On Thursday 6th June, 300 attendees convened at Herbert Smith Freehills’ offices in London for a full-day trade and investment summit aimed at increasing the economic ties between the UK and Sierra Leone. The forum provided a platform for the Government to present its economic agenda across a number of key sectors, alongside representatives of the private sector that are operating in the Sierra Leonian market and could offer their experience and insight to the assembled audience.
We would like to thank our partners; the UK Department for International Development (DFID and Herbert Smith Freehills for their dedication to this event and continued commitment Sierra Leone.
We would also like to thank our sponsors; Gerald Group, Westminster Group, Sierra Rutile, De La Rue, INTL FCStone, Aggreko, Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB), Empower Africa and Royal Air Maroc, without whom the event would not have been such a success.
0800-0900: Registration and Refreshments
0900-0920: Opening Remarks
James Palmer, Senior Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills
Atam Sandhu, Chief Executive, DMA
HE Tamba John Sylvernus Lamina, Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to the UK
HMA Guy Warrington, British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone
Rachel Turner, Economic Development Director, UK Department for International Development
0930-0950: Keynote Address
HE Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone
0950-1100: Session 1: Economic Overview & Financial Sector Development
Chair: Emmanuel Kwapong, Economist; Africa, Standard Chartered Bank
Hon. Jacob Jusu Saffa, Minister of Finance
Dr Ibrahim Stevens, Deputy Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone
Hon. Priscilla Schwarz, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice
Christopher John Forster, President, Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (SLCCIA)
1100-1130: Refreshments Break
1130-1140: Hon. Harriett Baldwin MP, Minister of State, UK Department for International Development
1140-1200: Session 2.1: Trade & Investment and Economic Diversification
Chair: Hannah Ambrose, Herbert Smith Freehills
Launch of the fourth edition of “Sierra Leone: An Investor's Guide”
Rebecca Perlman, Herbert Smith Freehills
Gavin Davies, Herbert Smith Freehills
1200-1245: Session 2.2: Trade & Investment and Economic Diversification
Joe Demby, Presidential Adviser on Economic and Financial Policy
Sheku Lexmond Koroma, Chief Executive, Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA)
Michala Mackay, Chief Executive, Corporate Affairs Commission
1245-1315: Spotlight on Tourism
Hon. Memuna Pratt, Minister of Tourism
Peter Fowler, CEO, Westminster Group
1315-1415: Networking Lunch
1415-1530: Session 3: Investing in Energy & Mining
Chair: Memuna Forna, Editor and Founder, FT Insight
Cyril Grant, Project Manager, Ministry of Energy
Julius Mattai, Director General, National Minerals Agency
Timothy M Kabba, Director General, Petroleum Directorate - Office of the President
Craig Dean, Chairman and CEO, Gerald Group/SL Mining
Robert Hattingh, CEO, Sierra Rutile
1530-1600: Spotlight on Agriculture
Chair: Baroness Northover, Member of the House of Lords
Hon. Joseph Ndanema, Minister of Agriculture
Patrick Blake, Managing Director, Tropical Farms/Dole
1600-1630: Spotlight on Infrastructure
1630-1700: Closing Remarks
Chair: The Rt Hon. the Lord Hain, Member of the House of Lords and Former Minister for Africa
HMA Guy Warrington, British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone
Rt Hon. Tony Blair
Hon. Nabeela Tunis, Minister of Foreign Affairs
1700-1800: Gala Drinks Reception
On behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone, and in partnership with the High Commission of Sierra Leone to the UK, the High Commission of the UK to Sierra Leone, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and legal practice Herbert Smith Freehills, DMA welcomed a delegation of senior representatives from the Government of Sierra Leone for the UK-Sierra Leone Trade & Investment Forum 2019. HE Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, led the delegation, opening the forum with his keynote address on the partnership opportunities between the UK and Sierra Leone.
The opening from James Palmer (Herbert Smith Freehills) and Atam Sandhu (DMA) set the scene for the event on continuing to strengthen the relationship between the UK and Sierra Leone, by supporting business to create sustainable economic growth and human capacity building. They thanked the supporting partners, Herbert Smith Freehills, and other donors and highlighted the event’s over-subscription as a sign of excitement around Sierra Leone’s business potential.
High Commissioners HE Tamba Lamina and HMA Guy Warrington both emphasised the strength of the longstanding partnership between the UK and Sierra Leone and significant work carried out on both sides. They discussed how creating a climate for private sector investment would result in a ‘win-win’ for national interests and investors; this is an exciting opportunity to build a deeper relationship between business and the public sector to help take development and trade to the next level. The UK reaffirmed its commitment to this ‘New Direction’ and its support in attracting overseas investment.
