LAPO leads in loans and banking in Sierra Leone

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 By Abdul Hassan Fackie

Since it started operations in Sierra Leone in 2008, the Lift Above Poverty Organization (LAPO) microfinance bank has become a household name and has now graduated to operating in the same manner like any commercial bank in the country.

Today, LAPO can boast of thousands of customers right across the country who rely on them for their banking services as well as the microfinance opportunities that the bank also offers to them.

LAPO’s Managing Director, Mr. Gabriel Eshiague, says they are working round the clock to ensure that they deliver quality services and satisfaction to their numerous customers, pay their taxes to government as well as honour their corporate social responsibilities to the people of Sierra Leone.

He stressed that they treat their customers with the greatest respect, patience and confidentiality, which makes the people happy to do business with them. He pointed out that they charge one of the lowest interest rates on their loans while those who operate  accounts with them enjoy very favourable interest rates as well as other benefits.

He revealed that they rank among the leading microfinance banks in the country with over thirty branches in the  sixteen districts of the country and they employ over four hundred workers,  majority of whom are Sierra Leoneans with only five Nigerian staff.

He also revealed that their services have now gone digital wherein you can now sit in the comfort of either your home, office, vehicle or even be out of the country and transact business with the bank.

He also revealed that they are now set to expand their services in giving loans to farmers, fishermen and other areas of production.

A State House official this Reporter spoke to stated that President Julius Maada Bio has highly commended the  LAPO bank, referring to it as one of the leading financial service providers and job creator in the country.

President Bio Applauds CEO Kissy Industry & Trading Company Ltd

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By David Emile

The president of the Republic of Sierra Leone HE Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has awarded Jamal Shallop the order of the Rokel OOR, for his tremendous effort in investing to the private sector as well as providing jobs to thousands of the youths in Sierra Leone.

Jamal Shallop was born in Blama, Small Bo, Kenema district. Mr. Shallop attended the Holy Trinity School in Kenema. He later went to the St Edward’s Secondary School, kingtom, Freetown.

He left Sierra Leone to further his studies in Ireland where he pursued Business Management.

ON HIS PHILANTHROPIC WORK

Jamal Shallop, after the 11 years civil war in the country, built a Church in Pujehun district.

He donated medical equipment to the Kenema and Blama hospitals.

During the Cholera outbreak in the country, he donated a container of drugs to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

CEO Shallop, in solidarity with the mudslide victims, dontated food and non-food items.

He also donated wheelchairs to the Office of the First Lady for persons living with disability. He has been supporting them fully with rice and other items all these years.

Mr. Shallop, during the deadly Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone, donated medical & drug items to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

During the 2019 Sierra Leone Premiere League, he supported Kamboi Eagles Football Club.

He donated food items to NaCOVERC during the heat of COVID-19.

HIS INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Jamal Shallop has created employment for 100s of Sierra Leoneans,  and has made so many strides in various sectors of the country’s economy.

Hotel And Tourism: After the 11 years civil war, the Country Lodge was the first decent and safest hotel he built; where tourists would always put up.

Imres Pharmacy has always taken the lead in terms of quality drugs and affordable prices.

Kissy Industry Company has been the first Indigenous Refinery in the country that produces Edible Oil from the country’s own local raw materials. The company has employed over 300 workers for which 95% are Sierra Leoneans.

ON HIS SOCIAL LIFE

When he was a youth, Jamal Shalop played football for his School Holy Trinity in Kenema before he graduated to play for the District team Kamboi Eagles until he got a broken jaw.

He is also a Lawn Tennis player though a veteran, but he can still compete with the active players.

Jamal Shallop is one of the best if not the best Amateur Golfers presently at the Freetown Golf Club. He has won so many golf tournaments organized at the Club.

Mr. Shallop is a die-hard fan of Leone Stars, Kamboi Eagles, and Arsenal

Amb.Hu Zhanliang Speaks at IMC Professional Ethics Seminar

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It’s a big pleasure for me to be invited to this seminar. First of all, I would like to express my warm congratulations to the Independent Media Commission of Sierra Leone for hosting this important event. And I would also like to thank Chairman Massaquoi for his cordial invitation.

The media shoulder important missions such as telling the truth, promoting public ethics and morality, building social consensus and upholding justice. Therefore, media play an important role in the political, economic and social development of all countries.

