By Alfie Barrie (Television Anchor)
There is a body of evidence that shows that Sierra Leone is blessed with natural endowment. While other countries are totally bereft of natural beaches and heritage sites and are busy creating artificial beaches (which we in Sierra Leone marvel at) our own God given beaches and heritage sites lie in waste. The unclean nature of our beaches should be a major scar on every Sierra Leonean conscience. For far too long successive Governments have heavily banked their revenue mobilization drive on the extractive industry (the mining sector) which has proven to be fickle.
The Government is still reeling from the sharp fall in the price of iron ore on the world market couple of years ago which led to the closure of some mining companies in Sierra Leone. So, any administration that only relies on revenues from the mining sector is virtually playing to this widely used dictum of ‘putting once eggs in one basket’. Therefore, diversification of the economy is the best bet. The recent World Bank report on Sierra Leone heavily drills into the concept of economic diversification and one sector that could serve as a major revenue generating stream for the Government is the Tourism sector which the New Direction manifesto heavily espouses.
Having pristine beaches and making our heritage sites even more appealing to the outside world will not just develop our small and medium enterprises, but it has potential to rebrand the image of Sierra Leone as a country that is at peace with itself countering the notion of Sierra Leone being a war-torn country and a place that is infested with viral diseases and a totally dysfunctional state apparatus.
So, the launch of the national tourism census report by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with Statistic Sierra Leone couldn’t have come sooner. This geospatial survey gives you an impressive insight about our entire tourist sites in all one hundred and ninety chiefdoms.
I am quiet mindful of the toxic political situation Sierra Leone is currently in, and it is very simple for one to be associated with a political party, but I must admit that the current Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Dr. Memunatu Pratt seem to be steering the ship of that Ministry quite well. Thanks to the recently launched visa on arrival and some reasonable steps taken so far to rid off our beaches from sea weeds and the electrification of some of them coupled with her unwavering willingness to engage everyone in the entertainment sector, plus the flurry of international moves she has embarked on since her appointment and also attracting nearly a hundred thousand tourists last year signals hope. Conversely, this doesn’t mean all is glitz.
There are still some hurdles that need to be overcome such as properly developing our beaches that meets international standards and also, improving on the road infrastructure especially in far flung tourist site.
I am pretty convinced that with effective political leadership and a multi stake holder approach we will be able to turn the corner and transform our tourism sector into a bourgeoning one that will serve as a reliable revenue generation base for the government and at the same time serve as a magnet to foreigners who find delight in monuments and relics of historic countries like Sierra Leone.