Freetown, Sierra Leone – The 2023 Opportunity Salone Knowledge Share Event, organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its partners, was officially launched on Tuesday, December 5th, at the newly renovated Brookfield Hotel in Freetown. The event, graced by top officials, saw the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Fatima Bio, take centre stage to highlight the importance of promoting local content initiatives for job opportunities and sustainable development.
In her keynote address, the First Lady conveyed a sense of honour and enthusiasm, emphasizing the critical nature of discussions surrounding local content initiatives. She underscored the need to include more women in agro-based industries and highlighted the importance of harnessing local talents and resources for sustainable development. The First Lady urged collective efforts to create an environment where local entrepreneurs can actively participate and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
Lady Fatima emphasized that prioritizing local resources leads to economic growth and meaningful employment, aligning with President Julius Maada Bio’s “Big Five Game Changer” for food self-sufficiency. She expressed optimism that promoting local content initiatives would not only stimulate economic growth but also result in a more equitable distribution of wealth and stronger societal well-being.
“Together, we can pave the way for a future where the potential of our local talents is fully realized, and job opportunities abound for the benefit of all,” she said.
At the commencement of the event, Fodeba Daboh, Director General of Local Content Agency, expressed gratitude to the attendees and emphasized the significance of knowledge exchange. He commended the ILO for advancing knowledge and collaboration through the Opportunity Salone share project, acknowledging its contribution to the growth and empowerment of local entrepreneurs.
Daboh revealed that the Local Content Agency is piloting a project in four districts—Bo, Makeni, Kenema, and Port Loko—to create jobs and reduce food importation, aligning with President Bio’s Big Five agenda. He stressed the potential economic empowerment for local entrepreneurs through the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Merten Sievers, Global Coordinator for Value Chains and Entrepreneurship, highlighted the need for a knowledge-sharing platform and reiterated the project’s overarching objective to benefit Sierra Leone’s well-being. He emphasized the collective efforts dedicated to the nation’s prosperity and the importance of providing the right infrastructures for project enhancement.
A representative from UN Women – Sierra Leone revealed that the informal sector represents about 60% of Sierra Leone’s GDP, praising “Opportunity Salone” as a smart project that requires collaboration and exploration. She noted that the project targets young entrepreneurs not employed in the formal sector and aims to showcase untapped talents, especially those championing the “Feed Salone” initiative, a key component of President Bio’s “Big Five” Agenda.
Manuel Muller, the European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone, described the “Opportunity Salone Project” as part of the EU’s jobs and growth programs in Sierra Leone. He outlined the program’s goals, addressing the education-employment nexus and measures to improve the investment climate. Ambassador Muller highlighted the project’s focus on feeder roads maintenance and youth entrepreneurship for agricultural value chain development in districts such as Bo, Bombali, Kenema, and Port Loko over a four-year period.
He emphasized the significance of agriculture in Sierra Leone’s economy, contributing to over 50% of GDP. The “Opportunity Salone Project” is positioned as a flagship initiative underlining the EU’s commitment to fostering economic growth and job creation in the country. MJB/6/12/2023