I am pleased to see that, with the joint efforts of the Sierra Leonean government and people, especially the media organizations and practitioners, great achievements have been made in the information sector in Sierra Leone in recent years, for instances, the abolition of the Seditious Libel Law and the hosting of the first national media investment conference etc.. The Press Freedom Index for Sierra Leone has risen from 75th in the world to 46th, and the number of national radio stations in Sierra Leone has increased from 139 in 2019 to 155 now.

The Sierra Leonean media institutions have also made important contributions to the development of China-Sierra Leone friendship and cooperation. Most media in Sierra Leone have been reporting China and China-Sierra Leone cooperation in an objective and fair manner.

Because of the reporting, the Sierra Leonean people are able to get a better understanding of China’s development path and experience as well as the specific results of our cooperation. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciations to you in this regard. China and Sierra Leone are time-honored reliable friends. Although the two countries have different national conditions and social systems, we are both important members of the international community.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sierra Leone. Over the past 50 years, China and Sierra Leone have always maintained a close partnership featuring sincere friendship, equal treatment, mutual trust and mutual benefit.

Especially in recent years, under the strong leadership of H.E. President Xi Jinping and H.E. Julius Maada Bio, our bilateral relations have made great progress. Since 2018 alone, the Chinese side has helped the Sierra Leonean side build or implement more than 20 projects or programs.

Since the beginning of this year, the Chinese side has cooperated with the Sierra Leonean side in commencing the rehabilitation of the National Stadium, commissioning 4 Mobile Clinics, the Myohaung Officers Mess and Single Officers’ Quarters, handing over a batch of water bowsers, fire engines, and vehicles.

Our two governments have also signed a new Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation. The close cooperation between China and Sierra Leone in international affairs has effectively contributed to the safeguarding of international justice and the common interests of developing countries.

The main features of China-Sierra Leone cooperation are as follows:

First, sincere friendship. China has always been sincere in helping Sierra Leone achieve development and progress, and has never sought to control or manipulate Sierra Leone nor tried to interfere into the latter’s internal matters. China does not seek any geopolitical interests in its cooperation with Sierra Leone.

Second, visible outcome. No matter it is in infrastructure building or people’s livelihood projects, no matter it is about medical and health cooperation or human resources development, and no matter it is with agricultural and fishery development or mining exploration, the positive outcomes can be seen everywhere, bringing tangible benefits to the Sierra Leonean people.

Third, with no political conditions attached. Unlike some Western countries who often use aid, trade and investment as a threat to force other countries to do things against their will, China never imposes any conditions in her assistance and cooperation with Sierra Leone.

Fourth, credit-worthy. China never “paints cakes” or makes “empty promises”. Every project that China agrees to undertake for Sierra Leone is implemented with speed and completed with high quality. Why can China-Sierra Leone relationship and cooperation be of such feature? I think there are three main reasons.

First, China is also a developing country. China has similar historical background to that of Sierra Leone and China truly understands the ambition and expectation of Sierra Leone to develop and prosper.

Second, China upholds the policy of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and pursuing the greater good and shared interests in its diplomacy towards developing countries. China believes that the world is one family and advocates building a community of a shared future for mankind.

Third, Sierra Leone has always shown understanding and support to China on issues related to China’s core interests and major concerns, especially with regard to China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and dignity. China highly appreciates this.

Aspect Two: How to assess China’s development situation?

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). It is the unswerving goal of the CPC in its century-long history to make people live a better life. In 2021, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, China has achieved its first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Over the past few decades, more than 700 million people in China have been lifted out of poverty, contributing more than 70% to global poverty reduction.

In 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded, China’s GDP only accounted for less than 5% of the world’s total. Last year, although continuing to face the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s economy maintained rapid recovery and development, with its GDP reaching 17.7 trillion US dollars, an increase of 8.1% over the previous year and accounting for 18% of the world’s total. For a consecutive of ten years, China’s annual average contribution to global economic growth has stayed above 30 percent.

In 2022, China will adhere to the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability and try to register a 5.5% growth.In the first quarter of this year, China’s GDP has grown by 4.8%.

Although China’s economy is also facing many unfavorable factors and severe challenges, it is still resilient and full of potential and has wide room for maneuver. The long-term positive fundamentals will not change.China will continue to provide strong momentum for the stabilization and recovery of the world economy and provide broader market opportunities for other countries.

China will continue to expand high-level opening to the outside world, promote the steady development of international trade and investment, including high-quality construction of the “Belt and Road”, and firmly safeguarding the multilateral trading system.

Aspect Three: How to look at some of the hot-spot issues?

