Koya Chiefdom, Port Loko District, Wednesday 26 April 2023 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has launched the groundbreaking ceremony for the development of the Special Koya Industrial Zone, SIZ-Koya, a joint venture between the Republic of Sierra Leone and ARISE Integrated Industrial Platforms, IIP.
The SIZ-Koya investment programme will be constructed on 1,600 hectares of land with a dedicated area for exports and it will be environmentally friendly, expected to be powered by 100 megawatts of solar panels.
“I am delighted to be at this event today, particularly as it is an actualisation of the vision I presented in my manifesto in 2018. It is also a welcome outcome of visits to Special Economic Zones in Gabon, Rwanda, and other countries, and of partnerships and business relationships negotiated in the best interests of Sierra Leone over the last five years.
“In my 2018 manifesto, I observed that it is possible to increase the manufacturing sector’s share of GDP from less than 2%, where it was then, to at least 5% in 5 years. We, therefore, zoomed in on this in our national development plan. With germane policy actions detailed in both our manifesto and national development plan, including improving the environment for manufacturing industrialisation, we have exceeded the 5% target we set ourselves, and we are now closer to double digit figures.
“With agro-value addition over the last five years, Sierra Leone is now a net exporter of vegetable oil and also exports margarine and other palm-oil-based products. Certainly, constraints around improving infrastructure and providing finance for entrepreneurs persist, but my government is determined to build a diverse economy by significantly increasing the contribution of a competitive manufacturing sector to GDP,” the President said.
President Bio observed that a stronger manufacturing sector in the country that had access to regional and international markets and, therefore, would support foreign currency inflows, adding that the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme had given custom-free access to the ECOWAS market.
He went on to say that the African Continental Free Trade Area, to which Sierra Leone had already acceded, would significantly promote intra-African trade and could enable the country access a range of other markets under the UK Generalised Scheme of Preferences, the EU’s “Everything But Arms” scheme, India’s trade-related South-South cooperation and more.
“My government has, therefore, developed a comprehensive Special Economic Zones (SEZ) policy that harmonises the needs of all stakeholders, provides an attractive, fair, predictable, stable, and sustainable ecosystem, provides for local skills development, technology transfers, and supply chains, supports the full embeddedness of feeder micro-entrepreneurs at the supply and local marketing ends, and ensures that the zones operate in accordance with international best practices.
“The Afreximbank, the Africa Finance Corporation and ARISE have all assured us of financing zone development, especially in ensuring that the facilities meet the highest international standards and, therefore, attract the highest calibre of private investors. Be assured that my government will play its own part,” President Bio reassured.
President and Chief Executive Officer of African Finance Cooperation, Samalia Zubairu, said Sierra Leone and the African continent were faced with a lot of challenges around food security, inflation and the exchange rate, among others. That, according to him, was a result of the fact that the economies had not transformed with lots of primary focus, lots of exports of basic raw materials, and significant imports of goods that could be produced in the country.
“The focus here today is to start another journey whereby we would embark on significant import substitutions, significant value addition, and value retention that will target not just Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans but the wider African continent. So, we have a couple of initiatives, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area and the ECOWAS Free Market, all of which don’t mean much if we cannot produce goods locally from our economy. And this is the beginning of a journey for that process to commence.”
“We are not going to spend as much time here in Sierra Leone as we spent in Benin. So, I want to assure you, His Excellency, that one of the things we are focused on is how to execute because we have paid special attention to lessons from other countries where we have implemented similar projects. This is going to be done in a very meticulous way because the choice of the factory we are going to construct is pharmaceutical, which is not inconsistent with or misaligned with the challenges we have faced in the past,” he revealed.
President of AFREXIMBANK, Professor Benedict Oramah, while acknowledging His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, said, “I am honoured to celebrate with the government and the people of Sierra Leone the groundbreaking ceremony for the launch of the Special Economic Zone.
“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the people and government of Sierra Leone on the auspicious occasion of Independence Day. On the eve of independence, you have decided that this programme will be launched. We thank His Excellency President Bio and the management and partners of ARISE IIP for their partnership with the AFRIXIMBANK on this historic investment venture.
“Since the mid-1990s, special economic zones have become opportunities for industry-led economic development across the world. Special Economic Zones have become key instruments of industrial policies, especially in economies that seek to industrialise their needs from agricultural products. During the last two and a half decades, the number of economic zones worldwide has increased from 500 in 1995 to about 7,000 in 2022, of which only 440 are in Africa,” he disclosed.
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