also negatively impacted by inadequate and/or dilapidated machinery for mechanised farming,
and feeder roads that are insufficient and inadequate for the transportation of goods from farm to market. Furthermore,
in recent years a massive rural – urban migration of young people has reduced the labour force for farm work.
Lessons from other countries show how using an integrated approach to agricultural development can bring about
positive changes in the sector.
In the case of Morocco an end to end approach focusing on both the supply side intervention (e.g. supply of fertilizer and
seeds) and the demand side intervention (ensuring a ready market) with the political will in terms of policies, private
sector investment and regional change agents transformed the sector by tripling incomes for 700K smallholders in five
years (Mckinsey, 2011).
In Kwara State, Nigeria, a critical policy framework was put in place with a strategic plan of action to enhance
production, processing systems and marketing of major food and cash crops through public private partnership in
targeted farming areas. The state only plays an advisory and policy role by creating an enabling environment for
commercial agriculture. This has led to increased production of targeted crops/livestock, socio-economic development,
job creation, and improved roads linking villages to markets and improving the lives of small scale farmers. Currently,
Kwara state is known as the capital for agriculture in Nigeria.
In Sierra Leone, agriculture accounts for over
50% of the national gross domestic product
(GDP), but is still largely at subsistence levels.
The lesson to take away from these examples, is that, in order to see and experience a more transformed and diversified
agricultural sector in Sierra Leone, an integrated approach is required. This implies that all factors - from production,
processing and marketing to the consumer should be considered, with appropriate training offered for each part of the
Regional/district comparative advantages should be looked at on a project by project basis, in order to build on the
ecological strength of each area. Questions to ask are; what are the comparative advantages for each district? How do we
make sure we build on the comparative advantages of each district to develop the sector?
Skills development within the sector is also key, and a solid set of criteria for farmer selection should be in place so that
only ‘serious’ and ‘willing’ farmers are supported. These in turn would act as master farmers for others.
In moving forward, a detailed analysis of the agriculture sector is required. As the incoming government aligns its various
priorities for agriculture, these next steps, which reflect a strategy of integration, are thus critical for transformation:
1. Identification of key value chains to be targeted;
2. Identification of skills required for each crop/
3. Engage donors/ investors for potential
investment into the sector with clear roles;
4. Ensure that marketing plan of end products is
laid out with the necessary engagement of
5. Ensure the availability of timely credit for
farmers with low interest rates if possible;
6. Improve the land tenure system to create a winwin
situation for both land owners and
7. Equip public/civil servants so they are able to
provide the required services to farmers;
8. Focus on Research and development (R&D) and
9. Change indicators of progress from output /
outcome to impact indicators;
10. Develop plans that are as targeted and explicit
11. Invest in adequate storage units to prolong the
shelf life of produce especially vegetables and
12. Ensure the flow of reliable and good
information on pricing.
Mariama Seray Barrie is a passionate agriculturist with over nine years of experience in both the public and private
sector in the areas of agricultural research, analysis and development.
owners – growth
equity and thinking
beyond bank debt
One of the biggest constraints for Small and Medium
sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)
is access to finance. In Africa, over a fifth of SMEs cite
access to finance as their BIGGEST constraint ahead of
lack of adequate electricity, poor business environment/
investment climate and skills mismatch, according to
the World Bank. Relative to other regions globally, the percentage of
respondents highlighting access to finance as a key constraint was
highest in SSA.
Financing for SMEs can broadly be placed in two categories – debt, which most African businesses are familiar with from
banks and other non-bank financing institutions, and equity. Growth equity is where the cash injection is used to grow
the business alongside existing owners and not buy them out. Increasingly, a third category – mezzanine financing –
which falls in between and has characteristics of the two is also rising in popularity.
The overall undersupply of finance in SSA is exacerbated by a perceived
under-appreciation of equity. In effect, founders and business owners
reject equity. This article will attempt to address what equity is and why,
in the current under-supplied environment, it can be an important form
For many business owners, the issue with equity financing in return for a
stake in their business is all to do with ownership dilution and decisionmaking.
Owners are unwilling to allow third parties to own a part of
their business. The question to pose to these entrepreneurs is why own
100% of one when you can own 50% of ten – what is wrong with owning a
smaller percentage of a much bigger pie?
A part of the reluctance lies in the genesis of many SME businesses.
