Freetown, SIERA LEONE – Sierra Leone’s Chief Minister, David M. Sengeh, inaugurated 50 state-of-the-art buses named ‘Waka Fine Buses’ on Monday, January 29, 2024, at the Youyi Building compound in Freetown, marking a significant milestone in improving city transportation.
The launch, attended by high-ranking government officials and development partners, showcased the result of a $52 million grant from the World Bank and the government of Sierra Leone under the Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project (IRUMP).
These wheelchair-accessible buses, each accommodating over 70 passengers, will ply routes from east to west of the capital, addressing urban mobility challenges.
Rex Bhonapha, the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, who chaired the program, explained that the IRUMP project, initiated in 2019, encompasses various components, with the bus service being one key aspect set to conclude this year. Launching the buses is anticipated to catalyse other project components.
Minister of Finance, Sheiku Fantamadi Bangura, expressed gratitude to the World Bank for their support, emphasizing that the $52 million project is a substantial investment benefiting not only the transportation sector but also other integral components.
Alpha Amadu Bah, President of the Motors Drivers Union, appreciated the government’s inclusion of their sector in the project, acknowledging the positive impact on the transport industry.
World Bank Country Director Abdu Muwonge emphasized that the bus launch aligns with Sierra Leone’s new National Development Plan. He noted that the buses would generate employment for approximately 500 people, urging the government to collaborate on developing a National Transport Strategy.
First Lady Madam Fatima Bio emphasized the transformative role of ‘Waka Fine Buses’ in promoting gender inclusiveness, highlighting that around 50 women will benefit as drivers of these disabled-friendly buses.
Transport and Aviation Minister Alhaji Fanday Turay revealed that what initially started as a $20 million loan from the World Bank was transformed into a $50 million grant due to President Bio’s intervention. He underscored the pivotal role of transportation in economic development and emphasized how the buses would contribute to Sierra Leone’s thriving economy.
The buses will undergo a three-day test run starting today, after which Sierra Leoneans will be able to travel from east to west of the capital for a nominal fee of Le10. Chief Minister Sengeh highlighted the government’s commitment to enhancing citizens’ lives, emphasizing that the project includes the training and employment of 50 female drivers to contribute to easing transportation struggles in the city.
Deputy Mayor of Freetown, Kweku Lisk, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the significance of the ‘Waka Fine Buses’ in alleviating transportation challenges within the city. MJB/30/1/2024