With an innovative drive to rescue the country from poverty, Sierra Leone has hosted a two-day conference on strategic development of the micro finance sector at the Bintumani hotel in Freetown.
The technical advisor of micro finance in the Mano River countries, Kenyeh Barlay, recalled her days at the Social Action and Poverty Alleviation (SAPA) programme which was later transformed to NaCSA’s micro finance wing to build up the capacity of the micro finance institutions in the country.
She noted that, “micro finance is a very technical and complex issue that needs to be handled meticulously to service the economically active poor with the provision of soft loan scheme”.
Ms Barlay added that Sierra Leone still wallowed in poverty with high illiteracy rate, high infant and maternal and mortality rate and inadequate energy and power supply were some of the poverty indicators in Sierra Leone.
The representative from the ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, James Romeo Koroma, said “micro finance is no longer a charity organisation because it is highly commercialized to attract interest during repayment”.
He stated that his ministry played strategic, regulatory and directive roles to protect people’s money.
Mr Koroma went on to say that government sourced funds and supervised the micro finance industry in the country.
The deputy director of Micro finance Investment and Technical Assistance Facilities (MITAF), Alphonso Campbell, stated that his organisation helped government to support pro-poor organisations through technical assistance.
He noted that they developed strategic partnership and leadership with a provision of grants and loans to micro finance institutions.
Mr Campbell added that, “MITAF has four community banks and six NGOs as partners with 57, 000 clients”.
On the issue of interest rates charge, Mr Campbell argued that Sierra Leone now operated a liberal economy where clients are given an opportunity to determine their interest rates. “in the liberal economy there is no interest rate cast,” he said.
He concluded that there was a plan to put together a conceptual frame work of business plan for clients.
Davison K Kanu, head of the micro finance at the Bank of Sierra Leone, observed that there were many poverty reduction tools and that micro finance was just one of them.
He explained that the central Bank served as a referee in financial industry, adding that they supervised and promoted financial policies.
Project officer NaCSA micro finance, Francess Kondor, stated that base on service delivery at SAPA the government of Sierra Leone deemed it fit to select them to execute the chiefdom micro credit scheme in 149 chiefdoms in the country.She said her unit was highly understaffed but noted that after the midterm review there would be a prospect of recruiting more staff to boost her unit.
Francess Kondor concluded that SAPA had 90% recovery and 100% recovery on the chiefdom micro credit scheme.