Many of these businesses are established as small/lifestyle businesses
where historically there is little separation between the business
owner and the business – as an example, it is often the case that the
personal bank account of the owner is one and the same as that of the
business. It is therefore difficult mentally for owners to admit others into what
was previously a party of one.
It is true that debt/credit is a cheaper form of capital and one that is better known across SSA. However, we note that
across SSA there is a severe shortage of credit (excluding South Africa). This can be seen in various statistics including
the credit availability score, domestic credit to private sector (as a % of GDP) and bank credit to the private sector (as a %
of GDP). In all of these instances, SSA countries lag (in some cases, significantly) behind developed countries.
East Asia &
East Europe &
Source: AfDB report on private sector
development strategy (2013-2017)
Latin America &
Middle East &
For many business owners, the issue with equity
financing in return for a stake in their business is all
to do with ownership dilution and decision-making.
Owners are unwilling to allow third parties to own a
part of their business. The question to pose to these
entrepreneurs is why own 100% of one when you can
own 50% of ten – what is wrong with owning a smaller
percentage of a much bigger pie?
Due to this shortage of credit, SMEs are financing close to 80% of their capital requirements through internallygenerated
cash flows, according to the World Bank. Some of the reasons why businesses just cannot obtain bank debt
include (i) reduced appetite from banks due to attractive rates on government bonds, (ii) a preference from banks for
large companies/ ”national champions”, (iii) onerous requirements placed on potential borrowers (i.e. client of the bank
for x number of years, substantial collateral etc), and the list goes on. The reality is that debt, when it is available and at
the right terms (tenor, repayment profile etc), can be quite attractive and in many cases preferable to equity. However,
when debt is not available or inappropriate, business owners should be open to growth equity.
The premise behind growth equity is that in return for capital, existing owners provide an incoming investor with an
ownership stake in their business. The process for this, simplistically, involves (i) determining how much capital you need
to raise for your growth needs (ii) preparing a valuation of the business, (ii) agreeing the valuation with the investor, and
(iv) based on the amount they are investing and the value of the company, determine what percentage of the business
they get. It is usually advisable to engage an advisor to guide you through these steps (and also source potential
investors) but it can be done without, if you have some financial acumen and access to High Net Worth Individuals
(HNWIs), angel investors or institutional SME private equity funds.
Equity has a number of benefits and constraints. The main constraint is that, as a higher risk form of investment with
no contractual cash repayments (unlike debt), it is expected to generate a higher return (reward). It is therefore “more
expensive” than equity in that investors expect a return that exceeds that obtainable when investing via debt. This does
not mean that the equity investor requires cash repayment over time on his/her investment, although this is possible
through the non-mandatory annual dividend. In reality, equity investors expect the business to grow (as a result of the
cash injection) and be worth more a few years down the line when they decide to sell their ownership stake back to a
(now richer) founder or to another investor. However, if the business is performing well and generating excess cash flows
annually (over and above the amount required for re-investment), the investor will expect to receive annual excess cash
paid back as a dividend.
Equity financing means that business owners are not under pressure to make contractual repayments as is the case
with debt. They have breathing room to grow their business, reinvest cash generated by the business, and as a result
(hopefully) grow the bottom line and the value of the business – yes, you own less of the business but in dollar terms
your reduced ownership in a bigger business is greater than 100% ownership before the equity investment. Whilst it
can be a pain to share decision-making and be accountable to a third party, by choosing investors who bring more than
just cash to the table (e.g. experience in your market/sector, access to new customers/clients and new markets, access
to cheaper inputs and strong relationships with stakeholders relevant to your business), your business may very well
immensely benefit in the end.
Fadi Bassir is an investment executive at CDC group, the UK government’s investment arm, focussed on investments
across Sub-Saharan Africa. He is also an adviser to Savant Capital Africa, an advisory firm focussed on West Africa. He
has professional experience in private equity, fundraising and corporate finance.
THAT MADE ME
Alfred Akibo Betts,
Alfred Akibo Betts’s career profile is busy and varied.
He has been a tax specialist for 14 years. He joined the
National Revenue Authority (NRA) fresh out of university
and today he is the Deputy Commissioner, overseeing
the implementation of reform projects. His specialist
expertise is often called upon by organisations such as the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, for whom he provides
Added to this, he has been actively involved in the family business since his final year in university. He is an entrepreneur with
several business ventures of his own. His most recent is the Freetown Business School.
