The British Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone

Relaunch Event on 27th November 2018

Speech by the Chairman, Idrissa kamara

The Deputy Minister of Finance and other Government Ministers here present

Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corp

The Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone

Heads of Parastatals and other government officers

Heads of other Chambers of Commerce

Members of the British Chamber of Commerce

Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me join HE Guy Warrington in welcoming you all to this relaunch event of the British Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone.

The British Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone (BCCSL) was formed on the 17th Feb 2012. It was registered as a company under the laws of Sierra Leone.

Let me give a brief background of how The Chamber was formed; The BCCSL was formed following meetings between the Sierra Leone and British Government

It was agreed that the main Objective of the Chamber was to aid and encourage the development of trade, commerce and investment between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom.

The Formal opening of the Chamber took place at the HC residence on the 2nd of March 2012. At that meeting a Bilateral memorandum of understanding was signed by Hon. Dr Richard Konteh and the British Government. Henry Bellingham, the then British Minister for Africa MP flew in and served as one of the keynote speakers for the event

Post the Launch, we set the Chamber at work. We linked with the London Chamber of Commerce and also engaged the Manchester Chamber.

During that period the extractives Sector was building up and new British companies were joining on the back of the Iron Ore boom. The future looked exciting and Sierra Leone at the time was one of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, this fantastic growth trajectory was short-lived. Sierra Leone was hit by what became known as the twin shocks-the collapse of iron ore prices and the Ebola epidemic with devastating economic and social impact. The major investment companies which happened to be all members of the Chamber suffered a great deal and struggled to find ways of ensuring safety and protection from this deadly disease for their workers and operating environment.

The Chamber in staying true to its objective to see this country develop away from aid, rose to the challenge. Like Guy earlier noted British interest has weathered the storm during other critical periods in the country and we were determined to demonstrate to the Government and People of Sierra Leone that the UK/SL Private Sector partnership that the Chamber seeks to amplify was here to stay. The Chamber responded in diverse way working with our membership, the Government and other stakeholders.

I will briefly highlight two major intervention initiatives.

The Chair of the Chamber then Clive Dawson represented the extractives sector and major investors with a new group to be formed called The Ebola Private Sector Mobilisation Group (EPSMG). As Chairman of EPSMG SL representing the BCCSL, Clive coordinated and chaired these weekly conference call meetings, networking linkages we had developed with Government and the society. This will come to be remembered as the most vibrant private sector response to the fight against the Ebola epidemic.

In another remarkable way, three Global British Institutions, Standard Chartered Bank, Herbert Smith FreeHills and Prudential worked relentlessly with SLIEPA and produced “Sierra Leone: An Investor’s Guide-A Private Sector Perspective on the Investment Landscape”. In their Joint letter to the publication; Standard Chartered Bank, Herbert Smith FreeHills and Prudentials stated that: “As global businesses with long-standing commitment to Africa in general- and Sierra Leone in particular- We are passionate about helping Sierra Leone recover and emerge stronger from the Ebola crisis. While challenges remain, the country offers tremendous potential, with strong underlying growth and investment opportunities. We are absolutely committed to working with the Government of Sierra Leone and international partners and investors to help the country reach its full potential, for the benefit of all. The Work in regenerating Sierra Leone will stretch well beyond the immediate aftermath of the crisis and will enquire commitment skill and imagination over the coming months and years. We hope then was that this investor Guide will grow and develop, and will serve as a useful resource for all those with an interest in helping Sierra Leone on its path towards economic recovery”.

We demonstrated and projected British Private Sector Investment and support then and saw the country triumphed over the Ebola scourge then. The country has since moved on and British interest and investment continue to support Sierra Leone economy recovery. The successful elections of March 2018 cemented the country’s democratic credentials and as the new Government looks at promoting direct foreign investment, we are here again today relaunching the British Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone under the theme “Sierra Leone is Taking a New Direction” to reaffirm the UK Private Sector commitment to the country.

The British Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone believes in the long-term investment opportunity presented by Sierra Leone and is committed to Strengthening Commercial ties between the Britain and Sierra Leone.

The Chamber in its broader context will be a driver for British foreign investment and a protector of existing British investment interest in the country. The Chamber will be working with the Government of Sierra Leone in improving the business environment by offering thought leadership and stimulating dialogue that will contribute to moving the country up the “Ease of Doing Business Index” and removing some of the more obvious barriers to investment.

Today, we are relaunching with a stronger commitment to continue to project UK Investment interest in Sierra Leone with the aim of charting a new path and creating a better and prosperous future for the people of this country. The Chamber will harness British capital, British expertise and open up access for Sierra Leonean business into the UK market. However, all of this would not have been possible without the effort of our pioneers and forerunners.

Let me take this opportunity to recognise:

Clive and Ann Dawson. Clive as the first Chairman worked relentlessly in promoting the aims and aspiration of the Chamber. Clive invested his time and personal financial resources to nurture and grow the Chamber during its early stage. Ann Dawson, his lovely wife and lifelong partner supported Clive throughout this period. Clive and Ann we are extremely grateful.

Chris Robert-Shaw Finance Director of IPC Tours Ltd and David Mansaray also Finance Director of Standard Chartered Bank both served at the Executive Committee and contributed positively. Chris and David have since moved on but we are grateful to you two.

Like Ann; Clive was supported by two dynamic and astute ladies; Hussein Yilla who was the then General Manager and Sonia Barlatt Administrative Assistant. Hussine we are extremely grateful and Sonia, we are blessed as a Chamber to still have you around as we forge a new path.

Finally, I will again want to recognise the effort of HE Guy Warrington for his relentless pursuit to get the Chamber going again and all other members of the Executive Committee that have worked tirelessly since July of this year; Sheka Forna, Sian Thomas, Clive Neel and most recently Terrence Williams and all other support staff from the British High Commission.

Sierra Leone is Taking a New Direction and as we relaunch the British Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone today, we are recommitting to the UK/SL Private Sector partnership and to the Government and People of Sierra Leone that we will continue to serve as a catalyst to rebrand the country and rewrite the business and economic narratives of Sierra Leone.

I thank you all