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Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Highlights Challenges of LDCs, Suggest Ways to Surmount Them Through Transformation and Growth

Doha, Qatar, Monday 6 March 2023 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has highlighted some of the challenges of Least Developed Countries, LDCs, and suggested that new models of development will generate new pathways to prosperity that are more sustainable, resilient and irreversible to attaining middle-income status.

“Recent global headwinds and downturns, occasioned by the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the geopolitical crisis in Europe have had adverse consequences on the three Fs – food, fuel, finance – in LDC economies. Supply chain disruptions, limited development and investment finance, and the tightening of monetary policies in advanced economies, have all put a further squeeze on LDC economies.

“These have all been deeply destabilising and undermining the peace and stability of the economies and societies of LDCs. Of course, we cannot afford massive economic stimuli for regenerating our economies.

As Co-chair of the segment on the thematic round tables titled “Structural transformation as a driver of prosperity in the Least Developed Countries”, the President noted, in his opening statement, that he was deeply honoured to have been part of the engagements at the Fifth United Nations Conference on LDCs.

“With an abundance of extractive and natural resources, arable land, youthful populations, what can LDC economies do to overcome such volatility and transform their economies?”, he asked, noting that LDCs had lagged behind in agricultural sector output, value-addition and manufacturing, innovation and the digital economy while the service sectors remained relatively undeveloped.

“The unfortunate realities for most economies of LDCs are low productivity and low growth figures, high debt distress, high inflationary pressures, price hikes, food and energy insecurity, weak to subdued levels of investment especially in infrastructure, and low levels of human capital development, among others.

“What are the drivers of transformation and growth? How do we promote economic buoyancy and resilience? Is it through pro–growth–pro–productivity policies and regulations? Is it through investing in people, innovation, and growing a digital economy?

“Is it through improving the business ecosystem, developing a self-reliant and competitive private sector, strong indigenous participation, favourable investment policies, emphasis on science and technology, the modernisation of infrastructures, and growing the service sector of our economies?”, the President further asked.

He urged that in the Decade of Action and as they sought to implement the Doha Programme of Action, they could ask themselves what concrete steps would help them as leaders to transition from poverty and low productivity to prosperity.

He, therefore, proffered that, “As the world veers from one crisis to the other and global economic challenges stiffen, structural transformation in LDCs would require the full support of all stakeholders and partners. While the primary responsibility to adopt policies and strategies that are supportive of structural transformation is with the LDCs themselves, development partners have an equally important role to play.

“I call on all partners from both the Global North and the South to support the LDCs’ quest for structural transformation by promoting technology transfer, foreign investment, infrastructure development, ease of trade and transit, and to enhance productive capacity development.

“Surely, this support will lead to lasting dividends not only for the LDCs but for the entire world. Collectively, we look forward to hearing the thoughts of these eminent panels of experts and discussants this afternoon,” he said.

President Julius Maada Bio later closed the session by sincerely thanking participants for producing great key takeaways, assuring them that they had what it took to transform their economies because of the abundance of both human and natural resources.

He said what they needed were shifts, prioritisation, and alignment to support optimal economic growth.

“To achieve this, I call for continuous engagements, deeper collaboration and firm solidarity. Let us build networks across the board to change the structure of our economies. We have been reminded that structural transformation is a key driver of prosperity in LDCs and it can help us break free from the vicious cycle of poverty, informality, volatility, and vulnerability. We have built significant momentum here at this roundtable,” he concluded.

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