No.1, The Russia-Ukraine conflict.

China’s position on this issue is consistent, clear-cut, objective and fair. China is committed to promoting peace talks as the right direction. China calls for a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, and supports Russia and Ukraine in carrying out direct dialogue.

China is committed to upholding the basic norms governing international relations and opposes putting small and medium-sized countries at the forefront of geopolitical rivalry.

China is committed to preventing the resurgence of the Cold War mentality. China advocates the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and respects and accommodates the legitimate and reasonable concerns of all parties.

China is committed to upholding the legitimate rights and interests of all countries and opposes unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law.

Until now, both Russia and Ukraine appreciate China’s impartial and objective position on the Ukraine issue. China will continue to play a constructive role on this issue. We hope to see an early end to the conflict. It is also our hope that relevant parties will stop adding fuel to the flame.

Recently, a certain super power and NATO have been disseminating disinformation about China on the Ukraine issue, with the attempt to shift blame, stoke confrontation and profit from the issue. Such a practice is malicious.

The ins and outs of how the Ukraine issue has evolved to what it is today are very clear. The moves by the super power-led NATO have pushed the Russia-Ukraine tension to the breaking point. While looking away from their own responsibility, these countries criticize China with a view to maintaining its hegemony. The more they rack their brains to discredit China with lies and hype things up, the more they expose their credibility deficit to the international community.

Meanwhile, some people deliberately compare the Taiwan question with the Ukraine issue, which is completely out of reason. The Taiwan question is essentially different from the Ukraine issue. The two are not comparable at all.Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. This makes it fundamentally different from a sovereign country like Ukraine.

The Taiwan question is a legacy of China’s civil war. How to solve the Taiwan question is China’s internal affair and no foreign country has the right to interfere with. Those who deliberately compare the question of Taiwan with the Ukraine issue and spread the fallacy of the so-called “lack of conclusions on Taiwan’s international status” harbor a vile intention rather than run out of common sense. Their real agenda is to create a new crisis across the Taiwan Strait so as to serve certain countries’ geopolitical and economic interests at the expense of the well-being of the people across the Strait and regional peace and stability.

The Chinese people’s resolve and determination to uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity is invincible. Those who play with and fan up the fire on the Taiwan question will only wind up burning themselves.

No.2, the Global Security Initiative.

The current international situation forces us to think about how the world can achieve real peace and what kind of security is real security. H.E. President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Security Initiative at the Boao Forum on 21 April,2022, providing China’s wisdom and solution to make up for the global security deficit and guard world peace and tranquility. The Initiative consists of six points:

First, Stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and work together to maintain world peace and security;

Second, Stay committed to respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, uphold non-interference in internal affairs, and respect the independent choices of development paths and social systems made by people in different countries;

Third, Stay committed to abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, reject the Cold War mentality, oppose unilateralism, and say no to group politics and bloc confrontation;

Fourth, Stay committed to taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously, uphold the principle of indivisible security, build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, and oppose the pursuit of one’s own security at the cost of others’ security;

Fifth, Stay committed to peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation, support all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of crises, reject double standards, and oppose the wanton use of unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction;

Sixth, Stay committed to maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains, and work together on regional disputes and global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.

This important initiative has been widely recognized and supported by the international community.Human history has proven time and again that without peace, development will be like water without source; without security, prosperity will be like trees without roots.

The GSI is an effort to stand up to the changes of the world and answer the questions of the times. Building on the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, the GSI seeks to promote the establishment of a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture. It thus offers a new approach to eliminating the root causes of international conflicts and achieving durable stability and security in the world.

China and Sierra Leone are both peace loving countries and both wish to achieve prosperity and progress in a peaceful environment. For a long time, China and Sierra Leone have maintained close cooperation in international affairs, jointly participated in global governance, and made valuable contributions to the safeguarding of world peace.

I’m sure that our Sierra Leonean media friends will fully understand and support the global security initiative and use your pen and your voices to further promote this initiative so as to build greater momentum for its success.

No.3, China’s “dynamic zero”policy on fighting COVID-19.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese government has been committed to a people-first and life-first philosophy and put in place scientific measures in combating the pandemic. Later on, China adopted a viable approach of preventing imported cases from abroad and resurgence at home and implemented a dynamic zero-COVID policy. Such a strategy has been proven to be very successful.

