Owing to spending cut for Sierra Leone, Newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor David Francis has called on European Union (EU) and the International Community for stronger cooperation and partnership. Professor Francis made the call during Europe Day celebration at EU office in Freetown.
“More than ever before we believe in the spirit of cooperation and partnership with Europe,” Professor Francis appealed.
Prof Francis is former Chief Minister in the Bio administration, a capacity he retained for over three years before he was appointed to the current ministry. The UK whose funding for Sierra Leone ran into millions of dollars has slashed its spending by 80% following the outbreak of Corona Virus Disease aka COVID-19. The Foreign Affairs Minister seems worried about the small amount of funding Sierra Leone benefits from the international community at a time the country needs most.
“We see less and less funding from our development partners we depend on,” Professor Francis lamented.
The funding cut compels government closer to Europe for partnership and cooperation for economic recovery. The recovery process, Prof. Francis noted, would be slow, painful and uncertain for some countries.
“If the US$4bn UK aid were here, it would have been ploughed back into domestic revenue,” Prof Francis expressed a painful wish. The Minister however exercised understanding as Britain too was hit by the dangerous virus.
It was in this prevailing environment, Prof Francis said, Europe Day was celebrated. The Foreign Affairs Minister said partnership had been the driving force in Europe’s integration and defined its relationship with the world. He believes that partnership with Europe is a critical enabler for leading Sierra Leone out of the effects of the global pandemic. Prof Francis also hopes that a resilient society would be built out of Sierra Leone’s partnership with Europe.
A resilient society, he said, was one in which `people would begin to define themselves based on their cultural identity and economic programme.
The previous year, he went on, countries in the world including Sierra Leone built the ACP-EU Partnership Framework for Cooperation between the EU and developing countries. The new partnership replaced the “much-talked about” Cotonou Agreement.
Prof Francis however appreciated the EU for its support in diverse sectors of the country’s economy. Agriculture and food security, private sector management, access to education, youth employment and interventions in the private sector were key areas that received much of EU’s funding for Sierra Leone. The aid, the foreign Affairs Minister said, was a demonstration of a credible and sustainable partnership.
“We are proud of the excellent relationship from the European Union and we look forward to tapping mutual benefits,” he expressed hope.
Prof Francis also emphasised government’s renewed commitment in the EU noting that government was inclined to building a sustainable framework for economic growth and development through partnership with the EU guided by government’s six strategic priorities. It is towards the realisation of the objective that the Foreign Affairs Minister said he had set a new foreign policy for the New Direction Government.
“The policy is a movement from narrow economic diplomacy to development diplomacy,” he said.
He sees development as a national interest as well as a blueprint of the 38 manifesto commitments of the New Direction Government, the Medium-Term National Development Plan and the flagship Human Capital Development. The focus of national interest, Prof Francis said, was to build partnership for development. He premised his conception for development as a move that borders on the creation of opportunities for young boys and girls regardless of who they are and where they come from.
“From Falaba to Kenema, Pujehun to Kailahun, Karene to Bombali, Kono to Freetown, boys and girls must work from deprived environment to State House,” he said.
In the new foreign policy shift, he went on, Sierra Leone would be presented as a country of untapped opportunities. The move would prompt the country to take advantage of the global crisis and convert it into opportunities.
He made specific reference to the US$1.8 trillion infrastructure and Transformative project for job creation launched by the United States President, Joe Biden. He sees President Biden’s action worth emulating although Sierra Leone’s move would not be equal to that of the US because of her small economy.
Despite her weak economy, Prof Francis said, Sierra Leone as a small country could be smart, innovative and strategic to leverage on global challenges with a particular focus on climate change and environmental protection.
“These are strategic areas we need to create wealth and reduce poverty. Skills development and reduction of poverty is what a smart nation does,” he opined.
He assured Sierra Leoneans that government would embark on country beneficiation and value addition programmes in the mines sector to create wealth for Sierra Leoneans.
“Gone are the days when minerals are extracted in raw form and exported abroad,” he said.
Sierra Leone, the Minister continued, aspired to become a middle-income nation. The middle-income, he said, aspiration was enshrined in the New Direction Manifesto.
Prof Francis reiterated the phrase he made at a dinner at State House quite recently.
The phrase says: “SALONE DAE SWAGGER” and the nation swaggers smart, confident, dynamic, enterprising and hopeful to rise to the challenge of the global economic crisis.
The Foreign Affairs Minister drew the attention of the international community to the period Sierra Leone was hit by the Corona Virus pandemic. He said it was a period in which gains made over the years started to decline. The effects of the Corona Virus pandemic, no doubt, left Sierra Leone with significant challenges.
“Today, we talk about global crisis, Corona Virus, and economic depression challenging the world order and the global environment as we come to know it,” Prof Francis said.
Even Countries, he went on, that had been spared by high infection and mortality rate experienced effects of the virus owing to a globalised economy.
The effects, he said, were visible in Sierra Leone. “The country sees the reduction of domestic revenue and reversal of projection of economic growth rate,” he emphasised.
Despite the prevailing unpleasant economic conditions, Prof Francis is determined to work with the EU in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone and EU’s