PRESIDENT Julius Maada Bio has the exorbitant privilege of leading Sierra Leone for the third time in his life in a country that was once embroiled in an 11-year-long, brutal, economy-damaging, fratricidal civil war out of its 62 years of political independence from Britain. He is not, on that account, complacent or harbours the slightest sign of the feeling of entitlement.

His impassioned January 30, 2024, address to the nation on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Medium-term Development National Plan 2024–2030 (MTNDP) had all the elements and sound of a committed statesman. In it, President Bio unfolded his administration’s readiness to build on the gains of the New Direction Agenda, which, apparently, won him the hearts of voters and his second tenure as the democratically elected leader in the June 2023 elections.

Going forward, President Bio has his sights set even beyond the MTNDP’s expiration date of 2030. He is galvanizing his administration to look further ahead and envision that the new National Development Plan will propel Sierra Leone towards a middle-income aspiration by 2039. Hereunder are excerpts of President Bio’s thoughts, revealing how the fired-up civil servants and government functionaries under his inspiring leadership hope to achieve that lofty developmental goal.

Thoughts and reactions to the successful re-election for a second term

My re-election as President for a second and final term serves not merely as an endorsement of my leadership but as a solemn testament to my government’s commitment to fashioning a Sierra Leone that thrives as a united, peaceful, and dynamic bastion of hope and opportunity. I speak of a nation where our aspirations for abundant jobs, food security, quality education, and equitable healthcare are not mere dreams but manifest realities; where justice and opportunity are not the prerogatives of a few but the birthright of all.

The thrust of Sierra Leone’s new Medium-Term National Development Plan 2024-2030

Our new Medium-Term National Development Plan 2024-2030 is designed to set a future of unparalleled prosperity and progress. It is a well-thought-out national development plan that serves as the backbone of our society, ensuring that the aspirations of our people are not only heard but also meticulously addressed. In it, we have been holistic and inclusive, ensuring that every voice is heard and every concern is addressed. The plan brings together a variety of viewpoints, all coexisting in harmony, each playing a role in fostering progress and sparking innovation. Democracy thrives only when supported by real development, which is the foundation for freedom, equality, and prosperity. Our government recognises that the path to development is paved with challenges, and it is our resolve to face these challenges head-on, guided by the principles of equity, fairness, justice, and sustainability. We also recognise that our National Development Plan should empower and liberate our people, not constrain them. Our goal is to dismantle barriers, enabling visionaries to envision boundless futures, creators to innovate freely, and citizens to thrive unimpeded. Our government is driven by a deep-seated belief in the extraordinary potential of our people to rise above adversity and transform the world around them.To actualise this grand vision, it is crucial to have synergy and alignment across all levels of government. Public servants, politicians and other citizens must work in unison to improve the quality of life for our people.

Commitment to unity, peace, development, and prosperity

Our government is dedicated to promoting unity and collaboration through our new national development plan. This plan is key to building confidence among our citizens and essential for attracting and fostering investments that drive our nation’s growth and development. We strive for predictability and seamless communication, free from the constraints of personal egos, to guide our nation along a path of development, peace, and prosperity. We are building a new Sierra Leone. In our transformative journey, we acknowledge the vital importance of innovative financing in overcoming infrastructure challenges. We aim to find creative solutions and build strategic partnerships with various allies to achieve this goal. Our mission is to transform areas of economic challenge into havens of economic opportunity. As we implement these development aspirations, it is crucial to emphasise the vital role of peace and unity. This applies not just to our personal and public lives but also to the collaboration and harmony among the different branches and agencies of our government. We must ensure synergistic collaboration that encompasses top-down and bottom-up approaches, fostering cohesion across institutions and between the public and private sectors. This One-Government approach is the cornerstone of our strategy. Every master plan, every initiative, and every process must align with this overarching goal, ensuring that our collective efforts resonate with unity and purpose. Our successor National Development Plan embodies the collective Sierra Leonean aspirations for an inclusive, green, middle-income society by 2039. Our ambition is resolute: to cultivate a nation that is food self-sufficient by 2030 and one that is endowed with a skilled and healthy workforce characterised by inclusivity and gender sensitivity. We envision a Sierra Leone that creates at least half a million new jobs for our youth by 2030, in both skilled and unskilled roles. We also aim to foster a cashless economy marked by increased financial inclusion, vibrant E-government and a public administration system that thrives on efficiency and innovation. We will expand energy production and develop an advanced transport system, seamlessly connecting production centres with markets.

