Senior executives of Invest Salone, the UK aid flagship trade and investment programme in Sierra Leone, briefed Sir Philip Barton, the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), during a virtual tour on 3 December 2020.
The FCDO officer met three members of the Invest Salone team – Team Leader Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie and two senior executives from Nathan Associates, Mark Thomas and Suba Sivakumaran – who briefed him about growth and investment, focusing on opportunities and constraints around trade and investment in Sierra Leone, including ways for the UK to help.
Sir Philip was also informed about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the private sector and Invest Salone’s role in supporting the private sector in tackling barriers to trade and investment.
The UK Foreign Secretary has set out seven global challenges where UK aid can make a major difference. Invest Salone is addressing the final challenge on trade and economic development, which is to “build trading and investment partners of the future,” including “helping countries to trade, create better investment environments, infrastructure and access to finance.”
Team Leader Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie explains that Invest Salone had engaged the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Finance around the need for public–private dialogue to improve the investment climate in Sierra Leone.
“So when the Ministry established coordination structures to respond to the economic threats, it asked Invest Salone to facilitate the Private Sector Platform, the main vehicle for public–private consultation and collaboration. Through this platform, Invest Salone facilitated dialogue and undertook rapid pulse-taking surveys,” he says.
Invest Salone’s intervention has helped make the case for easing the restrictions hampering business operations and for escalating to the ministerial level the ongoing issues in the Freetown port and trade across borders, leading the government to task Invest Salone with helping overcome bottlenecks and hold-ups to reforms.
“As a result of this COVID-19 investment climate work, we recognised the importance of the Budget and Finance Act 2021 for business survival, recovery and growth,” the Team Leader adds.
“We therefore facilitated the first structured interaction between a wide cross-section of businesses and the Finance Ministry to ensure those deciding on the Act were aware of business concerns. Eleven of the business asks made it into the bill, which is a promising start.”
The programme has also responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country by developing a Challenge Fund, Compete Salone, with a COVID-19 window to address supply chain weaknesses and innovate new business models that open opportunities for inclusive growth and exports.
On his virtual visit of 3 December, Sir Philip also met with senior Government of Sierra Leone ministers and officials and was briefed by the FCDO Sierra Leone team, headed by High Commissioner Simon Mustard.