Is Sierra Leone richly poor or poorly rich?
Is Sierra Leone richly poor or poorly rich? Our country is regarded as rich and well known for its vast endowment in minerals — diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, iron ore, limonite, platinum, chromite, coltan, tantalite, columbite and zircon, as well as promising petroleum potential. With our wonderful climate and large swathes of arable land, we used to boast about products like rice, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, and in the recent past, piassava. With such resources for a population averaging seven million at best of times, what is our excuse for being such a poor nation?
Are we richly poor or poorly rich? Even with such huge resources, we paradoxically rank out , according to the Human Development Index HDI , and shamefully low in the human development category with an HDI of 0.
Like many other African countries, we share a diagnosis of Resource Curse; a term used to describe a paradoxical situation in which a country underperforms economically, despite being home to valuable natural resources. No one will doubt the impact the decade long civil war, the Ebola pandemic, the mudslides and currently the Covid pandemic, as nature and man-made factors have connived to condemn our country to the back of beyond poverty.
However, using these alone as reasons for our economic demise may just be convenient excuses. We may disagree that our country is rich potentially, but we cannot deny how we have inexcusably connived, through man-made means to relegate our country onto the low rungs of the world poverty scale. So how did we get here and how did we do it? There is no single reason or straightforward answer for this. Interestingly, we are not short of new vocabularies and phrases to express our national economic demise.
While the older generation use fond memories to compare and long for the old days, we still hold on to what is increasing looking like a delusion that our country is still rich.
On the other hand, the younger generation, just weaned from the ravages of war and the pandemics, will go green with envy of the good old days. Let us take a nostalgic drive down memory lane. Many people recall as the year we crossed the Rubicon into the downward spiral into the economic cesspit. The rest became history as we signed our economic prenuptial death knell agreements with the merchants of IMF, headquartered in Washington DC.
You wonder why everyone is chasing the dollar. Now roll back the years when we produced enough and exported oil palm, cocoa, coffee and piassava. Now imagine how many people these companies collectively employed across the country. There was hardly a family without at least one member in full time employment. Private miners, especially in the gold and diamond areas provided income and employment. Would it be safe to say that Sierra Leone was rich then? Let us fast forward to present day Sierra Leone.
All gone — thanks to systematic gutting, bad management, illegal sales etc. The wind of global economic change has not helped either as we lagged behind in the race to diversify and adapt. Those that survived are mere skeletons and shadows of their former selves.
Today we have deep mining that requires deep pockets, which only non-conglomerate pseudo-hustling companies can afford. Those days when we used to pick diamonds under eaves of houses after a heavy rainfall overnight are gone. Can any of the current companies operating in the country now even boast of employing more than or, even near a thousand workforce? The nearest we came to that was when African Minerals and London Mining were operating.
Even at that, the majority were employed in the railway track-laying phase. They laid them off after the manual labour phase was completed. The end of the war brought our country into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This attention brought us millions of dollars in aid, loans, NGOs etc.
What happened to all that? What do we have to show for it today? With the local refining of crude oil, fuel was relatively cheap. That has gone, but even with world market price falling today, the cost of refined petrol is Le 9, So, who pays the difference?
Government subsidies. That may be just one example. Even though this could be cautiously harvested, there is a price for posterity to pay.
The less said about our aviation industry the better. Ebola did hit the nerve centre of our economy, which coincided with the collapse of iron ore prices, and now Covid seems to have put the final nail in the coffin. Is it any wonder that the end of the war saw the largest migration in recent memory from our rural to urban areas? We continue to get our priorities wrong and open academic institutions daily, when we lack the outlets to accommodate these accomplished skills.
What is the point of more universities when we cannot even employ those that have qualified donkeys years ago? Our Private Public Partnerships are almost non-existent, leaving the government as the largest, if not relatively the only viable employer. With many people chasing fewer jobs, tagged with the inherent cancer of and pressure from nepotism, tribalism, corruption etc.