Rachel Turner (DFID) reiterated the UK’s position as a long-term partner that aims to achieve sustained job-creating growth for poverty alleviation, Sustainable Developing Goals (SDGs) and enabling Sierra Leone to become aid-free. Thus, the UK will support through good business, not charity or philanthropy, but by creating opportunities for the growing youth jobs market and building on Sierra Leone’s strong economic foundations. Development through business is part of the UK’s continued outward engagement.
HE Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, introduced the key elements of the country’s ‘New Direction’ policy: expansion and diversification of the economy; education, jobs and skills for youth; sustainable development and supporting women in leadership; reducing the environmental footprint; encouraging tourism; developing the £3bn potential in agriculture; and improving power capacity and infrastructure as a critical enabler for development. Overall, this is a large project to reform the business environment and transform institutional capacity in the on-going fight against corruption to address uncertainty. The ‘New Direction’ represents the commitment of a receptive and listening government that is growing and responding to the needs of investors – it is an exciting opportunity to do business with trust and confidence in a government that cares.
The first plenary session, Economic Overview and Financial Sector Development, discussed how to develop Sierra Leone’s economy through finance and tackling corruption. It noted several key points; Firstly, the private sector as a vehicle for macro stability, revenue generation and job creation, can be enabled by removing barriers to trade and improving access to skills and infrastructure. Secondly, the Bank of Sierra Leone has been working on policies to tackle inflation, to support financial inclusion and to put in place frameworks for ease of business. Thirdly, Hon. Priscilla Schwarz discussed the government’s commitment to tackling corruption through regulation and law.
Hon. Harriet Baldwin MP, Secretary of State for both the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Department for Intentional Development, officially released the UK’s £30mn, six-year “Invest Salone” project that aims to realise the benefits of international trade for economic transformation. This is part of the UK’s long and deep relationship with Sierra Leone for shared prosperity on this shared planet.
The second plenary session, Trade & Investment and Economic Diversification, began by discussing the need to create fair deals for economic and social development using the rule of law to drive change and reduce risks in the investment environment. The contributors from Herbert Smith Freehills launched and introduced their 4th Investors’ Guide for Sierra Leone (June, 2019) that supports the private sector and long-term development as part of the firm’s commitment to law driven by purpose.
Then the following panel introduced the diversification strategy of the government of Sierra Leone which aims to improve market access and make the country a development hub by developing human capital through public and private infrastructure, technological innovation, policy and institutional capacity building. Panellists highlighted to need to diversity the economy by supporting the large growth potential of agribusiness and fisheries whilst also encouraging geographic diversification for inclusive growth.
A spotlight on tourism then highlighted the wealth of tourism opportunities in Sierra Leone that offer a vital way forward for diversification and investment in human capital. They provide an opportunity to re-brand the country and target areas for socio-economic transformation: youth employment and infrastructure. Panellists discussed the need to attract direct flights to Freetown and further improve airline security. Peter Fowler (Westminster Group) announced plans for a high-quality international hotel.
The third plenary session, on investing in the mining and energy sectors, introduced Sierra Leone’s geophysical survey designed to better understand possible mineral deposits. Creating reliable, affordable and accessible power in order to build and enabling business environment was then presented This is to be achieved through a power corridor to achieve universal access by moving away from vertical generation and improve sustainable renewable power generation; energy for the people and business. Given Sierra Leone’s natural resource wealth, the panellists emphasised the need to add value from extraction within the country so that the government could retain royalties; this has been supported by new licencing rounds and a roadmap to help develop policy initiatives. Panellists from the private sector noted the need to invest in infrastructure and improve logistics for mining, oil and gas.
Baroness Northover then chaired spotlights on Agriculture and Infrastructure. Agriculture was emphasised as an essential part of diversification, building human capital and inclusivity for economic growth. Sierra Leone has a favourable climate and soils that are ready to be capitalised on as part of deep transformation to generate stable jobs. Agribusiness is promoted as one of the ways forward for this, engaging in multiple value chains to improve profitability through partnership.
Improving infrastructure was a running theme throughout the various sessions of the forum and this spotlight reaffirmed the need for stakeholder collaboration to radically transform the quality of Sierra Leone’s infrastructure for improved efficiency, employment opportunities and generation of a business-friendly environment. Development of a bridge between Freetown and Lungi that will last for 120 years shows the country’s commitment to this. Dr Hiyan Sindi noted the significance of science and innovation for poverty alleviation.
In the closing remarks, The Rt Hon. Lord Hain highlighted the continued partnership between business and government, the UK and Sierra Leone.
Rt Hon. Tony Blair praised the new government on their commitment to democracy and the people themselves as a way to promote inclusive development and attract investment opportunities. These opportunities will pave the way to future development, the building of both government and human capacity within Sierra Leone.
Hon. Nabeela Tunis officially closed the forum, referring to the passionate and rewarding sessions of the day. Sierra Leone’s ‘New Direction’ is one of optimism, peace, stability and hope that is part of the government’s commitment to the private sector to drive open growth that has respect for human rights and democracy.