“Freetown Business School was formed last year. It’s intended to give people the skills to elevate their professional
performance and take them to the next level,” he explains. “We will eventually be accredited to offer courses such as MBAs.”
On lessons he has learned through his involvement in all of the above, Akibo-Betts places learning to delegate at the very top.
Learning to delegate:
Finding delegation difficult meant that Akibo-Betts became over-involved in the finer details of the projects he was
responsible for. As a consequence, his workload became increasingly unmanageable and he had little time to allocate to
Recognising that he was his own biggest barrier to effective delegation was an important stage in the process. “I would want
to get involved in everything, especially if it was my idea,” he says.
He gives as an example his experience with revenue enhancement at the NRA, which was part of his portfolio. “I handled the
paperwork, chaired meetings etc.” he recalls. “For the first two or three years, I even took on the task of personally phoning
the top tax payers myself.”
Last year Akibo-Betts began to delegate more of the revenue enhancement process to his team, including the job of calling
the country’s top tax-paying companies. They took it on, executed it effectively and even developed the confidence to extend it
to other companies.
This taught him a great lesson about leadership. “I learned that delegation isn’t just about stepping back; it also means
empowering and providing guidance to the team. The result is that they have not just handled the revenue enhancement
process effectively, they have actually improved on it,” he reflects.
An added benefit has been that his own time management has improved significantly. He has more time to spend on
strategic development, as well as an empowered team who are innovating, honing their initiative and developing new skills of
their own. “I now see delegating as part of transforming into a leader,” he says.
In addition to his professional portfolio, Akibo-Betts is a husband and the father of two children. He and his wife – Binta,
operate a ‘no-nannies after five’ policy.
THAT MADE ME
THAT MADE ME
Arthur Ash Songo-
Williams – Operations
Director of Pendrax
In 2004, Arthur Ash Songo-Williams set up Pendrax Security with his
cousin Pierre Songo-Browne. The cousins had already gained considerable
experience in the sector, from the UK where they had been running a firm
supplying door security and personal bodyguards.
From security services, Pendrax has expanded into facilities and power solutions, vehicle tracking and fuel management.
Fourteen years later and Pendrax has 1500 employees, and a presence in every district in Sierra Leone. Notable clients
include Sierra Rutile, Ecobank, the National Electoral Commission and National Petroleum among others.
The company is a significant Sierra Leonean success story. That doesn’t mean it has been entirely smooth sailing.
The consequences of no marketing plan
“A significant mistake we made when we started the company was not investing in marketing soon enough,” Songo-Williams
remembers. “We spent the first seven to eight years without a proper marketing strategy. I think we were basically afraid of
growing too rapidly. In our heads we were a small company.”
The firm had plateaued at around 500-700 employees, until seven or so years ago when the decision was made to invest in
a Business Development Department. With it has come rapid growth. The department is responsible for cold calling, client
relations, and selling additional services to existing clients.
“After we set up the Business Development Team, we saw a marked difference. The size of the company, turnover and
business opportunities increased. In addition, we are maximising opportunities to cross-sell other services to existing
clients,” Songo-Williams explains.
The pitfalls of mixing business and friendship
Mixing friendship and work has many potential pitfalls and for Songo-Williams, the decision some years ago to hire a friend,
whom he then found hard to fire, became a lesson in not allowing sentiment to get in the way of following the HR process.
“He interviewed well, but it quickly became apparent that he couldn’t hack the job and covered up his mistakes by lying
or bluffing his way through,” Songo-Williams remembers. “I tried to address it informally without going through the HR
disciplinary process, but eventually his lack of competence and expertise became evident to everyone. We activated the
formal HR process and he was let go.
Songo-Williams says the experience has improved the way he handles HR issues. “I learned from that experience to separate
business and friendship. I am very conscious now of not letting emotions or sentiments get in the way. Nor would I let the
situation go so far. Instead I would address it formally much sooner.”
Dr Yakama Jones,
Dr Yakama Manty-Jones is co-founder and CEO of
Peninsular Innovative Group (PIG). She is also a Doctor
of Economics and Finance and the Team Lead of the
President’s Delivery Team.
