GENTO Group Unveils $1.5 B Seaport Project in Banana Island

By Amin Kef (Ranger)

GENTO Group of Companies (SL) Limited has presented its first public disclosure of its Seaport Project to be situated within the Dublin and Rickett Communities of Banana Island, situated South-West of the Freetown Peninsula in Sierra Leone. This disclosure occurred on Friday, October 6, 2023 and was followed by a similar event held in Waterloo on Saturday, September 7, 2023.

The Sea Port Project is estimated to cost a whooping sum of $1.5 Billion which has been conceived and to be implemented by the GENTO Group of Companies, under the auspices of popular businessman and philanthropist, Mohamed Gento Kamara.

In attendance during this important disclosure were Mohamed Gento Kamara, the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources-Haja Isata Kabia, Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources- Kadijatu Jalloh, the Director of Operations for the Sierra Leone Port Authority (SLPA), Harbour Master of the Sierra Leone Port Authority – Captain Alpha Bangura ,Chief Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- Sheku Mack Kanneh, a lecturer of Njala University- Mohamed Jalloh, Acting headman of  the Rickett Community (Banana Island), Managing Director of Environmental Management Venture Services Limited- Alhaji Koroma, Ocean Engineer -Dr. Obai Kargbo, Amidu Mansaray, from Njala University, Yusuf Alhaji Lahai from the Geology Department of Fourah Bay College, Community Leaders, residents and members of the Fourth Estate.

In his succinctly delivered address, Mohamed Gento Kamara, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Gento Group of Companies, a renowned road construction firm with assets worth millions of dollars, disclosed to all present the strides that have been made so far to invest in the aforementioned Seaport Project.

He informed that their presence on Banana Island was primarily centred around initiating the construction of a 1.5 Billion Dollar Seaport Project, an  endeavour, which he said, has not only been approved by the Government but was subjected to obtaining an Environmental License, which outlines the Project’s impact and benefits for the local populace and the country as a whole.

Gento mentioned how a Public Disclosure meeting was conducted at Banana Island to facilitate the licensing process saying concurrently they have collaborated with academic institutions such as the University of Sierra Leone (USL) and other Sierra Leonean Universities to conduct comprehensive research on the site’s suitability.

He further disclosed how he envisions the forthcoming port to be the largest in West Africa further acknowledging Sierra Leone’s strategic geographical location, which according to him, has remained underutilized over the years.

“Hence, our  commitment to this project is a means to rectify this underutilization and improve the country’s prospects,” he pointed out which was warmly greeted by a deafening applause which became louder when he also added that the construction of the seaport is expected to contribute to a reduction in the prices of fuel and rice in the country.

Gento pointed out that while Morocco boasts of the deepest Port in Africa at 18.5 meters, Freetown’s water queue is approximately 12 to 13 meters deep. He said notably countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo have invested over 7 billion dollars in port extensions over the past five years, yielding depths of approximately 16 meters saying that in contrast the Seaport Project in Banana Island which they will be constructing aims for a minimum depth of 20 to 24 meters.

He said in terms of employment opportunities, they anticipate hiring over 1000 workers during the construction phase which will be followed by a long-term employment of more than 10,000 individuals within the Port expressing optimism that it will attract investors, potentially generating 50,000 to 100,000 jobs in the region.

Recognizing the importance of fishing in Banana Island, Gento reassured that the Port’s construction will not impede fishing activities, as only a small portion (2 out of 11 kilometres) of the island will be utilized for the Project.

He also expressed the conviction that the Port’s location has the potential to transform Sierra Leone, drawing parallels with how Singapore has benefited from its Port.

The businessman emphasized their commitment to the community, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, mentioning the construction of a Secondary School, a Health Centre and a Community Centre in response to the request made by the local residents.

Furthermore, he clarified that the decision regarding a Boarding Home that was requested for by the Rickett Community lies within the purview of the Banana Island Descendant Association, reflecting the positive relationship they maintain with the local people.

Gento further intimated that the Seaport Project will significantly and positively contribute to the growth of the country’s GDP by 4.5% and reiterated the provision of substantial employment opportunities and economic growth. He called on all Sierra Leoneans to embrace and support this transformative endeavor stressing how it has the potential of transforming Banana Island into a bustling city.

On her part ,the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Haja Isata Kabia, expressed her delight to be part of  such a history making event disclosing that the nation and Banana Island Community will stand to benefit immensely from the implementation of such an important Project that is about to be implemented by a Sierra Leonean. She maintained that fishermen in that part of the country will particularly benefit pinpointing that the initiative is a welcoming opportunity.

The Deputy Minister said one of the core mandates of the Ministry is to secure the well-being of fishermen further admonishing community residents to wholeheartedly embrace the Project and refrain from creating problems that will hamper its implementation. She emphasized the importance of embracing such a significant investment reiterating that it would bring benefits for them and the country adding that it also speaks to President Bio’s agenda for human capital development.

