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Sierra Leone will look to the African Development Bank (AfDB) to stimulate agribusiness development in the country with a focus on rice production, President Maada Bio told a visiting delegation led by AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina

Sierra Leone riceSierra Leone’s climate conditions are generally favourable for rice production. (Image source: Ngo Minh Tuan/Pixabay)

“Our government is working hard to recover the economy, which was on the brink of collapse. We want to focus on economic diversification, with agriculture as the main driver,” President Bio observed.

“We are serious about developing this country and will appreciate the Bank’s support to realise our dreams. Infrastructure is an enabler for development, so we appreciate what the Bank is doing in Sierra Leone,” Bio said, identifying a productive workforce as a top national priority as well as jumpstarting economic activities in rural areas, where 73.9 per cent of Sierra Leone’s poor live.

Commenting on the country’s capacity to enhance local production, and the export of rice, Sierra Leone’s staple food, Adesina said, “Sierra Leone should not be spending over $200 million yearly importing rice because its climatic conditions are generally favourable for rice production.”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry data, total rice demand in 2018 was 1.6 mmt, against local production of 700,000 mt. In July 2019, the Bank approved the US$11mn agribusiness and rice value chain support project to stimulate agribusiness development in the country with a focus on rice.

Facilitating economic transformation in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone sought AfDB’s support for the implementation of its free quality education programme, which aims to enhance human capital development and facilitate economic transformation.

Adesina encouraged the country to explore the Bank’s Africa Investment Forum to elicit investor interest for the proposed Lungi–Freetown bridge. The project will link the capital city, Freetown, to the country’s sole international airport, which is presently accessible by ferry or helicopter.

The Bank expressed keenness to support the development of critical infrastructure in the West African country and to open up space for greater private sector participation in the economy. Adesina said the Bank would deploy the African Legal Support Facility to help the country better manage its natural resources.