Is it against such a backdrop that the Rtd Brigadier Maada Bio brigade keep shouting that he has performed well in the two and half years he has been in power? They say that the government recruited and appointed 3, civil servants at both junior and senior school levels, recruited females in the army to promote gender equality. The Bio supporters also talk about the commissioning of 48 hospitals across the country, the approval of schools, supplied ambulances across the country, and commissioned the construction of two universities in Bonthe and Kono districts.
The Bio brigade makes a case that these policies will return our country to its foundation for sustainable development. The green corner is hopeful that corruption has been cauterised.
How long do we have to wait? So, what happens in the meantime? Take your pick. Do not forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
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Out of curiosity, year-old miner Komba Johnbull picked it up and fingered its flat, pyramidal planes. Johnbull had never seen a diamond before, but he knew enough to understand that even a big find would be no larger than his thumbnail. Still, the rock was unusual enough to merit a second opinion. Sheepishly, he brought it over to one of the more experienced miners working the muddy gash deep in the Sierra Leonean jungle.
So Johnbull kept shoveling gravel until nightfall, pausing occasionally to grip the heavy stone in his fist. Could it be? Johnbull, a gangly adolescent, could not help but fantasize about what finding a diamond of that size would mean. He thought of how he had left school at 12, after the death of his father, a farmer. He thought of his illiterate mother, who died when he was And then he swore to himself that if the stone did turn out to be a diamond, he would find a way to go back to school.
An estimated 9 million carats of high-quality diamonds have been extracted from the small West African nation since rich alluvial deposits were first found by British colonialists in the s, but the country has little to show for it.
The diamond trade fueled a decade-long civil war here that ended in , taking some 50, lives. But what Johnbull found on March 13, , may have upended that narrative. Weighing carats, it was the third largest diamond ever unearthed in Sierra Leone, and the 15th largest in the world. I can be proud of that. Tommy Trenchard—Panos for TIME If the government delivers, it could be the start of a new era for miners who dig diamonds by hand, according to Martin Rapaport, founder of diamond-trade network the Rapaport Group.
If the cycle is sustained, it could encourage consumer demand for fair-trade gemstones and precious metals, improving the lives of 1. If so, it is worth millions to the communities who produce them. Much of the diamond is cloudy and flawed. Rapaport estimates that only or so carats can be carved out for a big gem, along with a few smaller ones.
On Dec. It was far less than even government evaluators expected, but it garnered something much more valuable: transparency.
He wasted his money by giving his diamond to the government. The village, a small scattering of concrete huts with palm-leaf roofs, lies at the end of a severely rutted road that is all but impassable during the rainy season.
The village well, installed by an NGO a decade ago, had dried up, and women and children trekked almost a mile to fetch water from a stream for their daily needs. Residents gathered under the shade of a large tree to air their frustrations over the slow pace of development. Momoh, who has moved to Freetown but was back to visit, grimaced under the onslaught. If everything goes well, we will thank you for your good work. But if it goes wrong, you will get the blame.
This was personal for him too; like Johnbull, Momoh also quit school for the diamond fields when his father died. He quit to become a peanut seller, only to start up again in as a sponsor, once he scraped together enough cash to buy the necessary tools for his team. He closed his eyes in a brief prayer. If the government failed, so too would his plan to change the economics of diamond mining in Sierra Leone. But four months later, after national elections brought in a new government that won largely on a campaign to knock out corruption, work in the village has begun in earnest.
The foundations for a new clinic and school have been laid, and a well has been dug. The progress is a source of relief for Momoh, who has been assured by government officials that construction will ramp up further in September, at the end of the rainy season.
But now is not the time to let go, he says. He will still need to make sure that the clinic is staffed and stocked, and the teachers for the school are paid. Then my task will be done. We will hold the ministry of mines accountable. Changing the reputation of artisanal mining, a vital source of employment for young men in Sierra Leone, could be essential for the country. The civil war—era blood diamonds deserve opprobrium, Momoh says.
But this rock, the first major find since the end of the war, is different. Rapaport was one of the early proponents of the Kimberley Process, an internationally recognized system designed to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds. Graff bid significantly more on the Peace Diamond than anyone else because of its story, argues Rapaport, and other high-profile diamantaires are likely to follow. But the Peace Diamond is a unique case. Instead, they are aggregated into packets that are traded on private exchanges with little accountability.
