Sierra Leone is a small tropical country of 28,925 square miles in dimension situated on the West Coast of AFRICA WITH A POPULATION OF APPROXIMATELY 3.8 million people. Known for her endowment of natural resources including natural harbors along the coast line, fresh fruits, fresh water and other supplies, it became a beacon for European explorers and trades. In 1462, the Portuguese explorer Pedro Da Cintra made his maiden voyage to Sierra Leone and arrived in the thick of the rains. He named her “SIERRA LYOA” meaning “LION MOUNTAIN”. The heavens poured as the story goes, the piercing voice of lightning and the roar from the thunder reverberated off the mountains, a unique feature of the bulge of West Africa overlooking what is today Freetown the capital city and the Atlantic Ocean, producing a ricochet effect that sent shivers down the spine of Da Cintra and his crew. In their ears and to their minds they heard these mountains roar like lions and so the name ‘Lion Mountain’ came about.
That apart it was indeed the serene but imposing characteristic of these wooded mountains, the purity of the mountain springs and the sheltered waters of the harbor and trade; this blend of a one stop shop, nature, beauty and literally paradise in its pristine grandeur is what attracted the likes of Da Cintra and an unending list of European explorers and traders even in those early days. This in turn drew settlers to the site where Freetown (a raised beach beneath the mountains of the western peninsula) is now to be found.
Present day Sierra Leone is divided into twelve districts, each and every single one blessed for want of a better expression with one or more resource(s). Freetown is found in the Western Area and is the hub of the country although the present decentralization drive might put an end to this. With this background, it should thus not come as a surprise that the first college and secondary school in the whole of West Africa was founded in Freetown. Once known as the Athens of West Africa because of the very high standard of academia in the country as a whole, she attracted and does as a matter of fact continue to attract students worldwide in pursuit of that peculiar brand of education. So vibrant was the economy, so grounded was the national currency that at one time it carried more value than that of the US dollar.
Although those advantages remain and others have since emerged, Sierra Leone unfortunately recently has had her own share of misfortune. The war that undid most of her developmental strides is now thankfully way behind us. The country now has a very functional democracy, a blend if you like of the systems of government at Capitol Hill and Westminster with obvious modifications to suit our peculiar needs and to ensure that which ever political party holds the coveted seat of power at State House, the government as a whole will be one for, by and of the people.
The Government practices a liberal economy and encourages investment with substantial incentives for investors. From tourism and agriculture right through to marine and mineral resources, there are opportunities for serious and responsible investors to engage in business and expect appreciable returns on their investments, whether in partnership with Sierra Leoneans or on their own. With the passing of the Investment Promotion Act No. 10 of 2004, remittance of foreign exchange by expatriate personnel, remittance of foreign currency earned by a foreign investor from a business enterprise, remittance of proceeds from the liquidation of a business enterprise and / or awards resulting from any settlement of disputes in respect of such business enterprise are all guaranteed. For the first comer expatriate staff who is being relocated to Sierra Leone, his personal effects as well as that of his immediate family are exempted from customs duty. Above all, no private investment whether domestic or foreign shall be expropriated or nationalized
in a direct or indirect manner except under the very special cases specified by Section (21) of the Constitution Act No. 6 of 1991, The Grand Norm of Sierra Leone.
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The country is endowed with an abundance of natural touristic attraction such as wild life, an unspoiled natural landscape, awesome scenery and diverse cultural heritage that presents vast opportunities for investment.
The coastline along the peninsula stretches far and wide with powdery sand and is littered with some of the best beaches worldwide; certainly unrivalled on the West African coast. Offshore is to be found unexploited islands with touristic potential. Our Bunce, Plantains and Sherbro Island have relics in good condition of the slave trade, pre and postcolonial history of Sierra Leone.
On this same note and a living example as it where of the diverse nature of the economic potentials of our history and custom, it is no surprise that the story of Sengbe Pieh a true son of the soil from Mende Country and his revolt against his capture from Sierra Leone and enslavement whilst onboard the Amistad inspired on the one hand the composition of an Opera and on the other a motion picture produced by Debbie Allen and directed by award wining director Steven Speilberg with renowned actors such as Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins forming the cast.
The story of Sengbe Pieh (see http://www.usinfo.state.gov) and the celebrated Amistad case has carved for itself a special niche in the history of the United States of America to the extent that it is regarded by historians as a defining moment in American history on the legality of slavery and no doubt is counted as one of the events leading to the outbreak of the American civil war. The picture of Sengbe Pieh is displayed in many public buildings and Afro-American institutions / colleges in the United States and accounts of his deeds are to be found in print and electronic form. His portrait is featured on the Five Thousand Leones Bank notes in Sierra Leones.
