Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights Opens in Freetown.

The 10th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, convened by the African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights and hosted by Purposeful Sierra Leone in partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone, on Monday 27 June, opened at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, with a Youth Pre-Conference, held under the theme “Accelerating the Elimination of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Africa.”

Speaking at the official opening of the event, UNFPA Representative to Sierra Leone, Ms. Nadia Rasheed said UNFPA is committed to work with stakeholders including governments, civil society, youth led organisations towards accelerating progress to end gender-based violence and in creating spaces for young people’s voices to be heard on all issues affecting them.

Ms. Rasheed said, in line with its transformative agenda of accelerating progress towards ending gender based violence, UNFPA was proud to be co-sponsoring the conference and to support the participation of more than 175 young people. 

“This conference is an incredible opportunity to connect with other young people and with distinguished experts and decision makers from across the continent. It’s an opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills, to be exposed to different perspectives, and to fuel your advocacy on the issues that you are most passionate about,” she told the over 350 participants drawn from across 41 African countries.

Ms. Rasheed noted that Africa is home to 130 million girls and women who were married in childhood, 140 million girls and women who have undergone FGM, and 40 million girls who have experienced both of these harmful practices” but that despite efforts and commitments to end gender based violence, it remains a serious issue, hindering young people from reaching their full potential.  

Officially opening the conference, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Youth Affairs, Hon. Mohamed Orman Bangura indicated that now is the time to invest in young people and promote dialogue and understanding across cultures and generations that would advance human rights for all people. “To ensure that development policies work for everyone, we must use human rights as our foundation. We must promote and protect the human rights of all young people, especially the most vulnerableones,” Minister Bangura said. 

He called on leaders to listen to the voices of young people and invest in them and ensure they become part of all decision-making processes. “It is time to carry the voices of young people forward to the United Nations Summit in September, where leaders will review progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” Minister Bangura said.

Also speaking at the event was Chernor Bah, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Purposeful Sierra Leone and Conference Host. “We are a feminist organization. It was exactly because of moment like this that Purposeful was put together. We believe in young people. We are particularly excited by the fact that almost half of the delegates would be young people who are leading the change, and who are the reason that we started Purposeful as an organization,” Bah said. 

The conference brings together Civil Society, Governments, UN Agencies, human rights activists and development partners for a dialogue on a common approach to ending violence against women and girls in Africa.

© John Baimba Sesay | Web and Media Analyst UNFPA

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Domestic Revenue Collected in Quarter 1, 2022 Recorded a Shortfall of Le 330Bn- Finance Minister.

By Ishmail Saidu Kanu

“Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, following the impressive performance in 2021 on the back of the recovery in economic activities and improved tax administration, domestic revenue collection weakened during Quarter 1, 2022. Domestic revenue collected in Quarter 1, 2022, recorded a shortfall of Le 330 billion and was also lower than the amount collected during the same period in 2021. Several revenue streams were below their respective quarterly targets, including Petroleum Excise duties, Goods and Services Tax, Fisheries Royalties, and Timber Export Levy”, says Minister of Finance, Dennis Vandi.

He was presenting the Supplementary Government Budget and Statement of Economic and Financial Policies for the Financial Year, 2022 in the Well of Parliament on Friday.

The Minister said in general, the weak revenue performance can be attributed to the delay in adjusting fuel prices, reduced tax compliance, public resistance to tax reforms, especially the use of the Electronic Cash Register (ECR), and supply chain challenges in the export of bauxite and timber logs.

“Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, we are submitting to this Noble House a Supplementary Budget for the Financial Year 2022 for the following reasons: Firstly, the macroeconomic and fiscal assumptions that underlined the 2022 Budget no longer hold. As Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of agricultural and energy products, including oil, gas, metals, wheat, corn and fertiliser, countries, including Sierra Leone, are already experiencing uncertain supplies and higher prices. The sharp rise in global food and energy prices coupled with the general uncertainty has slowed down domestic economic activities, undermined domestic revenue collection and created pressures on the budget.

“Secondly, given the urgent need to protect the poor and vulnerable from the soaring food and energy prices, we will adopt mitigating measures, which I will present later in this statement.

“Thirdly, given the need to ensure fiscal and debt sustainability and to facilitate the implementation of the emerging expenditure priorities, Government engaged development partners, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank, for the provision of additional financial resources. Thankfully, reflecting Government’s commitment to implementing policy reforms, the World Bank will provide additional budget support and project grants to support energy and education programmes. We also plan to use a larger share of additional Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) allocated by the IMF to support the budget. The African Development Bank is also providing support under the African Emergency Food Production Programme. 

