Sierra Leone’s export industry can best be described as nascent. We are import dependent with a systemic trade deficit.
Sectors such as commercial agriculture need substantial investment to realise their export potential.
One sector with clear export potential is the services sector. In February last year, we at Insight magazine attempted a survey to find out about whether there was much export of services from Sierra Leone. We didn’t generate much interest in the subject.
However a recent anonymous op ed highlights the lack of opportunity Sierra Leone’s home grown service sector is getting from within the country.
Sierra Leone’s services sector holds significant promise and could be an important source of export revenue but it must be given support to become internationally competitive. Read anon’s piece below for a frank appraisal of the status quo.
GIVE OUR SERVICES SECTOR A CHANCE PONDER Mi TOTS By Anon It is well known that Sierra Leone as a nation produces very little and almost every single one of the daily necessities of living and livelihood in our country is imported. This piece is not about your village. We know they grow their own rice. We are talking about the other staples - peak milk, engine oil for that tractor, and everything in-between - including this vital pieces of technology that connect us all, internet... transportation, , phones etc. The norm with previous administrations to have a preference and embracing and awarding contracts to companies with little or no link to Sierra Leone, with the exception of a one-room rented office at Percival street, a printer and laptop - not forgetting a fan for when place warm for the bigman. Apart from the fact that there are indigenous companies with the same or better pedigrees... not even a small consideration or thought is given to the word NATIONAL that is used so carelessly in many of these BID documents and EOI adverts you see flooding the pages of our local news papers, hardly leaving space for the art of readership. A case for reference.... SLRTA awarding Courtville a contract to produce drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration, and fighting tooth and high heeled shoes to make sure the contract did not go to a Sierra Leonean company. NATIONAL ID, Sierra Leone PASSPORT, NATIONAL DRIVERS LICENSE, NATIONAL this en that.. a misnomer or wilful case of miss-presentation? We hear debate on the radio and on other argument platforms about our export potential, and/or the lack of.... Commodity prices up, iron ore down, oil possible, drilling continues, African Minerals, Rutile, Shandong, Bauxite, Vimetco....etc...etc...etc... *What about Services?? YES SERVICES* Service exports is an important emerging trend in global trade. Many traditional manufactured product exports increasingly contain technology that requires installation, troubleshooting, maintenance, and repairs. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) is a potent reminder of this. Crucially AfCFTA also liberalises services trade. This is crucial because services constitute roughly 60 per cent of Africa’s GDP. In Sierra Leone, we import our services like we import just about everything else. I will name a few just to bring us current and create the premise... Courtville – a Nigerian Company doing business in African States and exporting services to Sierra Leone - was contracted by SLRTA to provide the printing of licenses and registering of vehicles. SUBAH – a Ghanaian company exporting IT services to Sierra Leone - Contracted by NATCOM for international calls Gateway Services. ZENITH BANK, GTBANK, ECOBANK, SKYE BANK - Nigerian banks exporting banking services to Sierra Leone. SONATEL- a Senegalese company working with ORANGE to bring telco services management to Sierra Leone. CICA Motors – a Senegalese company operating as the importers of Toyota. IIS- ACTIVA – a Nigerian Insurance company exporting insurance services to Sierra Leone.. Q-CELL - a Gambian company exporting telecoms services from the Gambia to Sierra Leone. We have seen competent and strong Sierra Leonean companies challenged in their own backyard market by foreign owned companies, beaten and dominated with the help and aid of contracts from government agencies and parastatals. It is all too too common and it’s considered almost normal that a Sierra Leonean has to find a foreign partner to be considered for a public sector contract, instead of the other way around. IBM's first major piece of business was given to it by the US government. The same with MICROSOFT and many other of the innovative tech startups in the American economy. Soon as the American Government shows interest in what you do, or awards you a supply bone......your company has reached the break even. Guaranteed. Imagine a Ghanaian or Lebanese company controlling our international call gateway. Affront? Sacrilege? Bo NOT even a sniffle or sneeze about NATIONAL SECURITY? You serious? With Presidents Bio's election, we see an opportunity for transformation and empowerment. The Office of the Chief Innovation Officer could oil that transformation. We hope this new office will have an oversight and vote control to instill in the government a semblance of Salone First, so we can change the landscape a bit or die trying. We appeal Ministries and MDAs to follow the leadership of His Excellency and give Sierra Leoneans a chance. We expect to be guided and disciplined and bayo bayo until we can EXPORT our services to our neighbours. In 5 years we want a head quarter building in Sierra Leone and have offices in Gambia, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria..... even if nah small room sef...Wans me name write dey en ah get fan and printer. It will get to a point and i see a bid or EOI in a Liberian newspaper and i want to bid for it, the first they will ask is WHERE HAVE YOU DONE THIS BEFORE? USAI? Nah TIM BUK 2 ??.... We should stop tempering the dreams of our young entrepreneurs. If we continue in this manner, there is no way our country will empower indigenous and budding firms and grow to become an exporter of services. A new direction, a new thinking, a new era and a chance for change should embrace empowerment of our services industry so ROKEL BANK can open up in LAGOS, BANJUL, ACCRA and Sierra Leone Commercial Bank will have a presence in Liberia all by the end of President Bio's first term. And no worries... when we erect the glass tower at Lightfoot Boston Street... you will be invited. Encouraging? Borku Talk talk you say....?? Take a look at National Petroleum (NP) now with 2 locations in Liberia flying the SALONE FLAG. Will other Sierra Leone owned company's follow the NP footprint? To give it a try, we will need all the help and cheering from our Government. Aunty Efua, God bless her always reminds us. IF OSE NOR SELL YOU, STREET NOGO BUY YOU ©️Candid Opinion