By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
Development trends in Sierra Leone are still fraught with controllable challenges due to the inability of the leaders to map out locally workable ways and utilize them to make the country address the vicious circle of unemployment and poverty. People are hungry, tired and frustrated, and could no longer understand the gibberish theses often read by their leaders to show how hard the government is working.
For many years our politicians promised all sorts of projects interventions; but always fail to produce results, a situation that could be addressed if measures are taken with the consideration that the country can address the challenges, if the people are empowered to take ownership of the implementation processes. Unfortunately, few people in society have over the years assumed the role of taking the decisions, that they are the only ones that can change things and have persistently forced their decisions in the livelihood of people while deliberately frustrating all efforts to protect the rights of the people to access public information and demanding of their leaders to be accountable.
The catchphrase by politicians is always ‘our people have our full support’. No, in no way have elected officials stand for the rights and needs of Sierra Leoneans, instead it’s the poor and vulnerable people who always make the sacrifice – year in and year out – hoping that a day will come when an individual will steer the already broken system to the right path.
A friend of mind once asked me, why is it that your government always exaggerates projects that they know will not be operational in the long-term? I was somehow surprised by the question; but then the truth dawns on me considering the uncountable occasions politicians have come out in the public to make unfulfilled promises and bragging about ‘the construction of a state-of-the-art’ facility, which when completed always fall short of the expectations, but rather another source for pilfering of public money.
Today, Sierra Leoneans are facing the same old political challenges that have grounded the country’s economy to a point the people no longer believe in themselves to be able to progress as a people. The only option for most is to ‘jump ship’ for greener pastures. Ironically, while the country ranked among the poorest of the countries in the world, it stands among the countries that produces surmountable amount of diamonds, iron ore, bauxite and rutile.
This therefore, brings to mind the question, what benefits has the mining industry brought to Sierra Leone if not ravaging of the land, impoverishment of property land owners, destruction of the environment and causing a senseless war that raged for 11 years?
The mining industry has failed the people of Sierra Leone and it’s now necessary for drastic measures be taken to fix the broken pieces of the economy. And one better way to do that is investing in people through the provision of standard technical and vocational institutions, empowering young people that are able and willing to go into the agricultural sector as well as govt. commitment to provide seedlings and incentives for farmers.
This is why the government should think about wide-scale investment in human resource and infrastructure. Unfortunately our government talks big about prospects in technology; but is not doing the work to make technology works. Sierra Leone isn’t ready yet for technology to thrive and empowering everyone in the country.
Technology is empowering farmers in most parts of the world; but mechanical farming needs huge investment and commitment from the government to ensure farmers in Sierra Leone, who are mostly in subsistence farming, expand their work and be more productive. Unfortunately, the politicization and regionalization of the implementation of projects, such as few farmers receiving government support based on their political affiliations has become the norm with all sorts of names tagged to white elephant projects.
For instance, during the Tejan Kabbah government, a foreign government donated few tractors to the Ministry of Agriculture through the Government of Sierra Leone to be distributed to farmers; but most ended in the hands of government representatives who don’t even had a garden. The situation cuts across all public sectors in society with no sincere commitment by the government to provide the political will for undeterred checks and balances of the public sector.
It is time the leaders realize that technology isn’t just about reading thesis and hiding behind satellite booths sponsored by international partners to showcase how technology could be the driving force for economic growth; but rather creating the enabling environment for innovation to be accessible, sustainable, and locally applicable for it to be a success.
Therefore, investment in infrastructure to ensure sustainable electricity supply in urban and rural communities, protecting local investors from unfair competition in the local market, ensuring support and protection of artisans, and guaranteeing the right of every Sierra Leonean to government loan through the government affiliated commercial bank, (if registered and operating a business that employs Sierra Leoneans), will see an exponential growth of the country’s economy.