Following wide-spread speculations and questions by members of the public on the number of international trips the President is making lately, the State House Press Secretary, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi has assured the press that the trips were made for very strategic reasons meant to benefit and enhance growth in key sectors of Governance.
Speaking at the weekly Ministry of Information and Communications press conference on Thursday, March 21st, the Press Secretary to the President said that their trip to U.S.A. was essentially meant to strengthen the country’s educational sector and match it with other educational systems around the world. He confirmed that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is now proud to have our Njala University as an affiliate college.
“Stakeholders from M.I.T will be helping Njala University with many facilities which the students from Njala will directly benefit from. The previous government never treated education with the seriousness it deserves. President Bio’s is doing his best to see that he leaves a very good legacy that all Sierra Leoneans will be proud of” he said.
Mr. Sandi went on to assure the press that the government under the leadership of President Bio is making serious moves around the world and creating good partnership with development partners and donors to give Sierra Leoneans the best in his tenure in office and may want to allay the fears of Sierra Leoneans about the wrong interpretations that are being given to the President’s trips around the world.
On the Morocco trip, he said it was more of business relationship building with prospective investors to ensure that the lives of Sierra Leoneans are secured in the future. He confirmed that an MOU was signed between Sierra Leone and the Bank of Morocco and follow-ups are being made to fast track procedures. He also informed the press that the Energy sector and Water supply in the country, among other things, were seriously discussed in almost all the meetings the President held in Morocco.
“We were also able to convince private sector investors in Morocco that Sierra Leone is a very convenient place for successful investments and those that we visited in Morocco are coming and are coming very soon to start serious investments” Sandi affirmed.
However, this medium has spoken to many Sierra Leoneans, including business people, who’ve complained about such trips and also the nature of the delegations. Most of them have made the point that there are High Commissioners and Ambassadors on the ground who should or whose task is to identify opportunities, speak to the business community there and identify the opportunities.
“I think the problem is if you do not take people who are on the other side of the fence and who had experienced the bottlenecks…who’ll be able to know what we really need? This is what we need to do. When we say we have our ducks in a row, this is what it means because the work must happen way before the actual trip. But you can ask some of these business people, who go on these trips as to whether, they find them productive or not” a popular business man In Freetown complained.
Other schools of thought engaged by this medium believe that the Ministry of Trade and Industry has the responsibility to keep tabs and maintain a data base on businesses, companies and personalities and they are the ones and business people that should be invited to be on the President’s entourage for these trips.
Most people also believe that there’s no prior work conducted as to what opportunities exist for Sierra Leonean businesses and whether the business community in Sierra Leone is interested in those opportunities. They say they are not sure whether the trip to Morocco and other places for business opportunities actually represented the opportunities that exist in Sierra Leone for foreign companies to invest.
The Press Secretary may have cleared the air but until these visits achieve more than just photo shoot opportunities, the questions will increase.