Workshop: Development and Transformation in Sierra Leone

At the request of President Koroma in April, a group of civil society leaders formed to organize a conference to discuss the future of Sierra Leone and to come to a consensus on the vision for Sierra Leone in 50 years. The purpose of this workshop was to craft the strategy for the main conference, slated to take place in mid-January 2012.

The five main themes of the workshop were Economic Governance, Natural Resources, Political Governance, Private Sector Development, and Social Service Delivery. Each theme had a theme leader who moderated discussions and debates prior to the conference with the general public and with the presenters at the conference.

Sessions

Economic governance

Omotunde Johnson, IGC Sierra Leone Country Director, gave a presentation on the challenges facing Sierra Leone, along with Alimamy Bangura of the Economic Policy and Research Unit at the Ministry of Finance. This session was chaired by Dr Samura Kamara, Minister of Finance. The session described Sierra Leone’s development over the past 50 years and also focused on a set of current recommendations for Sierra Leone. In order to increase its growth rate, presenters said that Sierra Leone must focus on three factors: the investment level, the efficiency of investment, and technological change and innovation. Good economic governance is essential to the implementation of new policies, especially good leadership at all levels of society.

Natural Resources

Tony Venables (IGC Steering Group Member, Professor of Economics and Director of the Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies), Joseph Kargbo, and Herbert M’cleod gave presentations under this theme. The session, chaired by Andrina Coker, Deputy Governor at the Bank of Sierra Leone, emphasized that natural resources are technically and politically difficult to manage. Each 1% increase in the share of natural resources in GDP is associated with a 0.09% decrease in growth rates. In fact, only 4 resource-rich developing economies have had long term investment rates above 25% of GDP: Botswana, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Best practice is well-understood in this area, although implementation is a challenge. Presenters stressed that natural resources are a means to an end for Sierra Leone and that the revenue should be used to invest in Sierra Leone’s economy in order to ensure the highest return to this asset boom.

Political Governance

Kelly Bidwell (Innovations for Poverty Action) presented on behalf of Katherine Casey (Stanford Graduate School of Business). Two discussants responded, Michael Kargbo and Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, and the session was moderated by Justice Salimatu Koroma. Ms Bidwell presented results of studies of quota systems for women in government and studies showing how the provision of information by civic groups can encourage voter action and enhance accountability. Ms Jusu-Sheriff said that Ms Bidwell’s presentation gives hope that even with a less educated populace, transformation can occur from the bottom-up.

Private Sector Development

Tavneet Suri (IGC and Assistant Professor of Applied Economics, MIT) and Omodele Jones (FJP Development & Management Consultants) presented, Trudy Morgan (International Institute of Engineers) chaired, and Claudio Scotto (Africa Felix Juice) and Melvin Foday Kamara (FINIC Enterprises) acted as panelists. Presenters stressed that improved access to a wide array of financial tools, easing skill constraints for large firms and local private sector innovation are essential for Sierra Leone.

Social Service Delivery

Rachel Glennerster (IGC, Executive Director, J-PAL), Bidemi Carrol (World Bank), and Victor Hastings Spain (Sierra Leone Water Company) gave presentations. Presenters discussed that access to health and education has improved sharply since the civil war, but quality remains a major problem. Making curricula more relevant and targeted at the level of the child was critical for improved learning and an innovative approach being tested in Ghana might be a way forward. Improving the accountability of educators and health workers was critical to address chronic absenteeism. Mass delivery of cheap health prevention can bring massive gains and alternative technologies can improve rural water delivery at lower cost.

IGC Background Reports