Elections tend to create uncertainty about the direction of the economy. As a consequence, they often have an adverse effect on the business environment.
Customers, partners and government agencies enter a wait-and-see mode until after the elections, when it is clear who they will have to do business with, and what the implications will be on demand, investment plans and regulation.
Investors take less risk and will delay making decisions until the results are in. All legislative decision making is put on hold. This can make it difficult for businesses that are dependent on certain legislation to make plans.
The uncertainty can cause currency fluctuations, putting pricing pressures on goods and services sourced from overseas. As Sierra Leone imports most of its goods, we’re particularly vulnerable in this respect.
But for some savvy entrepreneurs, election season is boom time. Here are some sure-fire winners:
T-Shirts, caps and scarfs
No self-respecting politician would attend a rally without thousands of supporters in political party colours. Caps, T-shirts with the relevant candidate’s face and name front and back, and this year a matching scarf are standard for rally-goers. Suppliers of branded T shirts, caps and the rest of the merchandise that is de rigueur for political party supporters, must be coining it.
Billboards, banners and posters
If you can’t bear to see 8-metre high images of your face plastered on every surface, then get out of politics. Campaign teams seize every opportunity for new banners, billboards and posters with different images and messages to keep their candidate in the eye of the voter. Even Valentine’s Day provided Dr Samura Kamara’s team with a unique, if slightly bewildering opportunity to keep the banner and poster businesses in profit.
Photography and videography
Politics is not for the camera-shy. Every political appearance will be captured by a phalanx of photographers or videographers. If you have a talent for photography, now is the time to capitalise on it.
Uploading, downloading, phoning and texting. Political activity burns through units, especially with the surge in the use of social media in Sierra Leone. Orange and Africell, must be ringing up the profits?
It’s drive time for the transport companies. Those rent-a-crowd supporters won’t ferry themselves from rally to rally and suppliers of transport - coaches, buses, Poda Podas, Kekes and okadas - will be working overtime with the daily demand for their services.
Catering services, hotels and hospitality
Keeping the campaign teams rested and refreshed will provide profit-making opportunities for hotels and hostelries on the campaign trail. They will no doubt be studying the campaign calendar, stocking up on food and drink and revising their rates upwards in anticipation. Even street-side vendors of snacks and drinks stand to make a mint when the campaign carnival comes to town.
Supporters and opponents are fickle and capturing their attention with new political jingles, campaign or protest songs is testing the creativity of Sierra Leone’s song writers, recording artists and studios. Behind the catchy beats and witty lyrics, there is always a serious message. Political songs are produced to persuade and influence. We’ll only know how successful they are, when the ballot results come in.
Our presidential candidates expect their speeches to be heard by thousands of people. Purveyors of reliable PA systems will be ever in demand, but if your equipment gives out half-way through the candidate's rousing words of wisdom, don’t ever except to receive a repeat call.
Power can be elusive.
Megaphones, vuvuzelas and whistles
Campaigning consists of a lot of noise. Basically anything that is strident enough to attract attention is guaranteed to become part of the campaign.
The less said the better.
Rent a crowd
Not all supporters are motivated by political passion and campaign teams who who want to persuade their candidate of his or her popularity have been known to resort to rent-a-crowd to boost numbers.
Fabric featuring the winner's face will be in huge demand when the results come in, and tailors will be working round the clock to whip up outfits for the victory celebrations. If you're prepared to take a punt on who you think will win - and order in yards and yards of bespoke fabric, you might just make your fortune.