She appealed to Mohamed Gento Kamara to help in attracting more investors to establish five-star hotels on the island noting that such could contribute to the overall development of the entire island and transform it into a thriving hub.

The Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Kadijatu Jalloh, clarified misconceptions being peddled that the Island has been sold further affirming the immense benefits of the Project for the country and commended the community’s positive reception. She said the Project would benefit the country without negatively impacting the fishing industry and expressed interest in assessing any potential impact on the fishing industry.

The Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Chief Director, Sheku Mack Kanneh clarified his institution’s role in the development of the Project intimating that their focus is on assessing how the project would benefit the community and ensure full compliance with environmental standards.

He made reference to the impact assessment of the Project that was conducted by a contractor and assured all that the EPA will publish it on their website for public scrutiny and review further extending invitation to everyone to assess the detailed assessment document and share their views as well as concerns regarding the project’s impact on the community and the country.

In a presentation on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESHIA) Study that was conducted, a lecturer from Njala University, Mohamed Jalloh, stated that with appropriate mitigation measures the proposed Seaport Project will be environmentally feasible and friendly. Covering various aspects of the study, including the background, methodology, key findings and conclusions, Mohamed Jalloh, stressed the Project’s potential for regional development and connectivity while preserving the island’s ecological and social integrity.

The Managing Director of Environmental Management Venture Services Limited, Alhaji Koroma, outlined the environmental baseline conditions.

An Ocean Engineer, Dr. Obai Kargbo, did a presentation on a hydrodynamic study focusing on wind direction and speed. He observed that there are moderate wind and waves conditions at Rickett Island, as defined by the Beaufort Wind Scale and WMO.

Presentations were done by Amidu Mansaray, from Njala University, on  biodiversity study of the Rickett Seaport Project and Yusuf Alhaji Lahai, from the Geology Department of Fourah Bay College, on a Geomorphologic study conducted also affirming the optimal suitability of the Southern extreme of Rickett Island for a Seaport construction.

Harbour Master for the Sierra Leone Port Authority, Captain Alpha Bangura, highlighted the potential transformation of Banana Island into a new city due to this new development and emphasized the positive impact on transportation as well as the potential for increased ship traffic resulting in substantial employment and revenue. He underscored the potential for Banana Island to evolve into a new city, attracting more ships and boosting employment as well as revenue through increased trade.

The Director of Operations of the Sierra Leone Port Authority, Mr Koroma echoed similar sentiments and urged the community residents to embrace the new development and also offered guidance on issues related to fuel and other matters.

Morlai Conteh, a Civil Society Activist, expressed his appreciation for Gento’s generosity, even in the wake of an electoral defeat. He highlighted that Gento’s actions exemplify his character and potential as a leader who could have contributed significantly to the country had he been elected.

Conteh emphasized that the positive impact of Gento’s work transcends political affiliations regardless of whether one belongs to SLPP or APC and is ultimately for the betterment of the people of Sierra Leone. He called for unity and collaboration among all citizens in the pursuit of development and assured that as part of Civil Society, they would closely monitor and hold Gento accountable for the promises he has made if not fulfilled.

Acting Headman for the Rickett Community, David Jones, expressed the community’s eagerness for the actualization of the project as he acknowledged the lack of development in the village and welcomed Gento Kamara’s initiative. He emphasized the benefits that the Project would bring to Banana Island and Sierra Leone as a whole.

Other Community Leaders expressed their unanimous support for the project which, according to them, would bring much-needed development and economic opportunities to Banana Island.

It must be noted that the proposed Seaport will be located in Dublin and Rickett Communities, Banana Island in the Western Area Rural District of Sierra Leone and will be dedicated to meeting high standards.

Following best practice, the Gento Group of Companies, in the recent past, employed experts to conduct environmental research, evaluate potential impacts and communicate their findings to stakeholders, decision-makers and the public. The importance of addressing concerns raised by local community residents, establish grievance mechanisms and maintain transparency were taken into due consideration.

Significantly, within the two days that the presentations were made a range of experts discussed various findings of  the studies they conducted which bordered on environmental, biodiversity and geological assessments demonstrating a commitment, on the part of the GENTO Group to rigorous research and adherence to high standards and best practices.

Worthy of note also is the fact that the GENTO Group of Companies has reaffirmed its commitment to the Project’s standards and its intent to keep stakeholders and the public informed about the project’s potential impact and mitigation measures.

The highpoint of the events were a question-and-answer session, a conducted tour of the island and showcasing a comprehensive approach taken to engage community residents and address their concerns.

It is expected that with the implementation of the Seaport Project, Banana Island will indisputably become a thriving economic and environmental hub, providing new opportunities for both the community and Sierra Leone as a whole.

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