PIG is co-owned by Dr Jones and her husband, maximising the potential of Dr Jones’s business
understanding and her husband’s logistics expertise. “My husband and I were both working full
time when we started our company,” Dr Jones recalls. “However, with a growing family and investment interests we decided
to supplement our financial needs with a business.”
Established in 2007, it was initially called Peninsular Innovative Services and provided clearing and forwarding services.
In 2012, Peninsular Innovative Services expanded into Peninsular Innovative Group, after Dr Jones and her husband acquired
the Philippines based Crystal Clear franchise in Sierra Leone and the right to be the sole distributor of their refillable water
Today PIG owns 100% of Crystal Clear’s Sierra Leonean outfit, which has now diversifi d into bottled water production. PIG
has also diversified into providing shipping agency services in Freetown, through the Trans Sahara Shipping Company.
Growing and diversifying the company taught the Jones’s that some business risks are worth taking.
Learning to deal with risk
Entrepreneurship comes with inherent risk, but the Jones’s aversion to risk taking meant that expansion and diversification
took longer than expected.
“We started off using our own savings. We re-invested our small profits back into the business, supplemented with our
salaries with the idea that we wanted to grow organically. Growing organically is fine. However, to attain certain growth
trajectories we needed more substantial capital injections,” Dr Jones says.
The fear of tapping into additional capital streams, Dr Jones realised, was placing Peninsular Innovative Services at
a disadvantage against its competitors, especially with Crystal Clear. Crystal Clear uses a reverse osmosis five-stage
purification process. For every litre of purified water, approximately 30% waste water is generated.
Most of Crystal Clear’s competitors use cheaper filtration processes, but they all sell at the average market price. The
Jones’s had two unsatisfactory choices – sell their water at the higher price necessary to make a significant profit or cut back
on the quality of the product. They opted for a third way and took a loan which served as a cushion.
This allowed them to maintain the quality of Crystal Clear and sell the product at market price, while also allowing them
to invest in their own natural spring source and plant, which has eradicated their exorbitantly high water rates thereby
Regardless of the experience, he would still employ a friend or personal acquaintance if they had the right skills and
qualifications, but he emphasises that there would be strict boundaries between the personal and professional relationship.
The Jones’s continue to practise a cautious approach to borrowing, which they are comfortable with: “With realistic
budgeting we take small loan instalments, pay them off, before we apply for other loans,” Dr Jones explains. “In a way
we are still growing organically, the growth is just now more visible.”
Free Trade Area:
Africa’s bid to
Trade is a powerful engine for economic growth and
development. However, Africa’s story in this regard has
been different as compared to other regions of the world
such as East Asia, where trade is believed to have been
particularly instrumental in the development of that
region and has had an enormous impact on poverty levels
through its effect on economic growth, employment, consumer prices and
government revenues and spending.
So far, Africa’s traditional role in the global trade market has generally been to provide raw commodities in exchange for
manufactured goods, thereby capturing a dismal 3% of the global share of trade.
Fostering intra-African trade and unifying the continental market therefore is imperative, especially given that Africa’s
trade with itself on average over the past decade, is no more than 15%.
Fostering intra-African trade and unifying the
continental market therefore is imperative,
especially given that Africa’s trade with itself
on average over the past decade, is no more
Africa is a highly dynamic market. The population of Africa is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, at which point it will
include 26 percent of the world’s working age population, with an economy that is estimated to grow twice as rapidly
as that of the developed world. Yet, businesses on the continent currently face average tariffs of 6.1 percent when they
export within Africa.
The AfCFTA will change this picture by progressively eliminating tariffs on intra-African trade, easing trade flows
between businesses within Africa, and allow foreign businesses that want to trade with Africa to take advantage of a
more unified and growing continental market. Indeed, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)
estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 53.2 per cent by eliminating import
duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.
The Main Features of the AfCFTA
The AfCFTA will ensure the progressive elimination of duties and quantitative restrictions on imports, which are to be
treated no less favourably than domestic products.
There are protections for infant industries and general exceptions. There are also provisions on trade facilitation and
transit and cooperation over product standards and regulations. In case of surges of imports or unfair trade practices,
the rules allow for trade remedies such as safeguards and countervailing duties.
