09 Mar

Sierra Leone Elects New Leader in Close Race

Voters in Sierra Leone are going to the polls to elect a successor for President Ernest Bai Koroma in a campaign where an unprecedented number of political parties is making the outcome too close to call.

As Koroma nears the end of his second five-year term, 16 parties are competing in the elections in the West African nation. His successor will face the tough challenge of reviving an economy that’s struggling to recover from the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola and an iron-ore slump.

“There are certain things that aren’t going right,” Adama Deen, 38, said as he stood in line to vote at a polling station in the capital, Freetown. “We need change.”

Koroma chose former Foreign Affairs Minister Samura Kamara as the ruling All People’s Congress candidate to compete against the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party’s Julius Maada Bio.

While the two parties have dominated politics since independence, a newcomer, the National Grand Coalition, is expected to win a significant amount of votes, raising the probability of a runoff as no candidate is expected to secure 55 percent in the first round.

“The grip on power that the APC has is under threat,” Jamie Hitchen, an independent analyst, said by phone from Freetown. It is difficult to forecast “what will happen in the likely event of a runoff; it’s really hard to know how the other political parties will realign themselves,” he said.

Most polling stations opened by 7 a.m. on Wednesday. The outcome is likely to be announced by the weekend.

In 2012, Sierra Leone was sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economy as Chinese and U.K.-based investors began shipping iron ore, which took over from diamonds as the country’s biggest export.

But the double shock of a commodity price slump and the Ebola epidemic the following year triggered the collapse of the two iron-ore mines in the country and left the economy in ruins. The government’s also dealing with the aftermath of a huge mudslide in Freetown last year that killed about 1,100 people.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-07/sierra-leone-elects-new-leader-in-poll-seen-too-close-to-call

06 Mar

Sierra Leone to Vote Amid Discontent Over Ebola, Iron Ore

Sierra Leone will hold elections on Wednesday in which an unprecedented number of political parties will compete as discontent over the government’s handling of an economy battered by the Ebola outbreak has soared.

The vote marks a departure from a decades-old tradition that mainly divided the balance of power between the All People’s Congress and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, with a newcomer, the National Grand Coalition, expected to win a significant amount of votes.

In total, 16 parties have put candidates forward in the West African nation of about 6.5 million people.

“The election has the potential to seriously disrupt the two-party system that has existed in Sierra Leone since independence” in 1961, said Charlotte King, an analyst of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Middle East and Africa team.

As outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma has to step down after two terms in office, his party has named Samura Kamara, a former foreign affairs minister who hails from the same northern district as Koroma, to run as its candidate.

Julius Maada Bio, who briefly ran the country in the 1990s as head of a military junta, will run for the SLPP. None of the candidates is expected to win the 55 percent majority of the votes required to secure victory in the first round.

“Patience is wearing thin,” King said. “The lack of jobs tends to be citizens’ primary concern, particularly in urban areas, but poor public service and high prices for basic goods are also pressing issues.”

In 2012, Sierra Leone was sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economy as Chinese and U.K.-based investors began developing its iron-ore reserves. But the double shock of a commodity price slump and the worst-ever Ebola epidemic the following year triggered the collapse of the two iron-ore miners in the country and left the economy in ruins.

Economic growth was about 6 percent last year, from a contraction of 20.5 percent in 2015, according to the IMF.

While Koroma scored some successes — he improved electricity supply and implemented free health care for children under five — his government has been dogged by corruption allegations.

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05 Dec

Sierra Leone ‘Peace Diamond’ Undersells for Over $6 Million At Auction

A Christian pastor had given away the more than 709-carat diamond so the government could fund local development projects. Officials hope its sale will also help combat illicit smuggling in the modern industry.

Sierra Leone sold one of the world’s largest diamonds at an auction in New York on Monday, fetching a lower-than-expected price of $6.5 million (€5.5 million).

The egg-sized, 709-carat “Peace Diamond” is one of the largest ever discovered in Sierra Leone and between the 10th and 15th largest ever found.

The international diamond trading network that handled the auction, the Rapaport Group, said the stone had gone to British billionaire and jeweler, Laurence Graff.

Diamond for peace

The stone was dubbed “Peace Diamond” after the Christian pastor who found it gave it away in the hope it would allow the government of Sierra Leone to raise money for local development projects.

The government said Monday it will use the $3.9 million in tax revenue from the sale to fund clean water, electricity, schools, health centers and roads.

Officials said they also hoped the sale will help combat the West African country’s illicit diamond trade.

“Peace diamond” plays on the term “blood diamond,” which were diamonds rebel groups sold during Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war in the 1990s to buy arms and ammunition. In many cases, groups used slave labor to mine the stones.

The UN enacted a ban on all diamond exports from the country until 2003, but illicit smuggling continues to mark the modern diamond trade.

‘New day in Sierra Leone’

The government had expected the stone, the first ever to be sold at a public auction, to fetch $7 million.

Senior officials were nonetheless optimistic about the sale’s effects on the illicit diamond trade in Sierra Leone.

“It will encourage all the diggers back home,” said Chief Paul Ngaba Saquee, head of Sierra Leone’s eastern Kono district where the diamond was found.

“Instead of being ripped off in some dark corners when they find their diamonds, that they will bring it and put it on the table in front of the government,” he said, adding: “Maybe this is going to be the beginning of a new day in Sierra Leone.”

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201712050002.html

20 Oct

Africa Telecommunications: Orange Telco Launches In Sierra Leone

French telecommunications giant, Orange on Wednesday, 18th of October 2017 announced the official launch of its brand in Sierra Leone. This comes over a year after it acquired Airtel Sierra Leone.

“We are pleased to bring the Orange brand to Sierra Leone, bolstering our already strong presence in West Africa. The launch of the Orange brand confirms our confidence in the country’s on-going economic recovery and our commitment to bring all the benefits of new digital services to Sierra Leoneans in the framework of a fair, transparent and clear partnership that will enable it to be established over time,” said Bruno Mettling, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Orange Group and Chairman & CEO of Orange MEA (Middle East and Africa).

Following the rebranding, Orange Sierra Leone will rank with one of the world’s most powerful brands and stands to benefit from being part of a large international group. As part of Orange, it will gain access to the group’s expertise, technical know-how and an extensive product and service portfolio. With its considerable presence on the African continent, which is a strategic focus for the Group, the telco offers strong growth potential for its Sierra Leonean operation.

Extensive investment in networks to drive unrivalled customer experience

With a population of about seven million people, Sierra Leone has significant potential for growth in mobile services. Following the acquisition of the company, the telco has committed itself to improving the quality and availability of its services by venturing into untapped and underserved geographical areas, offering to the people of Sierra Leone the innovation that the telco is delivering elsewhere.

Earlier this year, the telco disclosed a modernization and expansion plan to enhance the reliability, coverage and quality of its network, and voice and data services. Since the acquisition, about US $33 million has been invested for that purpose and as of mid-October, the majority of investments have already been realised with 30 new radio sites on air and over half of the entire mobile network upgraded.

Read more: ORANGE TELCO LAUNCHES IN SIERRA LEONE