“Fourthly, to expand the fiscal space to finance the emerging expenditure priorities, we are introducing additional tax policy and tax administration measures. These measures are aimed at increasing domestic revenues over and above the original projection

“Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the key objectives of the Supplementary Budget are: (i) to safeguard macroeconomic stability through prudent fiscal and proactive monetary policies; (ii) to protect the vulnerable segments of our society from the higher food and fuel prices by expanding existing social safety programmes and enhancing support to the energy sector; and (iii) to complete the implementation of ongoing projects as outlined in the original 2022 budget.

Minister Vandi added that the April edition of the World Economic Outlook Report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised the projected growth of the World economy for 2022 downwards to 3.6 percent compared to the 4.4 percent projected in January 2022. Global growth is forecast to average 3.3 percent in the medium-term.

He pointed out that in Sub-Saharan Africa, the pace of the recovery that started in the second half of 2021 has slowed down significantly, reflecting the uncertainties from the spillover of the war in Ukraine combined with the high and rising food, energy and fertiliser prices, adding that Growth in the region is projected to slow down to 3.8 percent in 2022 from 4.5 percent in 2021. 

“Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, global food and fuel prices have surged during the first half of this year, reaching levels not seen since 2007 and 2008 and are projected to remain high in the near and medium term. The price of Brent crude oil is projected to average $100 per barrel in 2022, a 42 percent increase from 2021 and its highest level since 2013. Agricultural commodity prices are forecast to rise by 18 percent this year, reflecting higher costs of inputs, including fuel, chemicals, and fertiliser. Inflation is therefore projected to remain elevated in all regions of the World in 2022”, he added.

The Minister of Finance continued by saying that the spillover effects of the war are negatively affecting all facets of our economy: slow GDP growth, high inflation, weak revenue performance, increase in Government expenditures, fall in foreign reserves and adverse terms of trade. The negative impact on key sectors, including agriculture, cannot be overemphasized. 

He explained that the growth prospects of the economy in 2022 are weaker than initially anticipated. “The disruption in fertiliser supply has led to a sharp increase in the global price of fertiliser. In Sierra Leone, the price of fertiliser, including urea, which commonly used by our farmers, has increased by more than 70 percent between January and June 2022. Against the background of the general uncertainty in the global economy, combined with higher food, fuel and fertiliser prices, the initial growth projection of 5.9 percent for 2022 has been revised downwards to 3.6 percent”.

He reiterated that this Budget is a continuation of a series of interventions including improving food security, deepening investments in human capital development and protecting all vulnerable groups to enhance our economy’s resilience to shocks. 

Mr. Vandi ended by commending the Supplementary Budget and Statement of Economic and Financial Policies for the 2022 Fiscal Year to the House.

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Today, Finance Minister Tables 2022 Supplementary Budget in Parliament.

Pursuant to Section 4, subsection 1 of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act, 2016, the Minister of Finance, Dennis K. Vandi will today present a Supplementary Budget for the Financial Year 2022 in the Well of Parliament at 10am.

Section 112 (1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 authorizes the Minister responsible for finance to prepare and lay “before Parliament in each financial year estimates of the revenue and expenditures of Sierra Leone for the next following financial year.” In addition, sub-section 3, provides for the Minister to lay before Parliament a supplementary estimate when “the amount of moneys appropriated by the Appropriation Act for any purpose is insufficient or that a need has arisen for expenditure for the purpose for which no amount of money has been appropriated by that Act.

The Minister is also expected to give global and regional economic outlook in relation to Sierra Leone, and the impact of COVID-19 and gains of the Quick Action Economic Response Programme (QAERP) which has the overall goal of maintaining macro-economic and financial stability and mitigates the impact of the COVID-19 shock on businesses and households. Also on the effect of the Russia-Ukraine war on Sierra Leone’s economy. 

Vote Controllers, Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), State-Owned Enterprises, representatives of Development Partners Institutions, as well as Non-Governmental Organizations, District Budget Oversight Committee members, Local Community representatives, Non-State Actors, other Civil Society Organisations and members of the General Public are expected to witness the proceedings in the Well of Parliament.

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Trade Minister & Kuwait Minister of Commerce Discuss Investment Potential for Sierra Leone.