This does not compare well with other regions of the world, such as Europe where 63% of Western European trade
takes place with other European nations, or North American countries where 63% of their trade takes place among
themselves. The implications of low shares of trade both at the continental and global level have been far reaching for
Africa’s growth and development where trade patterns have continued to be influenced by historical links both within and
with the rest of the world.
Cue the 21st March 2018 when African Heads of State and Government in their 10th Extraordinary Summit in Kigali
signed the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The AfCFTA Agreement includes 3 Protocols: A Protocol on Trade in Goods (with associated Annexes), a Protocol on
Trade in Services and a Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes. This package of legal texts
form the substance of Phase 1 of the negotiations launched by the AU Assembly back in 2015. Phase 2 of the negotiations
will cover competition policy, intellectual property rights and investment and will start in late 2018.
The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of the African Union’s Agenda 2063: “The Africa We Want”. When the AfCFTA
comes into force, upon the deposit of the 22nd instrument of ratification, it will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a
gross domestic product (GDP) of US$2.5 trillion. To put the AfCFTA into context, it will essentially be the world’s largest
free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in terms of numbers of participating countries.
Forty-four African countries have signed the AfCFTA Agreement, with the notable exception of Nigeria, which says it
requires more time to consult with the private sector and trade unions.
Despite this setback, African countries have largely been buoyed by this historic milestone, rooted in the vision of Kwame
Nkrumah who, back in 1963 had urged Africa to unite.
In addition, there are provisions for technical assistance, capacity-building and cooperation, in recognition of the fact that
the countries of Africa are not at the same stages of development.
The AfCFTA goes beyond traditional trade agreements that merely reduce tariffs. It also liberalises services trade. This
is crucial because services constitute roughly 60 per cent of Africa’s GDP. Many services are also inputs to production
processes that in turn enable trade in goods, such as information technology. In the AfCFTA, African countries have
committed to progressive services liberalisation in which domestic services markets are to be opened for service
suppliers from other African countries.
Also beyond tariffs, non-tariff barriers (such as burdensome customs procedures and excessive paperwork), which
are often a great impediment to businesses are to be eliminated. The AfCFTA will further discipline non-tariff barriers
by establishing a mechanism for reporting and resolving such barriers on trade between African countries, helping
businesses to demand solutions to such trading bottlenecks.
The AfCFTA also includes provisions for the recognition of technical and sanitary standards, transit facilitation and
customs cooperation. By doing so, the aim is to significantly ease doing business across borders in Africa.
Responsibility for the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement will remain with the African Union Commission, which
will establish an AfCFTA Secretariat to administer the Agreement.
The Benefits of the AfCFTA
Since African countries have traditionally been exporters of raw materials and other natural resources, the AfCFTA is
significant in promoting the export of industrial products.
Africa is a highly dynamic market. The population of
Africa is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, at which
point it will include 26 percent of the world’s working
age population, with an economy that is estimated to
grow twice as rapidly as that of the developed world.
Yet, businesses on the continent currently face average
tariffs of 6.1 percent when they export within Africa.
Africa desperately needs to diversify its trade away from extractive commodities and towards manufactured products.
Using the AfCFTA to pivot away from extractive exports will help to secure more sustainable and inclusive trade that is
less dependent on the fluctuations of commodity prices.
economic growth. In order to make the most of the AfCFTA, African countries must effectively address supply side
constraints and weak productive capacities, infrastructural bottlenecks, deficient trade information networks, poor
access to finance for traders and other economic operators, and restrictions on movement of people. They must use
measures such as trade facilitation and trade in services as important catalysts for market access.
At the same time as they mandated the AfCFTA in 2012, the AU Assembly also launched the Action Plan for Boosting
Intra-African Trade (BIAT), in a bid to deepen Africa’s market integration and significantly increase the volume of trade
that African countries undertake among themselves. The BIAT Action Plan is organised into seven clusters as follows:
Trade policy: to ensure implementation of coherent and efficient trade policies at all levels;
Trade facilitation: to deal with all other non-tariff related trade constraints;
Productive capacity: to improve low and inefficient means of production;
Trade related Infrastructure: crucial for achieving trade competitiveness and diversification;
Trade Finance: to improve access to finance for economic operators;
Trade Information: crucial for making rational business decisions;
(vii) Factor market integration: to increase intra-regional mobility of factors of production such as labour
Tariffs on raw materials are already low and so the AfCFTA can do little to further promote these exports. However, by
lowering intra-African tariffs on intermediates and final goods, the AfCFTA will create additional opportunities for adding
value to natural resources and for diversifying into new business areas.
