Sierra Leone: Local Content Agency, Ministry of Trade Engage Development Partners
By Stephen V. Lansana
The Sierra Leone Local Content Agency (SLLCA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry has on Tuesday, October 31st, 2023 engaged the development partners in a one-day roundtable conference, at the Ministry’s conference Hall, Youyi Building in Freetown.
The conference was attended by Experts and Policy Makers across Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), including representatives from International partners like the African Development Bank (AfDB), GIZ, and the Embassy of the Republic of Ireland, among others.
The aim of the conference was to sensitize and strengthen the SLLCA-Donor partnerships on the implementation of local content provisions enshrined in the SLLCA 2016.
In his welcome address, the Director General of SLLCA, Mr. Fodeba Daboh explained that the Local Content Agency started as a Unit funded by DFID under the supervision of the Ministry of Trade.
He said that for far too long, the perception of some development partners in the international community about Local Content has been, ‘highly complex, and rigid’.
He said, “‘in fact, one of the most persistent refrain, we have heard is, ‘the Act is harsh!’ ‘Local Content is an impediment to business”
He said that the Agency’s Act is materially less harsh than comparable regulation in several other African countries where local content is a high-profile public policy.
He explained that the Agency has been more of a facilitator than a regulator of the Act, noting that the provisions in the Act are positioned as an incentive in terms of the limited restrictions to market access for foreign suppliers, the realistic targets for hiring Sierra Leoneans and the achievable objectives for encouraging raw material inputs to manufactured products compared to other African countries.
He added that the provisions on reporting local content are the least burdensome instruments within the Act for businesses. “The core message of the 2016 Act is, come to Sierra Leone, we require local content within your activities to urgently develop our industry and people,” the Director General said.
In his PowerPoint presentation, DG Daboh said that the Agency has given relevance to Made in Sierra Leone (MiSL) products by facilitating the creation of visibly displayed MiSL shelves in over 90% of supermarkets across the country.
He added that the Agency continues to collaborate with key MDAs and donor partners, such as GIZ, ILO, and World Bank in the implementation of the Local Content Act 2016 in a range of sectors, noting that key challenges have been the shutdown of the online local content Scorecard reporting platform which has constrained companies reporting on their local content performances, limited annual budget allocation, and limited support from donor.
He said that the Agency has created market linkages for over 1,000 businesses across different lines of local businesses, noting that the Agency has conducted Capacity Building Training for about 500 local suppliers including women entrepreneurs in various aspects of their businesses including market/exhibition skills, customer service, packaging and branding, product standards and quality management
In his keynote address, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alpha I. Sesay said “Generally, we are aware of the role played by development partners like GIZ, ILO, World Bank. But what we want to do is to provide that forum where all of us can sit and discuss.
“Some key elements I expect from this deliberation are: how do we ensure knowledge transfer? How do we build local capacity that exists in this country?” he asked. He called on the private sector and development partners to build the capacity of Sierra Leoneans, noting that it is even cheaper for companies to train locals than to bring in experts.
On the private sector, he said that the country still has local commodities and goods, noting that the private sector and donor partners should see how to support those businesses in the value chain.
He called on businesses and companies that fall within the four pillars of the Agency to work within the framework. He also called on donor partners to help in developing the middle-level manpower so that the skill gaps can be addressed.
The Second Secretary of the Embassy of Ireland, Emma M’Loughlin said that the Embassy also supports women and girls in Sierra Leone, noting that the Embassy and the Agency are moving in the same direction as they also provide skill development to smallholding farmers including women and girls.
She said that there are opportunities to find synergy and link with the Agency in terms of development framework.
The Principal Country Program Officer of the African Development Bank Group, Atanga Felicitas said that most of their projects are implemented by the government. Still, they usually encourage the government to procure locally, noting that the Bank always strives to give preference to Sierra Leoneans in terms of employment.