STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF TOURISM AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS HON. MEMUNATU PRATT

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF TOURISM AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS HON. MEMUNATU PRATT AT THE SIERRA LEONE PRESS CONFERENCE IN BERLIN GERMANY AT THE  INTERNATIONAL TOURISMUS BOURSE (ITB) 2019. WEDNESDAY 6TH MARCH 2019


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to address this gathering at the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show; ITB Berlin is the foremost business platform for global touristic offers bringing together operatives and investors within the travel, tourism and hospitality Sector. Let me hasten to thank the organisers, UNWTO, ITB, for jointly organising this all-important event. My appreciation is also extended to the German government and the people of Berlin for being an exceptional host bringing together participants from different countries globally.

Please permit me to also bring you warm greetings from His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio who is very passionate about Tourism and its commitment to make Sierra Leone an enviable destination.

Tourism is among one of the critical areas that Sierra Leone’s ‘New direction’ government has identified as one of the three priority sectors and wants to use it to help diversify the country’s economy from mineral dependency. The aim is to boost the country’s economy, create job opportunities, and instill pride among Sierra Leoneans regarding the beauty and appeal of their country.

The specific policy actions covers (i) Improving the Policy and Legal Environment; (ii) Developing Historic Sites; (iii) Developing the Infrastructure;(iv) Promoting Marketing and Improving International Image; (v) Skills Development and (vi) Diversification of Tourism Products.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to give you a brief background about Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone is located on the West Coast of Africa with an area of 73 326 sq metre and a population of 7.396 million with a GDP of USD$ 3.77 billion in 2017.  Agriculture is the main economic activity (subsistence) with export earnings provided by diamonds, rutile bauxite and iron ore. The Tourism Sector is promising and a potential contributor to the socio-economic development of the country.  Sierra Leone is a unique and fascinating destination blessed with a landscape of extraordinary beauty, rich and diverse tropical wildlife, miles of pristine, unspoilt white and golden beaches with an interesting history and heritage, the climate is ideal for winter, sun seekers.

These attributes have attracted the attention of major Tour Operators, Travel Writers and the country has been classified as one  of the 10 top tourist destination in 2009, by Lonely Planet Magazine and as described in the 2009 Bradt Guide.

The country’s tourism asset portfolio comprises (31) protected areas with unique wildlife including the Pygmy hypos, Chimpanzee, jungle elephant, rare species of birds, 18 National Cultural Heritage Sites one of which  is the Bunce Island which is linked to the country’s rich past Slave Trade and home for returning Slaves.   Opportunities for big game fishing and bird watching attract the high spending eco-tourism clientele.

The country’s proximity to Europe of only (6) flying hours, (8) hours from the United States and (3) hours within the sub-regions, places the destination in an advantageous position of no jet lag for tourists and business clientele.

Tourism launch is three-fold – to change the negative perception of the country to the outside world, to attract more tourists and business travelers and to raise awareness of the value of wildlife tourism for the country’s economy. Additionally, it highlights the positive story to tell about the country’s heritage and offerings.

It is about time for more people to know about Sierra Leone, because we believe they will be pleasantly surprised. Therefore, we look to your assistance.

Our country has come a long way in recent times. In addition, from a tourism perspective, we know it needed to. We have grabbed your newspaper headlines far too often, and for all the wrong reasons, in the past.

We do not disguise it; our country has been blighted by first a civil war and then the threat of Ebola. However, as a nation, we are delighted to say that we have moved forward. The entire country is stronger, safer and healthier than it has ever been.

We are now ready to throw open our doors and welcome travelers from across the globe to visit our amazing country, which has many wonderful surprises in store for the more adventurous traveler.

I will highlight just a handful of the top reasons why you should visit Sierra Leone, some of these reasons are:

  1. World’s most pristine beaches
  2. Beautiful and breathtaking landscapes
  3. A top destination for travelers seeking new, exotic experiences
  4. Close proximity to Europe
  5. Hospitable and friendly people

It is also important to emphasize that our tourism infrastructure is still in its infancy, despite plans are on the way to develop the tourism infrastructure. I am pleased to inform you that the Government under the New Direction will construct a bridge that will connect the airport to the rest of the country, develop and upgrade five ecotourism sites; the quantity of accommodation options is expanding, whilst the quality of hotels and lodges continues to improve.

