While delivering a speech to mark the official opening of the 17th session of the Board of Governors of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) yesterday at the Raddison Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown, Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh called on the bank for a 'shared infrastructure' within the ECOWAS bloc.
"Whilst working at the UN, I have on several occasions called on the EBID and the UN to move to a level of what I called share infrastructure. It is high time as a region we moved to share infrastructure. To build roads that link countries within the region, to build regional universities, to build regional shipping lines and also to invest in regional transportation," he said.
The VP believes that if an attempt is made in such investment, it would help the economy of smaller countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia-in the Mano River Union basin, to grow.
"Make no mistake, traveling from Freetown to Conakry-Guinea is more expensive than traveling from Freetown to Casablanca. But, if we invest in this area, be rest assured we are going to unleash the economic potentials of this region," he emphasised.
The second gentleman noted that the country is faced with high infrastructure deficits and that it has 1,031 kilometers of paved road, representing 9% of the total road network, which he said was considerably low as compared to other countries within the ECOWAS bloc.
He told the gathering that their administration is hoping to expanding road networks to targeted areas within the country and that there were also plans to expand the only airport in the country by building new terminal and connect water supply to Bo and Kenema, thus noting that the bank has a critical role to play in those efforts.
The VP told his guests that despite that the current inflation rate in the country, there are still untapped opportunities in agriculture, fisheries, tourism industry and services, adding that the country has huge potential in renewable energy in solar radiation, coastal and offshore wind, mini hydro and Bio energy.
"This government is planning to increase renewable energy capacity generation from 25 to 60% and install electricity capacity from the current 100 megawatts to 350 megawatts by 2023," he said.
He added that the country's dependence on natural resource exports has many vices to speak, including the exposure to commodity shocks and the resulting balance of payment challenges, the sharp deterioration of the exchange rate as well as the impaired fiscal space as some of the many macroeconomic challenges the country faces.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr Francis M. Kaikai said government has set a clear roadmap in its Medium-term National Development Plan(NDP 2019-2023) which he said cannot be achieved without the collaboration and support from development partners like EBID, World Bank,Africa Development Bank, and the Islamic Development Bank among others.
He said in the recent past the ECOWAS Bank funded Sierra Leone Maritime Administration to implement the Solar Street Light scheme in Freetown and 13 municipalities, coupled with the modernization and expansion of Sierra Leone Telecommunication.
He noted that the EBID is also involved in private sector development as it is currently financing the construction of the former Cape Sierra Hotel, thus stating that government has requested the ECOWAS Bank to finance the construction of the Kono University of Science and Technology and the establishment of the Diagnostic Centre of Excellence, of which the bank has acknowledged receipt of the request under an Indian Line of credit of fifty million United States Dollars.
He said Sierra Leone hosting this year's board of governors meeting was a signal to the world that the country is moving forward and is ready to mobilise external resources for meaningful development of projects and programmes.