Sierra Express Media | 8 December 2009
Author: Alhaji Jalloh - Saudi Arabia
On the successful conclusion of her Hajj, the indefatigable Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Haja Zainab Hawa Bangura wasted no time a few hours before she left the shores of Saudi Arabia last week in wooing potential investors for the country in accordance with the mandate given to her by H.E the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.
Sierra Leoneans would recall that His Royal Highness, Prince Saad Bin Abdul–Aziz S.J Al-Saud had upon the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Haja Zainab Hawa Bangura dispatched two of his main lieutenants, Project Coordinator and Adviser to the Prince, Abdul Karim Bin Muhammad Al- Taheni and Minister for the Prince, Ahmed M. Al-Magrebi to Sierra Leone. These two high profile officials had made two substantial business evaluation visits to the country on behalf of the Prince, early this year and past October.
The visits culminated in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministries of Transport and Aviation, Tourism and Culture, and Agriculture and Food Security, among other ministries, for the construction of a new airport and the development of the Sierra Leone Airport Authority (SLPA), the refurbishment and rehabilitation of the Cape Sierra Hotel to a first class hotel and the production of abundant rice throughout the year for home consumption and export respectively.
Following the signing of the MOU, the Honourable Foreign Minister had also written a letter of invitation to the Prince to visit Sierra Leone next year (date to be disclosed later) as guest of His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.
In a meeting with the two envoys of the Prince who flew from the national capital, Riyadh, over 1,000 Kilometers to meet the Honourable Foreign Minister at her Jeddah Conference Palace Hotel, the latter reiterated the desire of President Ernest Bai Koroma to receive Prince Saud in Sierra Leone in order to actualize the various MOUs signed with the line ministries, all of which she said, are meant for the socio-economic development of Sierra Leone.
She further assured the envoys that her government was ready to cooperate with them in all aspects to ensure that the contents of the various MOUs signed are fully implemented. She also took the opportunity to inform them about the just concluded Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Forum in the UK which attracted over 1,000 participants, including the Prince of UAE, the Prince of Bahrain, CEO’s of reputable companies across the world, the OIC, Saudi Fund etc.
She explained to them that in 2007, the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency was created to assist investors by creating a “one stop shop” for starting a business. She further told the two high profile officials that last year, the International Finance Corporation’s “Doing Business” guide ranked Sierra Leone high in terms of ease of doing business in West Africa. Sierra Leone, she added, is also top when it comes to investor protection with flexible tax rates. “A new investment incentive has been put in place creating a level playing field for investors,” she assured.
Responding, the Adviser and Project Coordinator, extended greetings from the Prince, whom he said was “unavoidably absent” due to other urgent overseas engagements. He told the Minister that the Prince is desirous of investing in Sierra Leone and therefore seeks the cooperation of the government for the successful implementation of the project signed in the MOU.He further informed the Minister that he and his colleague, who is the Minister for the Prince, have painted a rosy and fruitful picture of investment opportunity in Sierra Leone, adding that, when the traveling arrangements to Sierra Leone for the prince have been finalized, His Highness, will be accompanied by a group of 9 Gulf Cooperation and Middle East investors, all of whom will invest in various sectors of the Sierra Leone economy.