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FTInsight Feb 2016

  • Text
  • Koroma
  • Bank
  • Leone
  • Cassava
  • Ebola
  • Insight
  • Sector
  • Agriculture
  • Opportunities
  • Economic
  • Investors
  • Freetown
The only magazine for those who do business in Sierra Leone feature: JS Koroma of Union Trust Bank The Mooc revolution 4 investment opportunities Rebecca Perlman on renewed opportunities plus polls, surveys and a look at the start up experience in Sierra Leone

Change Maker continued

Change Maker continued Freetown Insight Contributor And in recognition of his role and contribution towards the development of the Finance and Banking Industry in the country, he was honoured with the National Award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Rokel in 2007. In the period that followed he focused on expanding the bank. There are now 12 branches around the country and several agencies. But his sense of public duty intervened once again when President Ernest Koroma approached him to be Presidential Secretary with Cabinet rank. Unsurprisingly, given his previous experiences, his wife was opposed to his decision to accept the position. “I felt I had to oblige President Koroma, but I found the politics too difficult to handle. I’m not a politician he says. I carry no party card. I come from Tonkolili – we’re known for being troublesome and I’m always blunt – what you see is what you get,” he says with a half-smile. His commercial persona is in stark contrast to his political one. He admits that he is considered to be aloof in political spheres, but he is clearly a man who commands great loyalty. Many colleagues at UTB have worked with him since the bank’s inception, and the bank’s board is composed of very able, very successful and longstanding colleagues. I ask what his staff call him. “The boss,” he replies. He is only half-joking. He has passed his financial aptitude to all three of his sons, which I suggest indicates that economics is in his DNA. He doesn’t dispute this. He is a man who pursues the logical and most efficient solution to the problem. The problem that is currently vexing him is the country’s private sector culture: “Sierra Leoneans are risk averse. We don’t invest. We want everything today and don’t take the time to invest in building institutions. You cannot build a viable economy if you don’t invest.” Investor, sometime public servant, banker, f inancier, trail blazer – Koroma comfortably wears a number of hats, but the one that best f its is perhaps that of patriotic economist. People regularly describe him as a mentor and he has personally invested in Aureol Insurance, Rokel Bank, Standard Bank and set up a discount trading house. “This is my country,” he explains. “All I have is here. My ambition is to create an institution that is sustainable and contributes to the improvement of lives of Sierra Leoneans. I want to create jobs and opportunities in my discipline. I want to leave a business legacy.” Improving self-suff iciency in Sierra Leone through agriculture By Professor Monty Patrick Jones, Minster of Agriculture The Ministry of Agriculture’s overarching objective is to create policies for selfsufficiency that will decrease the importation of food into Sierra Leone that we can produce ourselves. We presently import a wide range of foods that we can produce locally such as rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes and chicken. For example, we import chicken wings from Brazil and cattle from Guinea. Our immediate priority is to increase production and productivity, focusing on rice and cassava and cash crops such as cocoa and oil palm. Rice imports have accounted for between 15-45 % of consumption in recent years, for a crop that we can produce locally. Agriculture employs 70% of Sierra Leone’s workforce, primarily women, the majority of whom are subsistence farmers. We can increase production and labour productivity by introducing machinery into the system, particularly small scale machinery such as power tillers and weeders that can be incorporated into the smallholdings that represent the majority of our farms. We also aim to improve the productivity of our soil by ensuring that fertilisers and other chemicals reach the farm gates. In order for that to happen, our Agribusiness Centres (ABCs) have to become more effective. There are approximately 400 around the country; if we can get 52 to be fully functional, they will serve as hubs for fertilisers and machinery. They can also support farmers to become better organised by helping them form cooperatives and encourage them to open bank accounts. Some of the challenges our agriculture sector faces, are also to do with the organisation of the Ministry of Agriculture. There is a clear need to streamline our projects and programmes, and reduce duplication and fragmentation. FT Insight 11 Encouraging investors in the commercial agriculture sector to work with us will be key to developing our agriculture sector, and I have already welcomed delegations from several countries on this subject. We have enough land, our weather is conducive and we have a readily available source of water through rainfall and rivers. I envisage large scale commercial farms, strategically placed, surrounded by smallholders who can serve as out growers, benefitting from the technical support and easily available market provided by the commercial agricultural operation. It is important that we begin to adopt and understand the importance of our local agricultural processing. Within Sierra Leone, we can and should be able to add value to rice and fruits, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, ginger and cashew nuts for example, creating products that will command a higher price, improve incomes and reduce the poverty of our country. We live in a world of ever diminishing resources and Africa is well poised to emerge as its future breadbasket. In Sierra Leone, we are still effectively a blank canvas and this gives us a greater advantage in the adoption of sustainable and green technologies. It is an opportunity that we must now leverage. Professor Monty Patrick Jones – Honourable Minister – Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security is co-winner of the prestigious 2004 World Food Prize based on his discovery of the genetic process to create the New Rice for Africa (NERICA). He has spent 26 years of his career life in Africa working in international agricultural research for development institutions. He returned to Sierra Leone in July 2013 to work for the Government as Special Adviser to the President. Professor Jones has received several national and international awards including the Niigata International Food Award in 2010. He received honorary doctorate degrees (Honoris Causa) from Universities in the UK, Belgium, Sierra Leone and South Africa. In 2007 he was named as one of the 100 most influential persons of the World by Time Magazine. www.ftinsight.net

James Koroma Union Trust Bank Leone Cassava Ebola Insight Sector Agriculture Opportunities Economic Investors Freetown

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James Koroma Union Trust Bank Leone Cassava Ebola Insight Sector Agriculture Opportunities Economic Investors Freetown