Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Understanding the Drivers of Growth in Africa

By H.E. President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma,
President of the Republic of Sierra Leone

I believe that only growth can lift Sierra Leone out of poverty and into middle income status. But the only way to achieve that is to get right the key ingredients of growth. This is why my priorities for the next five years are power, infrastructure, private investment and education:

First, power, because only stable electricity supply enables businesses to function, from the IT to entertainment industry. Our first step will be the construction of a second hydro power plant at Bumbuna by 2017, lifting capacity to 400 megawatts. In parallel, we will improve our distribution network, and work is already underway to construct thermal plants with a total capacity of 1,000 megawatts across the country over the next five years.

Second, infrastructure, because it is roads and ports and airports that let businesses maximise their opportunities from their goods and services, for import and export, home and abroad. The construction of a new international airport is already in the planning stage, and we will continue aggressive infrastructural development.

Third, private investment, because Government can only create the conditions for growth, but cannot itself sustain it – only private sector investment and businesses can. We have already begun to strengthen our own, domestic private sector through a new policy that will encourage foreign investors to participate in the strengthening of our local businesses.

And fourth, education for resilience and relevance in a globalized world. Education uplifts a nation, it raises incomes, it gives people chances to seize opportunities and meet the challenges of an ever-evolving world. Moreover, over three fourths the population of Africa are below 30 years, and their education is a prerequisite for their participation in and contribution to the greater growth of the continent.

Together, these priorities, if delivered, will transform Africa, and my country Sierra Leone into a vibrant, industrialised economy, and take it towards prosperity.

I said that Sierra Leone is blessed with natural resources. But that alone is not enough for sustained growth. And more importantly, that alone is not enough for growth to lead to prosperity across the population. What it requires is industrialisation – a strong domestic private sector, creating jobs along the value and production chain, and impacting directly on Sierra Leoneans – benefiting from the jobs, revenues and economic stability, and from the roads, electricity and infrastructure of lasting growth.

But Sierra Leoneans also have to be ready to benefit from this transformation. That is why I will also continue my reforms of health care, why successful agriculture – small scale and large scale – will remain the bedrock of our economy, why the civil service will continue to adapt and reform, and why I will continue to drive business reforms to make Sierra Leone internationally competitive.

And of course, we can make the most of the opportunity of our natural resource wealth only if we use it to transform our country for the better. That is why I will set up a transformation fund from our natural resource revenues that will earmark a share of these revenues for strategic investments.

We have started to develop all of these themes comprehensively for our next national development strategy, what I have called our Agenda for Prosperity.

My vision for Sierra Leone to achieve middle-income status by 2035, to continue to grow successfully over the next 25 years, is ambitious. But it is within our rights to be ambitious. Given our resource endowment, and our renewed determination, it is within our reach ... a nation on the move; a nation that is asserting its potential; a democratic country, tolerant, beautiful, and growing.

The above essay is an excerpt from President Koroma's keynote address to The Times Summit of Chief Executives and Political Leaders, which was delivered on his behalf in London on March 19 by Sierra Leone Finance Minister Samura Kamara. Click here to read the entire speech. The drivers of growth in Africa was the theme of the conference.