Public auctions are about as rare as, well, a carat diamond. This should happen with every diamond, but it does not. Jane Hahn for TIME The community may still be waiting for the full benefits of its share, but the sale of the diamond has already changed the lives of Momoh and his team.
It has also been a burden to this group of men, who are accustomed to living among the poorest of the poor. Like lottery winners, they have been besieged by friends, relatives and miscellaneous supplicants demanding handouts. Momoh estimates that he has spent thousands this way.
Scams and financial illiteracy are a bigger concern for Momoh. As a former digger himself, he has seen too many friends strike it rich, only to blow their cash and end up in penury a few years later. That is what I am afraid of. At his urging, each of the men purchased property. One invested the rest of his money with the bank and plans to live off the interest. Another opened a small business. Two got married one to a second wife , and one, says the pastor with a wince, has regrettably started drinking.
Johnbull, however, decided to invest in an education. At first, Momoh was thrilled when the teenager told him he intended to return to school. A friend said it would be easy to get a visa. Momoh, who has been rejected twice for a visa to the U. Then later you can go to Canada and finish your education. One hundred and fifteen thousand dollars is a lot of money in Sierra Leone. In Canada, it is nothing. On March 3, nearly a year after he found the diamond, he shoved all his belongings into a suitcase for what he thought would be a brief stop to pick up a visa at the Canadian High Commission in Ghana before booking an onward flight to Canada.
He packed a knitted beanie because he had heard it was cold in Canada, and extra supplies of toothpaste, deodorant and acne cream, in case they were too costly abroad.
Johnbull figured it would take only a few days to get a visa. Instead, it took weeks to even get an interview, and ultimately he was rejected. He applied again, for Germany, to no avail.
Finally, exhausting all his options, and most of the rest of his money, he reluctantly returned to Sierra Leone on July 3. Now he is back in Freetown, unable to find a job, but unwilling to return to the diamond mines of Koryardu. The shame, he says, would be too much. From what he has heard, the village is finally starting to profit from his find.
Returning empty-handed would show everyone there that he has not. Still, he has faith that things will turn out just fine. I am praying to God that tomorrow will bring me another blessing.
Despite being one of the few countries in the world that has precious natural resources such as diamonds and rare minerals, this nation continues to suffer from extreme poverty.
Top 5 wealthiest black people who can collectively take Sierra Leone out of poverty
There are several factors that contribute to the persistent poverty in Sierra Leone. This paper will focus on four key factors: corruption within the government, insufficient infrastructure, lack of education and inadequate civil rights. This paper will first examine broad factors of poverty within Sub-Saharan Africa, and then explore the aforementioned specific factors causing steadfast poverty in Sierra Leone. There are certain over-arching factors that make sub-Saharan Africa more susceptible than the rest to the continuous problem of poverty.
Sachs et al. Because infrastructure is extremely weak, transport costs are very high to get supplies and products from one area to another. Finally, slow dissemination of foreign technology has failed to develop this country in modern times. Corruption One of the most basic factors causing poverty within Sierra Leone lies within the government. Since colonial rule departed, the government has been characterised primarily by either a one-party rule or a military rule : a one-dimensional rule that does not allow for opposition, and breeds corruption.
The government has been extremely incompetent in providing its citizens with the most basic needs, because these needs have been usurped for government officials themselves. Soccoh Alex Kabia, has verbally recognised this occurrence, he has yet to take any proactive measures to stop this practice. Free medical assistance provided by donor nations do not reach the poor within Sierra Leone; instead, individuals, both within and outside the government, sell these free drugs for profit.
Citizens cannot cure illnesses effectively and quickly because they do not have the financial means to afford even basic healthcare. As a result, they can fall fatally ill and pass away; if an individual who is the sole breadwinner of a family passes away, the family is left without an income, which drives them further into poverty. Alternatively, even if an individual is not fatally ill, they cannot go earn money for subsistence until they feel better, which they cannot achieve with expensive medicine.
