It is easy to understand why the Government of Sierra Leone is putting such emphasis on local content. It is one possible answer to the perennial question of how to convert resource wealth into an actually wealthy population and addressing problems of unemployment as well as the informality of the economy, something most African countries have so far struggled with as in the case of Nigeria and Ghana who are ironically far way above us.
The employment rate in Sierra Leone by whatever standard is unacceptably high. Sierra Leone should have been one of the world's richest countries, being blessed with natural resources but still remains one of the world's poorest countries. The wealth that our minerals should have brought is not evident, and Sierra Leone is still emerging from scars of the brutal Sierra Leone Civil War, which was fuelled by illicit diamond trading. Revenue from mining in Sierra Leone has not been redistributed to benefit the larger population. Economic development is low due to poor management of resources and unrealized potential revenue. The establishment of the National Minerals Agency (NMA) in March 2012 by President Koroma was a step taken to help accelerate fair and predictable implementation of mining laws and regulations, which will encourage investment in the mineral sector.
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Increased youth employment and greater local participation in the mining sector, with the hope of contributing to direct economic growth as well as deliver revenue to the Government to spend on activities that promote long-term economic development and poverty reduction.
Policies regarding well-management of the mining industry should be done alongside a broader focus for the economy's development, and greater efforts should be done to expand the manufacturing and service sector, which only contribute 12% to the GDP. Sierra Leone is among the top-ten diamond-producing nations, but the mining sector still faces many challenges, including weak laws and smuggling issues.Sierra Leone is losing large revenue that could have been earned from taxes and licensing agreements. Those revenues could have been reinvested for example in the healthcare sector to help those people whose health is affected by mining operations. For example, the National Minerals Agency and the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources can reverse or strengthen some of the mining policies in order to attract more foreign investments for the maximum benefits of Small and Medium Enterprises, ensure transfer of knowledge and promote the employment of Sierra Leoneans in all sectors of the economy. An example can be sighted through the Gemstone School Sierra Leone, which was established as an institution to improve diamond polishing, cutting and jewelry-manufacturing skills to boost job-training and employment opportunities locally and to attract overseas investors. More efforts from the Government and Multi-National Corporations can hence be done in the future to build more diamond-processing facilities and plants in Sierra Leone to boost the diamond mining industry.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.