How the new National Development Plan aligns with the dictates of regional and global frameworks

Our new development plan is informed by regional and global frameworks, including the ECOWAS Vision 2050, the African Union Agenda 2063, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, embodying a realistic and comprehensive vision for our nation.The preparation of our new development plan is a significant milestone in translating our revised New Direction Agenda into tangible results that will uplift the lives of Sierra Leoneans. In doing this, there is continuity as the new plan builds on the achievements of the previous development plan and tackles unfinished business and emerging challenges with renewed vigour. We are steadfast in our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and realising the Africa We Want by 2063.

What are the Big Five Game Changers?

The new National Development Plan is informed by our Big Five Game Changers, which define the strategic priorities of our nation and people for the next five to seven years.They are the five pillars that will guide our national development trajectory. These priorities include the first, FEED SALONE, which has been prioritised as our flagship programme, addressing the critical issue of food insecurity and its implications for macroeconomic, social, and democratic stability. Food security, intertwined with investment in agriculture, is poised not just to feed our nation but to fuel job creation, propel economic growth, and alleviate the weight of poverty.

The second, HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT, aims at delivering inclusive skills and a healthy population.

The third, YOUTH EMPLOYMENT SCHEME, serves as a catalyst for social, democratic, economic, and national security. It promises our younger generation that their energy, passion, and ambition will find fertile ground in Sierra Leone.

TECHNOLOGY AND INFRASTRUCTURE, the fourth, which is self-explanatory, increases investment in these critical areas.

Finally, the fifth, TRANSFORMING THE PUBLIC SERVICE ARCHITECTURE, will promote efficiency and professionalism in the public sector.

These Big Five priorities are directly aimed at achieving Five Goals by 2030: (Goal 1) A food-self-sufficient country; (Goal 2) a highly capable labour force; (Goal 3): the creation of 500,000 new jobs for the youth; (Goal 4): a highly productive economy; and (Goal 5): a capable and effective public service.

Does Sierra Leone need or seek global support from partners and donors?

We envision that this new National Development Plan will propel Sierra Leone towards our middle-income aspiration by 2039. In this vision, we recognise the interconnectedness of our global fate. As daunting as it might seem, our mission cannot be realised in isolation. It is an urgent call for collective effort, mutual trust, and a rekindling of global solidarity.

How does the government of Sierra attract investors, and what incentives are on offer?

Sierra Leone is endowed with abundant natural resources, a growing young workforce, a strategic geographical location, and the status of the 3rd Most Peaceful Country in Africa. These present a myriad of opportunities across various sectors, making the country a strategic destination for investment. I invite credible investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators to leverage the plethora of opportunities  in key growth sectors, including agriculture, mining, energy, ICT, infrastructure, health, and tourism, to earn huge rewards. With our growing consumer market, investors can benefit from our new initiatives, policies, and reforms to liberalize the economy and make it entrepreneur-friendly. These include several preferential trade agreements, duty-free access to the Mano River Union market of more than 50 million people, and the ECOWAS market of over 420 million.

Achievements of the New Direction Agenda, his administration’s previous Medium-Term National Development Plan 2019–2023

The success of our previous development plan is evident in the significant strides we have made. Our flagship Free Quality School Education Programme led to a substantial increase in school enrolment, achieving gender parity in primary and junior secondary education. Our devotion to education was unambiguous: over 800,000 new learners were introduced under our aegis, and we significantly augmented domestic educational funding, ensuring it constituted an average of 22 percent of our national budget. We championed an ethos of radical inclusion, providing unfettered and tuition-free access to quality primary and secondary school education for all — be it expectant girls, adult learners, children from our most vulnerable communities, or those with disabilities.We have made remarkable progress in reducing maternal mortality rates. Our anti-corruption measures have yielded impressive results, significantly improving our global corruption ratings. My government has also elevated gender parity and women’s empowerment to unprecedented levels. The enactment of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Bill has increased female representation in appointed positions and in the Parliament. Our achievements during our first five-year term show our commitment to addressing any challenges that could hinder our national development goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. I thank our citizens for their perseverance and resilience during our first five-year term and the sustained cooperation from our development partners in implementing the previous Development Plan for 2019–2023 amidst unprecedented regional and global economic headwinds.

China-Sierra Leone relationship

After 52 years of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, we are in a good position to characterise China as a reliable and dependable partner. On several occasions, through thick and thin, they have always supported us. Where they promised, they have delivered without making unnecessary demands. And when we are in need and ask for help, as we normally do, they always respond positively. On our part, we have also been dependable partners. Where we promised in terms of support, we have delivered. We want the kind of cordial relationship we have with China to be an example for the rest of Africa. Clearly, China has been a steadfast ally of Sierra Leone, and we deeply appreciate the continued support and commitment demonstrated by the Chinese government and private sector towards our sustainable economic growth and progress.We would be happy to establish similar win-win relationships with other countries and development partners. Sierra Leone is open to all.

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