The Director-General of the National Minerals Agency (NMA), Sahr Wonday says “the country now stands on the verge of unprecedented growth driven largely by income from the minerals sector”
He added that there is no doubt that with the right policies in place, with proper oversight, and with our collective action, our people can benefit from job opportunities, training and development; our local businesses will grow and become more competitive; our national GDP will increase considerably; and Sierra Leone will rise up to a middle income status.
Speaking further, he said mining companies need to ensure the qualified Sierra Leoneans are given preference in employment, and that training is provided for their Sierra Leonean staff.
They also need to ensure that local companies have full, fair and reasonable access to opportunities, by sharing information on their procurement needs and broadening access to tenders and (Requests for Quotations (RFQs).
The Director-General said Government, having set the appropriate policy and regulatory framework, now needs to capacitate oversight institutions to fully monitor and enforce implementation of local content provisions and other provisions relating to responsible and sustainable mining in our laws.
“Government must also provide an enabling environment for enterprise development and investment. This includes requiring mining companies to develop local procurement plans, and minimizing concessions on import tariffs and duties”, he said.
Wonday said there is a shortage of skilled labour, and even where qualified locals exist, the long absence of significant economic activity in the country during the decade long civil war, limited the opportunities for them to gain experience in the highly technical mining industry.
He reiterated that indigenous businesses are mostly small scale, informal and poorly capitalized and many have very little financial track record, and limited access to credit.
There is limited understanding of the tender process and little standardization.
The Director-General stated that there is therefore an urgent need for capacity building, if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the current mining boom.
Local staff needs training and training institutions also need funding to help align their output of graduates to meet the economy’s labour needs. Suppliers need training in procurement, and service providers need experience in management and efficient service delivery.
He noted that “the most important component of government’s strategy in promoting employment, skills development and growth of Sierra Leonean businesses is the local content component of the MMA and the Local Content Policy”.
It should be pointed out that local content policies are by no means a recent invention in Sierra Leone.
The Director-General said Sections 163 and 164, of the 2009 Mines and Minerals Act requires mineral right holders to give preference to Sierra Leoneans possessing the necessary qualifications and experience for employment at all levels , as well as Sierra Leonean products and services.
He further said the importation of unskilled labour is prohibited, and license holders are required to provide appropriate instruction and training to ensure the advancement of Sierra Leonean employees in the skilled technical, supervisory, administrative and managerial categories. Local content ensures that there is sufficient linkage between the local economy and mining companies, and that both government and mining companies benefit.
By Abibatu Kamara
Tuesday July 08, 2014