Trade Minister & Kuwait Minister of Commerce discuss Investment Potential for Sierra Leone

On the Margins of WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, the Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Honourable Dr Edward Hinga Sandy, today held a productive bilateral meeting with his counterpart Minister of Commerce and Industry of Kuwait, His Excellency Mr Fahad Mutlaq Al-Shuraian. The pair discussed trade and investment opportunities in both countries. 

Minister Dr Sandy used the opportunity to articulate His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio’s positive record and transformational programme in updating Sierra Leone’s trade laws and policies aimed at creating the enabling environment for private sector investment, job creation, and guaranteeing a handsome investor return. 

The Minister of Trade and Industry maintained that the objective of Sierra Leone’s trade reform programme is to position Sierra Leone as the hub for trade and investment in the Mano River Basin.  

In his brief statement, the Trade Minister highlights the range of potential investment opportunities in Sierra Leone, citing the country’s successful transition from a war-ravaged nation to a leading example in Africa for peaceful elections, democratic governance, a rule of law nation and have had five successful transitions of governments through the ballot box. This is a nation that where businesses can thrive based on its favourable personal tax system and concessionary and competive cooperation tax regime. 

The Minister of Trade and Industry intimated his counterpart on possible Private sector areas for investment ranging from manufacturing, to agribusiness, to technology and the mining sectors in Sierra Leone.

In his response, the Minister of Commerce and Industry of Kuwait, Mr Fahad Mutlaq Al-Shuraian, thanked his colleague for the meeting and extended his felicitations on behalf of his Head of State, the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Al-Sabah to His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio, the government and people of Sierra Leone. 

The Kuwaiti Minister said Sierra Leone and Kuwait should each serve as a staging post for each other in their respective regions to enable their entering into new markets and the build trade relations and infrastructure necessary for export and trade promotion. 

The Minister of Commerce assured of his government’s collaboration and cooperation with Sierra Leone. Adding that his Ministry will continue to encourage the private sector in Kuwait to seize the opportunity to trade and invest in Sierra Leone.

During this meeting, the two Ministers discussed several trade and investment opportunities including the need for a Bilateral Agreement between the two countries that will focus on specific sectors for growth, such as Agriculture, Manufactory, Tourism, Infrastructure, Transport and Aviation, and Energy among others.

At the end of the meeting, the Ministers registered mutual commitments to improve their two countries’ trade relations and discussed staging a planned Investment Conference in Kuwait to bring together investors in both countries.

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National Tourism Parliamentary Governance Conference Starts Today

The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and the National Tourist Board with support from the World Bank have briefed the media ahead of the first National Tourism Parliamentary Governance conference to be held at Galliness Paradise, Bo from the 17-18 June, 2022 on the theme: the role of parliament in the development of tourism and culture in Sierra Leone.

The two-day conference which will move all the parliamentarians including the speaker of the house to Bo is aimed at deepening the knowledge and understanding of the role of parliamentarians towards helping the tourism sector overcome its prevailing challenges, enact favourable legislations, seek requisite support and collaboration of MDAs and entice key players at all levels of society to support the sector. The conference will attract speakers and presenters from different MDAs in the area of investment opportunities and asset, hospitality and law, development of SME’s, cultural heritage, marketing and promotion among others.

Mohamed Jalloh, the Director of Tourism mentioned that the tourism sector was a multi-faceted, multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional industry that requires the collaboration and contributions of plethora of sectors and players in ensuring a holistic and comprehensive development of a destination. He said they intend to familiarize parliamentarians on the framework for tourism development and their respected roles to contribute towards the empowerment of the sector. 

The chairman of the parliamentary oversight committee on Tourism and Culture, Hon. Tom Tucker thanked the Minister for her strides in uplifting the sector. He applauded the Ministry for considering the role of parliamentarians in the development of tourism saying that what will be discussed in Bo will be beneficial to them and their constituents. He said they are all eager to attend this remarkable conference as it complements their roles as members of parliament.

Giving her remarks, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt said it was not the first time the Ministry is holding conference on this nature as they have held the tourism governance framework which articulates the responsibilities and functions of all arms of government in ensuring that tourism thrives, a reason they are embedding tourism in all levels of governance.

She told the press that the essence of bringing parliament together is for them to share the common platform and think critically on the improvement of the sector. She added that the conference will alleviate the long standing challenges of the sector especially as it concerns the enactment of laws that deals with tourism. She informed the press that she has got the most standing reception from parliament while disclosing that the Speaker of Parliament will be the keynote speaker of the conference and that they will use the conference to relaunch and exhibit the explore freedom logo with the parliamentarians. 

© Information Unit, MTCA

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