China’s dynamic zero-COVID policy is not aimed at realizing zero infection, but rather at bringing COVID-19 under control at the minimum social cost in the shortest time possible so as to effectively protect the health, normal life and production of the 1.4 billion Chinese people to the maximum.

The overwhelming majority of the Chinese population in most parts of the country can enjoy normal life and production. The COVID-19 infection rate and mortality rate in China remain the lowest in the world.

I have seen reports based on new modelling by scientists in China and the US indicating that China risks over 1.5 million COVID deaths if it drops its dynamic zero-COVID policy. China’s huge population especially the large number of elderly people warrants and justifies the dynamic zero-COVID policy. Not long ago, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific commended China’s COVID-19 response.

However, recently, there are some people saying that China’s epidemic prevention policy is unsustainable and should be adjusted. I would like to stress that the Chinese government has formulated and implemented the dynamic zero-COVID policy based on China’s national realities and has been adjusting prevention and control protocols based on the changing conditions. The purpose is solely to protect people’s life and health to the greatest extent possible and to ensure sustained, sound and steady economic and social development. In China, we have the foundation, conditions and capabilities to achieve dynamic zero-COVID. We have every confidence in winning this hard battle and making greater contributions to the united global response.

What kind of policy to be formulated and implemented depends on a country’s actual situation and abilities. China never asks other countries to do the same as China, and does not want others to point their fingers at China according to their own standards or likes and dislikes.

China’s contribution and sacrifice to the international community’s fight against the pandemic is huge and significant. It is neither fair nor moral to make irresponsible remarks about China’s correct actions to safeguard its own people’s health and the health and safety of the mankind.

No.4, China-Sierra Leone cooperation in the fishing sector.

Fishery is one of the traditional areas of China-Sierra Leone cooperation starting from the 1980s. The Chinese fishing enterprises have created thousands of direct jobs and tens of thousands of indirect jobs for the Sierra Leonean people.

By paying a handsome amount of various fees and taxes to the Sierra Leonean government and helping Sierra Leone earn a lot of foreign exchange through the export of fish catches, the Chinese fishing enterprises have also made significant contributions to the economic development of Sierra Leone and the improvement of living standards of its people.

During the Ebola epidemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic and in times of other natural disasters, the Chinese fishing companies have always offered a helping hand to the local people and received appreciation and acknowledgement from the government and people of Sierra Leone.

However, occasionally, there are certain reports criticizing China-Sierra Leone fishing cooperation. Some reports claim that the Chinese fishing enterprises are exploiting the local fishery resources. Some reports express unhappiness about the so-called meager salaries and maltreatment of local workers. Some reports say that the Chinese vessels engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.

After thorough investigation, I find that such reports are not true. Very often, they present a one-sided story either because of inadequate information or because of certain kind of prejudice.

According to the statistics, about 75% of fish catches of the Chinese fishing companies are sold to the local market, which  ensures the sufficient supply of fish to the local people.

The standard of salary of the workers employed by Chinese fishing companies are set by the market and recognized by the Ministry of Labor and the Fisheries Union of Sierra Leone. The working conditions, facilities and treatment of the local workers meet the requirements of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources of Sierra Leone, and are regularly inspected by the Ministry and supervised by the observers dispatched by the Ministry.

According to my knowledge, the Sierra Leonean workers get along well with the Chinese fishing enterprises and they enjoy working on the Chinese fishing vessels.

The Chinese government always requires the Chinese fishing companies to strictly abide by the laws of the countries where they conduct their operations. All the Chinese fishing vessels authorized by the Chinese government under bilateral agreement on cooperation are installed with position monitoring devices, any IUU fishing activities will be heavily dealt with not just by the host country, but also by the Chinese government.

The value of the media lies in their integrity. I believe that our media friends here will continue to report on China and China-Sierra Leone cooperation in an objective, fair, friendly and professional manner, so that the exchanges and mutual understanding between our two sides will be further enhanced.

Windfall…

MTHE Complements Development of Science Education at Njala University

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By: Ralph Sesay–PRO NU

Njala University, Mokonde-20th May 2022- The Ministry of Technical and Higher Education has supported the efficient delivery of Science Education at Njala University with the donation of Laboratory and Chemicals equipment worth thousands of dollars to the Chemistry, Physics, and Biology Laboratories at the School of Environmental Sciences.

University Registrar, Dr. Muneer Jalloh described the donation by the MTHE as a big boost to the effective delivery of science-related courses and also promotes credible research amongst staff and students of the University.

