By Lizzy Okoji
The government of Sierra Leone will intensify its economic and trade cooperation with Nigeria with special emphasis on trade and investment promotion.
Dr Solomon Gembeh, High Commissioner of Sierra Leone to Nigeria made the call on Thursday in Abuja during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
According to Gembeh, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have had a long standing relationship which could be further strengthened with increased trade, fostering economic development and regional integration, a core vision of ECOWAS.
He explained that Sierra Leone was rich in over 25 mineral resources including diamond, gold, oil, among others and was waiting for Nigeria’s expertise to harness such resources which would create wealth for both countries.
He also listed agriculture and tourist activities as other viable areas of exploration to Nigerian investors.
“Our President, Julius Maada Bio believes that we have been in independence for about 58 years and it has not taken us anywhere, and so, he wants the diplomats to be the gateway for economic developments of our country.
“The concept of economy diplomacy was born on the idea that my primary function here is how best to I can sell Sierra Leone and the Natural resources that we have.
“We are endowed with too many resources for a country of 7.5 million. We have 25 known mineral resources and all these things that you need in the West.
“There is no area of economic activity that anybody would like to explore that we do not have, you want to set up refineries, hotels, entertainment centers, anything, we have it there.
“We have virgin lands waiting for Nigerians to be a part of this dream that we have in making Sierra Leone like a Singapore and you can be able to help us.
“Nigerians are very talented, you are the greatest economy here, you have a lot of people with money.
“If you have a population that has mineral resources like Sierra Leone to the tunes of trillions and a bigger brother like Nigeria is investing in it, it is a huge trade opportunity.
“If you have a business functioning in Nigeria, you can go put an extension in Sierra Leone,” Gembeh said.
According to Gembeh, Sierra Leone have very favorable and peaceful environment for businesses to thrive and an encouraging tax system for foreign investors.
He said that Sierra Leone was trying to woo more Nigerian and foreign investors to its country and so, heavy tax imposition would scare away investors hence, the reason for favorable tax rates on investors.
Gembeh explained that in the past, there were lots of “red tapes” with potential investors going through rigorous processes and documentations to invest.
The High Commissioner said that the current administration of Maada Bio has created an enabling environment whereby the restrictions for business are very minimal, a paradigm shift called “new way of doing business”.
He added that to this effect, cost of business registrations and other related payments have been reviewed and any Sierra Leonean caught taking bribe for business registration of foreign investors will be sent to jail.
Gembeh however stressed that the only requirement of the Sierra Leonean government was for Nigerian investors to hire a good percentage of Sierra Leonean youths to create employment for its citizens.
He explained that while foreign investors are allowed to come with expatriates, they are also expected to hire Sierra Leoneans as a way of job creation which creates a multiplier effect of growing the economy.
He said that a number of Nigerian investors like Aliko Dangote have invested in Sierra Leone with well known and thriving businesses.
He also added that the cultural heritage between Nigeria and Sierra Leone was so deep and strong that it makes it easier for both countries to do business.
Gembeh said that a strong trade relations between Sierra Leone and Nigeria would further increase trade and integration within the West Africa Sub-region.
He said that Nigeria- Sierra Leone business and ties when successfully harnessed would be the pillar of the sub-region. (NAN)