In a July 2016 interview I had with him, minister of finance, Momodu Kargbo looked at Mamamah as a concept beyond the airport alone. “Maybe,” he said, “in packaging this whole arrangement to the public, we have only been talking about the Mamamah Airport. It is a concept beyond the airport. A five miles radius has been delineated around which, a modern city is expected to develop, and ‘Six Mile’ is not far away from the Mamamah Airport. In Six Mile, there is already an Economic Zone, owned by Four Step. Not far, you get to the Rokel River. So if you take that whole area, it is an Economic Zone that is developing.”
It is refreshing that we have finally signed the contract and loan agreement for the airport with the Chinese. Funding comes from China, through EXIM Bank. Exim-Bank is the world’s third largest export credit agency, with a mandate to “implement state policies in industry, foreign trade and economy, finance and foreign affairs.”
The signing comes at a time that both Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China are marking two years since scaling up ties of friendship and cooperation to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership level, China’s highest level of cooperation. By December 2016, leaders of both countries also agreed to continue their bilateral and multilateral relationships with mutual trust, mutual respect and closer friendship. This remains the same and the ties have continued to produce encouraging results for both nations.
By 2016, we saw the two countries signed six cooperation agreements geared towards lifting their bars of cooperation. Both nations had to scale-up their bilateral relations in a bid to fully utilize the ten point cooperation package announced during the 2015 Johannesburg FOCAC Summit. The intervention by the Chinese in Sierra Leone’s growth process has been touching and impressive especially in areas of infrastructure, health and human resource development. That they are also providing funds for the new airport further strengthens the already existing and unbroken ties of friendship and cooperation.
President Koroma, in a 2016 interview told me, the relationship with China “has been mutually beneficial. Time there was when we supported China to get into the United Nations and we have always supported them in international affairs. They have also supported us; it is not just a question of the recent ebola. They have spoken on our behalf in the United Nations Security Council. I think it is a relationship that has grown up over the years and it has been based on mutual respect and trust.”
Having an airport on the mainland will help address a number of challenges posed to travelling from Lungi to Freetown. Glen Weisburd et el submit, in a work titled, “Airport Area Economic Development Model,” that, “As business markets become national and international in scale, airports are increasingly being viewed as catalysts for local economic development. Their ability to generate jobs and attract new business is being used in many locations as a justification for public investments in new airport construction and expansion.” (Mamamah International Airport Will Be An Economic Game-Changer In Sierra Leone-http://cocorioko.info). It will help put the country in a valuable position to compete positively in International Trade and Commerce. It also will help with job creation. Mamamah will also eventually provide the country with the opportunity to expand her capital city, as well as bring about growth like hotel facilities, new settlements, new public sector investment which will all help improve the economy.
Let’s get the work started; Mamamah is not just about an airport, it brings with it other growth packages.