Country FilesWestCountry Profile 2014: SIERRA LEONE

Sat,18Nov2017

Posted on Monday, 10 February 2014 11:21

Country Profile 2014: SIERRA LEONE

Partisan squabbles hinder progress

The holding of another peaceful and relatively fair democratic election in late 2012 could, and should, have symbolised the success of rebuilding Sierra Leone and its emergence from post-conflict status towards development, but the reality is a rather different and sadder story of increasing political division and bitterness.

 

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TOP SIERRA LEONEAN COMPANIES

> TOP SIERRA LEONEAN BANKS

 

ar-infographie-sierra-leone-2014Partisan squabbles hinder progress

A constitutional review process launched in 2013 is likely to prove controversial

Economic revival is highly dependent on iron ore projects, while other sectors lag

The holding of another peaceful and relatively fair democratic election in late 2012 could, and should, have symbolised the success of rebuilding Sierra Leone and its emergence from post-conflict status towards development, but the reality is a rather different and sadder story of increasing political division and bitterness.

The outcome–and political fallout–of Sierra Leone’s current constitutional review process is expected to cast a shadow over the political climate in 2014. Rumours abound that President Ernest Bai Koroma and his supporters in the All People’s Congress are contemplating a change to the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in 2017. At the same time several prominent leaders of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party have been targeted with charges ranging from weapons smuggling to theft of electricity. Regard less of whether the claims are just, the blatant antagonisation has made the political climate highly charged.

PAYING BRIBES

Corruption remains high,with the nation ranking low (123rd out of 176 nations) on Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. About 84% of the population reported paying a bribe, according to their separate2013 study. The Anti-Corruption Commission will continue to press charges against officials large and small, but it is doubtful that anyone convicted will serve jail time.

Youth unemployment remains a major issue, especially when considered in combination with the low literacy rate, at 42%, and the grossly inadequate school system, which continues to be a burden on parents’ purses. Economically, the current wave of high growth can be expected to continue, buoyed by iron ore exports, with the IMF forecasting rates of 17.1% and 14.3% for 2013 and 2014 respectively. Despite a slump in market prices for iron ore, the finance minister promises prudence with his fiscal policies. Domestic borrowing recommenced in the second half of 2013 and a longer-term bond should help keep inflation down in the single digits.

Desperate for more foreign direct investment (FDI) through its mantra of being “ open for business”, the government has been able to sign memorandums of understanding with foreign companies such as Zambia’s Copper belt Energy Corporation, China Kingho Energy Group and India’s Siva Group in the energy, mining and agriculture sectors, although the difficulties of working in the country are expected to hinder their efforts. In other instances, companies spend months and years talking to the appropriate officials and still fail to ink agreements.

AUCTION BLOCK

At least eight oil blocks were auctioned off in 2012, but more than half of the winners have no track record of off shore exploration, which raises questions about the selection process. Some of them have had trouble raising cash and the government’s petroleum unit has not spelled out what happens should a company lose its block.

Aid agencies, led by the UK Department for International Development and the UN Development Programme, struggle to help move the country forward in terms of sanitation, maternal and infant healthcare, education and governance, but many aid programmes are winding down or scaling back. The government’s claims to bead dressing the core issues are not convincing, and the declared need for some $6bn in donor support over the next five years remains unmet. Amid rampant poverty, it will take years for most Sierra Leoneans to join the middle class revolution underway in other African nations. The government’s much trumpeted ‘agenda for prosperity’ is little more than a rehash of an earlier poverty reduction strategy paper known as ‘agenda for change’.

Koroma, who formerly worked in insurance, lacks the charisma and authority of contemporaries like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Macky Sall or Alassane Ouattara, and critics say his judgement on cabinet members and an executive assistant is questionable. Heavy pressure at home from disgruntled citizens, as well as frustrated investors and donors, could yet force him and his administration to mature and to end the partisan squabbles as soon as next year, but most believe this may have to wait until the 2017 election. By then, the damage could be severe.

 

TOP SIERRA LEONEAN COMPANIES

No companies from Sierra Leone featured in The Africa's Report's Top 500 Companies in Africa 2013.



TOP SIERRA LEONEAN BANKS

No banks from Sierra Leone featured in The Africa's Report's Top Banks in Africa 2012.





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