The Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in collaboration with the West Africa trade hub and the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency yesterday convened a day one session to commemorate African Growth and Opportunity ACT (AGOA) day.
The Trade Minister David Carew who delivered the keynote address, stated that government through his ministry has put in place a number of structures to eliminate administrative barriers to business which include : SLIEPA ACT 2007, General Amendment ACT and Business registration ACT 2007.
With these structures in place the bureaucracies and bottlenecks in business registration in the country has reduced drastically from over 32 steps to 3 to 7 days.
“Government has started an integrated frame work project to increase competitiveness among business people in Sierra Leone” the minister said.
He pointed out that the AGOA information centre has been established at the Chamber of Commerce to abreast business entrepreneurs on available opportunities at the trade hub that could be useful by business people and farmers to benefit from AGOA.
The minister went on to say that 4 growth centers have been established in the country with a provision of equipment to add value their products so that they could compete at both local and international levels in order to attract wealth.
With regard to some of the challenges confronting farmers, he maintained that a lot of banking institutions have been established in the country backed by a number of microfinance institutions to support farmers and other categories of the country to make them wealthy.
“On the question of who determines the quality of products, Sierra Leone has a Standards Bureau where products are certified before exporting them” the minister said.
He stated that there is an ongoing UNIDO project that has the potential to create more jobs and to improve the standard of living for Sierra Leoneans.
Since 2000 AGOA ACT has offered a competitive advantage for African-made products to enter USA.AGOA gives trade preferences to countries that are making progress in economic, legal and human rights reforms. Under AGOA nearly 6,400 products can be exported from Africa to USA duty free until 2015.
The USA Deputy Chief of Mission in Sierra Leone Mr. Fredzer observed that AGOA is an USA programme that gives a lot of trade concessions for a number of products exported to the United State, but however noted that there is a laid down criteria for any country to qualify which include: human rights protection, democratic governance, corrupt free society among others.
He talked of basic infrastructure including energy and power, good road net work, health care delivery and the elimination of some cultural practices which he said could enhance wealth creation, adding that wealth could not be created by accident but by the policy innovative of those in authority.