The Administration according to him took up the venture some years ago to rehabilitate the three laboratories with the hope of getting support from the Government, Well-Meaning Sierra Leoneans, the University Alumni, and other private sector players to support the University with laboratory equipment and chemicals to set-up these laboratories.

He thanked the Ministry and assured the leadership of the recipient Departments that the Administration would do more to provide the much-needed remaining items in these laboratories.

Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Bashiru Mohamed Koroma lauded the partnership between the Ministry of Education and Njala University which according to him led to the donation of teaching and learning materials last academic year and now science equipment and chemicals for the three science laboratories at the School of Environmental Sciences.

Professor Koroma also told staff and students at the School that the Ministry is continuously working with the University Administration in developing highly purposeful projects that will aid the effective transfer of knowledge to students and staff members.

He urged lecturers to give access to students to make use of the donated equipment to strengthen their practical skills. Students according to him should adopt a collective responsibility approach to help the Administration achieve more in terms of having more learning and teaching facilities.

Dr. John Kai Sam, Head of the Chemistry Department, and Ing. Alfred Abu received the items on behalf of the Chemistry and Physics Department.

Dr. Kai Sam was full of praise from the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education and the Njala University Administration and assured them that they would fully make available the donated equipment to the students to understand their practicals. He appealed for the purchase of more sophisticated science equipment, especially for the use of higher degree students undertaking science practicals.

ACC Concludes investigation of “bribe” statement by SL Bank governor

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that it has concluded investigation of the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), Professor Kelfala Morana Kallon over remarks he made at a pre-legislation presentation to Parliament on the 22nd November, 2021, in which he said, he “bribed” people who were hoarding the Leone to bring it back into the banking system in the total sum of Sixty-eight Million US Dollars (USD$ 68,000,000). 

The ACC opened full investigations into the financial dealings of the BSL beyond the statement and forensic investigation confirmed the following:

i.That in a meeting held in December 2020, the Governors agreed that, in order to mop-up excess Leones liquidity outside the banking system, the BSL apply foreign exchange sales operations. This was after the Bank Governor had noticed that the vaults of the Commercial Banks were dangerously empty, which had resulted in a huge drop in the deposit of Leone notes by Commercial Banks into the BSL Account.

ii.That on the 14th January, 2020 BSL sent out Notices to Fourteen (14) Commercial Banks registered in Sierra Leone, expressing interest for the sale of foreign currency (US Dollars) in exchange for Leone deposits for the purpose of mobilizing the Leone into the banking system.

iii.That the foreign exchange sale also known as Cash Swap Operations was done through Nostro transfer and US Dollar cash request. With respect to Nostro transfer, BSL credited Commercial Banks Foreign Correspondence Accounts the requested amount in US Dollars, and debited the Commercial Banks’ Leones Accounts held with them the equivalent of the transferred US Dollars in Leones. However, in respect to US Dollar cash requests, the Commercial Banks collected the physical cash applied for in US Dollars over the counter and its equivalent in Leone was debited from their Leone Accounts held with BSL.

iv.That through the Cash Swap Operations, between January 2021 and December 2021, BSL sold to the Commercial Banks the total sum of Sixty-eight Million Five Hundred and Ninety-five Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty-eight United States Dollars and Two Cents (USD 68,595,858.2) which was equivalent to, Seven Hundred and Seven Billion, Seven Hundred and Forty-five Million, Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand, Six Hundred and Eighty-eight Leones, Seventy-three Cents (Le 707,745,650,688.73).

v.That all Commercial Banks involved in the foreign exchange sales operation produced evidence of deposit slips to us at the ACC indicating the total amount of Leone notes credited to BSL Account Number 1200095 being equivalent in Leones of the US Dollars purchased from BSL.

Based on the foregoing, the Commission concludes that, even though the Bank Governor, Professor Kelfala M. Kallon, openly said he “bribe Commercial Banks” in his attempt to explain what had been done to revitalize the banking system, the said statement was a mischaracterization of what transpired and the use of the word “bribe” in that context was in error as the Professor struggled to simplify a complex banking operation. After several days of questioning him and various staff at the BSL, with evidence obtained from all concerned including the Commercial Banks, and forensic examination of the financial and operational records of the Bank of Sierra Leone, is that he was referring to the “Cash Swap” Operations conducted by BSL as explained above. He has been therefore advised to choose his words more carefully next time so as not to create the wrong impression for the public; as we all continue to work robustly to ensure that accountability and transparency continue to guide the Public Service of Sierra Leone.

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