A replica of the original L’ Amistad involved in the Amistad incident of 1839 was launched at Mystic Seaport in 2000. It is a floating exhibition dedicated to the legend and owed and operated by AMISTAD America Inc traveling from port to port nationally and internationally. It is an icon of leadership, justice, and freedom, and has spurred stipulating debates on race related issues, equality and reconciliation. For comprehensive information about the Amistad incident, please see http://www.amistadamerica.org.
The capital Freetown is a picturesque and colorfully raised town overlooking the beaches and the Atlantic Ocean. The mountains themselves form a twenty-mile backdrop to the city and the peninsula is visible from far out at sea, a unique feature of the bulge of West Africa.
Further inland, in the central and southern regions can be found a wide variety of wild life such as birds, crocodiles, leopard, and chimpanzees (including the world famous chimp sanctuary at another of our islands, Tiwai Island). The Island is also home to exotic birds. At the southernmost point is found one of Africa’s remaining tropical rain forests, the Gola, said to be home to species of plant and animal life yet to be recorded.
The northernmost wild and cool mountainous terrain rises in some places to over 6,000 feet boasting of spectacular lakes, inland beaches and breathtaking waterfalls and the north east and east are the traditional homes of our diamonds.
The government recognizes and acknowledges in the Investment Promotion Act No. 10 of 2004 that land is vital to the operations of any business enterprise and has UNDERTAKEN TO TAKE ALL NECESSARY STEPS to facilitate an investor’s access to land investment this sector not being the least.
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The country boasts of deposits of bauxite, rutile, gold, diamonds and other precious minerals and metals, although she remains largely famous for her diamonds. Very recently, gem stone quality diamonds of eighty or more carats popped up in areas hitherto never known as diamond-producing regions relegating into oblivion scientifically produced surveys, other data and maps of diamondiferous regions in the country. As if that was not enough, the potential for oil and gas exploration has now become a reality and added to the list of natural resources. Seismic surveys were recently conducted and a bid round saw three successful companies being allotted blocks for oil and gas exploration. The rutile mine has been reopened and bauxite and iron ore mining is slated to commence soon.
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Sierra Leone has a coastline of about 210 nautical miles with over 200 species of fish identified in its territorial waters. Preventing over-fishing of our territorial waters, the preoccupation of certainly so many countries nowadays has never being our portion in that the present fishing output is still some 50% under the yield potential. The country has no rival on the West Africa coast for its marine resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Our very tasty shellfish whether it is shrimps, lobster or the like in particular are known to have adorned the plates of customers at the very best restaurants in Europe. The war has brought a reduction of about 60% of the pre-war level of industrial vessels and this trend has still not been reversed. Investment in this area is particularly welcome.
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The country is endowed with thousands of hectares of arable land. An annual rainfall lasting four to five months and possibly the highest in the world, guarantees a fertile landscape all year round. The traditional export crops are coffee and cocoa. However, this area could benefit from ideas to increase production and yield. There is great potential for the development of oil palm, sugar cane and banana plantations and also fast growing crops, such ginger. Sierra Leone benefits from the USA’s Africa’s Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which guarantees access to the US market and also has preferential access to the European markets. With the coming into force of the investment promotion act No. 10 of 2004, in addition to the advantages that can be seized under existing legislations and the African Growth and Opportunities Act, the Investment Promotion Act has removed the need for the acquisition of any license for export out of Sierra Leone for all goods produced locally. In effect the door is now wide open, with the government knocking on the doors of investors so to speak to make use of these opportunities.
The country is host to a leading biological rice research station that has recently developed a robust variety of rice to fit the requirement of our particular climate while ensuring a high yield. Timber which is found in the south and east of the country, remains largely untapped.
The present government favours investment in the agriculture sector with significant incentives for the investor as part of its food security commitment to the citizens during its present term in office.
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There is a National Commission for Privatization set up by the government to oversee the privatization of state owned enterprises (A list of these companies and their status can be supplied on request). There is potential for investment in the energy and power sector and real estate industry.
The Investment Promotion Act No. 10 of 2004 and other recent legislations, including the Banking Act, have provided an enabling environment for the private sector to flourish and thrive and in the process to ensure sustainable growth of the economy. The regional economic body ECOWAS (Economic Community of west African states) is forging ahead in its drive for a more robust integration of the economies of the countries in the sub-region, with a potential market of some 215 million people and with the establishment of a single currency for the sub region the potentials are enormous.
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The country was virgin territory in 1462 and it will appear is still is. However, this particular time in the history of Sierra Leone presents the government and the people with challenges that are being addressed with serious determination. The country is seeking to attract medium to long-term investors and not the short-term, quick profit types of the old. This new drive therefore, presents fantastic opportunities to the serious investor who wishes to diversify while getting real returns on his investments and at the same time contribute to the development aspirations of the country. Investment now in Sierra Leone will give value for money.