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FTInsight Feb 2016

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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

Early Years in Business

Early Years in Business Special Segment In: digest Made in Sierra Leone Morvigor (Sierra Leone) Ltd eyes overseas expansion By Unisa Dizo-Conteh Although well known for its raw materials, it is not often you hear about manufactured products made in Sierra Leone. Morvigor tea is an exception. It is manufactured in Sierra Leone, and almost all the raw materials including the Moringa Oleifera plant, are sourced there too. This year the company has its eye on export, with plans to break into the UK market. Dr Eva Roberts specialises in anaesthesia and is currently head of the intensive care unit at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Five years ago, she established Morvigor (SL) Ltd to produce Morvigor tea, a herbal tea rich in nutrients such as vitamins A and C. Since then the company has become one of the most successful small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Sierra Leone, initially creating six jobs, a figure which has increased by over 150% in the past two years. Orange agrees to buy Airtel’s operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone. The Corporate Affairs Commission Sierra Leone reveals there are 12,476 registered companies in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone’s last known Ebola patient was released from hospital. Morvigor’s journey started when Eva Roberts won the African Foundation for Development’s (AFFORD SL) Business Bomba Competition - Sierra Leone’s version of Dragon’s Den. The company received a business grant of Le 75 million (approximately ,000). In 2012 Morvigor also received 5,000 equity funding from West African Venture Funds, enabling it to scale up production and introduce four new varieties of tea. By mid-2014, the company’s turnover had increased by 20% compared to the same period in the previous year. Although this dropped during the Ebola crisis, the company has now returned to its previous growth pattern. The quirks and obstacles of Sierra Leone’s business environment presented signif icant challenges for the start-up business. Lack of reliable electricity drove up running costs and trained manpower was in short supply. “It wasn’t easy and it continues to be a challenging environment,” Dr Roberts says. “Finance, which most people focus on, wasn’t a major diff iculty for me. The main one was actually navigating all the hurdles in the environment including the off icials you have to see.” The Bolloré Group announces plans to spend 0 million to octuple the annual capacity of its container terminal in the port of Freetown, Sierra Leone, to 750,000 twentyfoot equivalents after volume rose 30 percent over the last four years. The newly reconstructed and upgraded Kenema Pendembu road was off icially handed over to the Sierra Leone Roads Authority by the ISU Engineering and Construction Company. FT Insight Like most Sierra Leonean businesses, Morvigor’s bottom line was hit by the country’s recent Ebola outbreak. Emergency measures imposed by the government to restrict the movement of people and prevent the spread of the virus, inevitably curtailed business hours, and a deal with a potential foreign investor fell through as a direct consequence of the Ebola outbreak. As part of her mitigation strategy Dr Roberts reviewed and transformed key operational aspects of her business. She reduced working hours and successfully negotiated with her employees to accept pay cuts to ensure business continuity. The Sierra Leone Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SLCCC) launched at the Bintumani hotel to help strengthen Chinese business entrepreneurs and coordinate potential investors. So what’s the direction of travel for this young company? Morvigor SL Ltd is presently pursuing a strategy of market diversification, with the UK as its first target. Dr Roberts initially identified ECOWAS as a potential market but has struggled to find suitable partners. The early years are tough for most start-ups, but Dr Roberts believes in her business and is convinced of the private sector’s importance to Sierra Leone’s economy: “Micro businesses are looking to SMEs to lead the way,” she says. “Equally, SMEs, like Morvigor, are looking to strategic partners to help develop their growth potential and drive healthy economic growth and wealth creation in Sierra Leone.” Unisa Dizo-Conteh is ABC UK co-ordinator. Tel: 0203 326 3750. Email: abc@afford-uk.org Twitter: @pacdizo In Q4 2015, Sierra Rutile records the highest quarter of rutile production and the highest annual production since the operation was restarted in 2006. 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