President Koroma Tours Development Projects in Benin

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday 16th July was taken on a whirlwind tour of the Songhai center in Porto Novo as well as the Port of Cotonou in the Republic of Benin.

Led on the conducted tour by Leonce Sessou who is in charge of Partnership and Communication at the Songhai center, President Koroma and entourage, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Youth Affairs, Trade and Industry, Education, Science and Technology, Information and Communication, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, the Minority Leader in Parliament, and other senior government officials of both Benin and Sierra Leone successfully toured the facility situated on 30 hectares of land. The team was accompanied by the host, President Boni Yayi.

The Songhai Initiative aspires to develop alternatives to help Africans stand on their feet through agricultural entrepreneurship, in an integrated development framework enhancing agriculture, industry and services. This development is centered, above all, on human development, the use of local resources and the adoption of foreign techniques and technologies.

After twenty years of existence, the Songhai center was recognized as an indigenous initiative that can be harnessed and appropriated by governments and development institutions for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The center has demonstrated that its integrated development model can effectively be deployed to face the triple challenge of poverty, difficult demographic transition and environmental degradation in the developing countries today.

President Koroma visited the industrial zone II where primary and secondary productions of high value vegetables in greenhouse and open field are done as well as agro industry of pre-filling and filling lines, packaging, recycling of plastic materials as well as recycling of biomass for soil fertilization (RCW) and thermo chemical biomass refinery are done. The president was also taken through the Songhai Green Rural City Model a sustainable socio-economic settlement for the Millennium. He also visited the technology park where ideas and techniques are conceived and contextualized as well as the incubation, training and human resource development center.

President Koroma also delivered remarks on the significance of the tour and the way forward in terms of replicating the model in Sierra Leone.

Asked of his general impressions about the center, President Koroma thanked his host for extending the invitation for him to visit and expressed satisfaction with the initiative. “I must commend the Director and his deputy that started this initiative. I think these are the home grown initiatives that we should be looking at closely, because with this initiative it shows the potential that we have in the agricultural sector,” he said.

He also noted that the Songhai center would also provide African countries with an opportunity to train the youth as unemployment is a cause for serious concern among African countries. “An opportunity like this will provide them with appropriate jobs that will lead them to create self sufficient environments from the communities they come from, the President emphasized.

President Koroma promised to recommend the initiative to his counterparts in the continent to look at closely instead of going too far afield. “I think it is home grown initiative like this that maximize the potential within the agricultural sector and therefore should be looked at closely. And I am very encouraged by what I have seen,” adding that Sierra Leone is in the process of starting a similar initiative. He vowed to speed up the process and replicate it all over the country so that development within the country can not only be diversified, but also create job opportunities for young people.

President Koroma was also taken on a conducted tour of the Port of Cotonou, a success story of public-private partnership. The port which is a potential gateway to landlocked West African countries such as Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali has undergone recent reforms leading to the construction and operation of a new container terminal. Bollore Africa Logistics which won the bid for a 25-year concession agreement to build and operate the South Wharf Container Terminal has already created over 350 jobs at the port, thereby making a pivotal contribution to regional development.

The significance of the tour was to share experiences and explore avenues on how to overcome similar development constraints facing the Sierra Leone Ports Authority as well as to make the ports more efficient in terms of low shipping costs, improved logistical facilities and job creation. The total wharf length is 540m and a container yard of nearly 20 hectares.

Source : Sierra Leone Government

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