More jobs for Africa’s youth population
Perhaps most importantly, the AfCFTA will also produce more jobs for Africa’s burgeoning youth population. This is
because extractive exports, on which Africa’s trade is currently based, are less labour intensive than the manufactures
and agricultural goods that will benefit most from AfCFTA. By promoting more labour-intensive trade, the AfCFTA
creates more employment.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for around 80 per cent of the region’s businesses, thus they are
key to growth in Africa. Such businesses usually struggle to penetrate more advanced overseas markets, but are well
positioned to tap into regional export destinations. Under the umbrella of the AfCFTA, SMEs can use regional markets as
stepping stones for expanding into overseas markets at a later point.
Another way in which SMEs can benefit from the AfCFTA is that the rules will make it easier for them to supply inputs to
larger regional companies, who then export. By way of example, large automobile manufacturers in South Africa source
inputs, including leather for seats from Botswana and fabrics from Lesotho, under the preferential Southern African
Customs Union trading regime. In effect, the AfCFTA can help SMEs to connect to larger value chains at the domestic
and regional level, and in so doing, help them to grow and expand their businesses.
The AfCFTA thus makes the formation of regional value chains easier by reducing trade costs and facilitating investment.
So while the countries that are larger and more industrialised can immediately seize the opportunities for production of
manufactured goods, less industrialised countries can also benefit from the AfCFTA by linking into regional value chains
and eventually, global value chains.
Even land-locked countries which tend to face higher costs of freight and unpredictable transit times due to their
geographical circumstances will benefit from the AfCFTA Agreement, due to the fact that the AfCFTA includes provisions
on trade facilitation, transit and customs cooperation. In this way, the AfCFTA allows a majority of African countries, no
matter their size, location or circumstance, to benefit from the trade deal.
The Other Side of the Coin:
The Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade
Trade agreements on their own do not ensure development of economies. African countries have participated in other
trade agreements in the past but they have seldom been translated into real benefits in terms of job creation and
Africa desperately needs to diversify its trade away from
extractive commodities and towards manufactured
products. Using the AfCFTA to pivot away from extractive
exports will help to secure more sustainable and
inclusive trade that is less dependent on the fluctuations
of commodity prices.
The BIAT Action Plan was developed to complement other existing initiatives also crucial in the boosting of intra-African
trade such as the Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa (AIDA), the Programme for Infrastructure
Development (PIDA) and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), as well as the Protocol
on Free Movement of Persons (which was also signed by several countries at the Kigali Summit). The challenge therefore
for Africa lies in ensuring that there is smooth coordination and implementation of these initiatives as they liberalise
goods and services under the AfCFTA.
With the required political will for smooth implementation and the attendant flanking measures described under the
BIAT Action Plan, the establishment of the AfCFTA will significantly accelerate growth of intra-African trade and allow
Africa to use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and sustainable development. It will assist in the fight against
poverty and underdevelopment in the continent and expand trade and investment opportunities for Africa. Again, the
world is watching as Africa tries to chart its own development course - for a welcome change.
Beatrice Chaytor is an international trade lawyer, specialising in providing advice and support to African governments
in their engagement with regional and international trade policy processes. She is currently Senior Expert - Trade in
Services in the Department of Trade and Industry at the African Union Commission, based in Addis Ababa, and works
on the negotiations for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Prior to her position in
the AUC, Ms Chaytor ran her own law firm, Chariot Eight in Freetown, Sierra Leone, providing legal services to local,
regional and international clients on a range of corporate law matters including trade, investment, natural resources and
Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs in the world
according to a recent study by the MasterCard Index of Women’s
Entrepreneurship (MIWE). This significant number of female
entrepreneurs on the continent has contributed, along with other factors,
to a year-on-year growth, globally, in women’s entrepreneurship activity
of 10% since 2015.
Ghana leads the global average of 30% with women owning 46.4% of all businesses. The number three spot globally is
also occupied by an African country, Uganda, with 33.3% of businesses owned by women.
When it comes to what’s fuelling this growth the following factors can be attributed:
1. Informal governing structures: The African informal economy is one of the largest in the world according
to an IMF study - The Informal Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa : Size and Determinants. Within the
informal economy African women can more easily set up small businesses that respond to increasing
demand, especially due to continent wide urban migration.