These unnecessary health-care expenses have played a significant role in propelling and perpetuating poverty amongst citizens. Instead, these funds have been used to serve the specific and inordinate needs of government officials and the urban elite, who happen to be government supporters.
One significant example of this can be found within the rule of Siaka Stevens, the first President of Sierra Leone. He used up most of the financial resources that were meant for his state and people; as a result, poverty and underdevelopment reigned, and has continued within Sierra Leone. In addition, external factors such as a decreased demand for diamonds worldwide has thrown many Sierra Leoneans out of jobs and into poverty.
Infrastructure The infrastructure within Sierra Leone is anything but sound; the money that is meant to build sturdy roads and bridges to enable facilitated transport of goods and basic services goes into the pockets of government officials. Even in colonial times, railroads that were constructed for the explicit purpose of expediting transportation and enhancing trade were ultimately seen as inefficient, and as a financial drain on the state.
Sierra Leone does regard areas like Freetown, a major seaport, as significant to their imports and trade activities. However, this does not take importance away from roads; transport of services into rural areas, as well as trade between areas that do not have seaports, is facilitated by roads, which Sierra Leone lacks. As a result, Sierra Leoneans undersell their products, which results in lesser revenue and perpetuates poverty. Lack of infrastructure also leads to easy movement of rebels and militiamen, such as the RUF, to cause violence over a wider range of areas within Sierra Leone to emphasise their objectives.
Citizens displaced by rebels face even more poverty as they are forced to flee from their home and their jobs into areas where nothing is guaranteed. Even outside help, such as foreign troops, cannot get into remote areas to provide emergency fortigate wifi ssid and stop militiamen if there is no solid infrastructure to help them get there. Weak infrastructure has also caused a spike in diamond prices, causing poverty within Sierra Leone.
The Teenage Miner, the Village and the 709-Carat Diamond That Changed Everything
Costs to get diamonds from one area to another are high since roads and highways continue to remain in poor shape. For this reason, Sierra Leone cannot price its diamonds as cheaply as other countries can on an international platform.
As a result, internal costs to transport diamonds to trading ports are not high, and their revenue outweighs their costs. Interestingly, we are not short of new vocabularies and phrases to express our national economic demise.
While the older generation use fond memories to compare and long for the old days, we still hold on to what is increasing looking like a delusion that our country is still rich. On the other hand, the younger generation, just weaned from the ravages of war and the pandemics, will go green with envy of the good old days. Let us take a nostalgic drive down memory lane. Many people recall as the year we crossed the Rubicon into the downward spiral into the economic cesspit.
The rest became history as we signed our economic prenuptial death knell agreements with the merchants of IMF, headquartered in Washington DC. You wonder why everyone is chasing the dollar. Now roll back the years when we produced enough and exported oil palm, cocoa, coffee and piassava. Now imagine how many people these companies collectively employed across the country. There was hardly a family without at least one member in full time employment. Private miners, especially in the gold and diamond areas provided income and employment.
Would it be safe to say that Sierra Leone was rich then? Let us fast forward to present day Sierra Leone. All gone — thanks to systematic gutting, bad management, illegal sales etc. The wind of global economic change has not helped either as we lagged behind in the race to diversify and adapt. Those that survived are mere skeletons and shadows of their former selves.
Factors of Persistent Poverty in Sierra Leone
Today we have deep mining that requires deep pockets, which only non-conglomerate pseudo-hustling companies can afford. Those days when we used to pick diamonds under eaves of houses after a heavy rainfall overnight are gone. Can any of the current companies operating in the country now even boast of employing more than or, even near a thousand workforce? The nearest we came to that was when African Minerals and London Mining were operating. Even at that, the majority were employed in the railway track-laying phase.
They laid them off after the manual labour phase was completed. The end of the war brought our country into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This attention brought us millions of dollars in aid, loans, NGOs etc. What happened to all that? What do we have to show for it today?
With the local refining of crude oil, fuel was relatively cheap. That has gone, but even with world market price falling today, the cost of refined petrol is Le 9, So, who pays the difference? Government subsidies.