2. Improvement in infrastructure: Across the continent, travel from village to village, country to country
and region to region has never been easier due to improved air travel, and road networks. More reliable
infrastructure allows women to be more mobile that previous generations and gives them access to
resources, suppliers and even markets previously inaccessible. Infrastructural development is on most
government agendas in the continent so this access will only continue to improve.
3. Technology: With the popularity of social media, mobile money and spread of wireless connectivity in
rural areas, coupled with the increase in the number of technology hubs, women on the continent are
now able to forge their own path without reliance on traditional networks and financing to run their
The picture is not all rosy however. With an 8.4% discontinuance rate, female owned businesses in Africa experience the
highest rate of discontinuance. The following reasons are cited for this:
1. Limited access to finance: A Findex report published in 2014 found that just 30% of women in the
continent own bank accounts. There is a $20 billion financing gap between men and women, with
female youth being disproportionately affected. The low number of women involved in formal financial
institutions, both as customers and decision makers, contributes to this gap.
2. Decline in support to sectors with high female inclusion: The agricultural sector contributes 15% to
the continental GDP, with women making up 40% of the labour force in the sector. In Sierra Leone
agriculture contributes over 50% to GDP and women make up 80% of the sector. Despite the significant
role agriculture plays in the economy the continent has seen a 6% decline in budgetary support for
agriculture – a figure projected to keep falling.
3. Legal barriers: Land and property ownership by women as of 2018 is still significantly restricted across
the continent, mainly due to customary laws. In Sierra Leone customary law restricts the ownership and
inheritance of both land and property. This is especially problematic considering customary law governs
95% of the land in the country.
The African informal economy is one of the
largest in the world according to an IMF study -
The Informal Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa:
Size and Determinants. Within the informal
economy African women can more easily set
up small businesses that respond to increasing
demand, especially due to continent wide
Sierra Leone has already started the ball rolling with the drafting of a new national land policy. The country will now have
to focus on passing this law and ensuring its legitimate implementation.
Make no mistake though, the future, particularly Africa’s is female.
SAGE ADVICE FROM SOME OF SIERRA LEONE’S LEADING ENTREPRENEURS
WRITER AND SPEAKER
Thoughts from Fatou Wurie, writer
and speaker: “Education gives you a
basic level of liberation. I would like
to see that for many more women.”
Madonna Thompson, Partner, PKF Mason Hill
says: “Empowering our employees is key. It
enables them to develop their skills and provide
financial security for their families.”
With the improvements in female entrepreneurship activity on the continent as a whole in mind, it is safe to assume
that the trend will continue. An enabling environment for this to happen though should contain alternate means of and
increased access to finance by women along with the reform of land and property law.
SAGE ADVICE FROM SOME
OF SIERRA LEONE’S LEADING
Advice to young lawyers from
Wara Serry-Kamal, Partner at
Serry-Kamal and Co: “Be bold
and do not be afraid to take
risks and do things in your own
Quality and Comfort in the City
Mariama Wurie, co-founder of Foodies
Salone: “The industry you seek to
disrupt may oppose change, especially
when that change comes from a Sierra
Leonean woman. Remember your
difference from the norm is a gift.”
Kathleen Jah, Creative Director
of architectural firm, Arch -
advises women in STEM: “Do
not be afraid to take the first
step and keep walking even if
Fatu Yumkella, MD of Dalan
Development Consultants suggests
that consultants “invest in the time and
resources that will help you offer the
best product available.”
Mariama Myers, MD of Estu’s
Construction, encourages women to
keep this in mind: “Hold on to faith, be
tenacious and keep it professional.”
Welcome to the New Brookfield’s Hotel, Freetown,
Sierra Leone’s New Premier Hotel.
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The hotel is a 2.5-kilometer taxi ride from the city
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hotel boasts of a tastefully furnished restaurant and
Modern conference facilities and meeting rooms with
high quality audiovisual technology and
complimentary high speed internet are available.
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comfort in mind
√ Secure perimeter walled Hotel property with
√ Car parking available on property
√ Fully air conditioned / Climate controlled
√ Complimentary High Speed Internet Access
√ Solar powered high pressure hot water supply
√ Full Service Restaurant and Bar
√ Complimentary breakfast