We have identified numerous high-quality tourism attractions to be found only in Sierra Leone, meaning that there is huge appeal for those who seek vibrant culture, unique wildlife or just relaxing on a beautiful beach.

Unlike some countries in the Africa, Sierra Leone is not a finished, highly polished tourism destination. In addition, we know that for many travelers this simply adds to its charm and appeal. Sierra Leone does have a wealth of worthy attractions and visitors can enjoy a sense of pioneering, as they will be able to claim they are amongst the first to arrive.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Currently in Sierra Leone, the economic environment is conducive, infrastructural support such as better road networks, improved energy, stability and improved fiscal and physical incentives are indications of better days ahead. Investment opportunities are eminent. Other important reforms in the pipeline include:

  • the provision of is a on arrival for selected target markets
  • the review of the different cost elements of flight tickets geared towards reducing or eliminating excessive costs,
  • the implement measures aimed at easing the process of doing business in Sierra Leone
  • provision of light infrastructural development for tourist attraction sites
  • preservation of cultural and historical sites including Bunce Island a 17th century slave fort considered as one of the most authentic in the sub-region
  • the protection of the ecosystem and biodiversity through collaborating and empowering local communities to protect their resources
  • Harnessing the creativity of our youths by investing in fashion filmmaking, art and crafts, music pageantry, sports etc.
  • Expanding the tourism offer from the predominantly hospitality –based to include culture, ecosystem and biodiversity

Sierra Leone is peaceful – country and people – according to the Annual Global Peace index

Whether you are a travel journalist, tour operator or investor, I encourage you to listen to the ideas of my team and myself and we look forward to hosting you in Sierra Leone in the very near future.

COME TO SIERRA LEONE – AND YOU WILL DISCOVER THE SIERRAOUSLY SURPRISING

WELCOME REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR MBAIMBA LAMIN BARYOH AT THE INTERNATIONAL TOURISMUS BOURSE (ITB) PRESS CONFERENCE ON SIERRA LEONE PARTICIPATION IN THE TRADE FAIR AND EXHIBITION IN BERLIN, GERMANY.

Mr. Chairman,

All Protocolls observed,

It is my pleasure and honour to welcome you, the Hon. Minister of Tourism, Dr. Memunatu Pratt and entourage to Berlin, as well as the organizer of this event, KPRN Network GMBH, and Ms. Hanna Kleber. Heartfelt welcome also to all the Press here in this Forum. – I wish us all very successful deliberations during this Press Conference.

In Africa, as well as in the developing world, Governments and Partners in development have accepted,  not only the importance of tourism in economic development,  but also the significant role it plays in the   process of planning development – of the country.  The new direction under which the present Government of Sierra Leone, under the Head of State, the President Retired  Brigadier Julius Maada Bio who assumed Office about 10 months ago has put together a flagship programme among which a free quality education for primary and secondary school plays a pivotal role.

The flagship programme also includes,  but not limited,  to agriculture, health, energy and tourism. The government has thus mapped-out strategies for investments   into  the country and this includes investments into the tourism sector. The country is now politically stable, and safe. In fact  Sierra Leone is considered the third safest country in Africa and its capital Freetown, the safest in West Africa.

Apart from the free quality education, the Government has established a single treasury account and a completion of a policy framework for expanding investments in agriculture, fisheries and tourism. There are also investment possibilities in health care and healthcare infrastructure and services.

There is a relentless fight against corruption with an internationally recognized anti-corruption index going up to 71% from 49%. A Commission of Enquiry is presently going on in Freetown to investigate officials of the past regime.

It has robust police force which does not carry guns in contrast to many other countries. There are laws guiding and protecting private property as well as,  there is a fairly good  functioning infrastructure like electricity roads. The international airport at Lungi is about to be expanded with modern hotels and an international conference centre. Plans are underway to construct a bridge linking Lungi, the airport with the City of Freetown.  You see that Sierra Leone is now ripe for investment in several sectors among which is in the tourism sector . Even though we provide excellent hotels, there is still much more to be done for the development of holiday resorts on   excellent beaches. There are many opportunities for relaxation and pleasure, i.e. giving tourists a new experience for their holidays and good opportunities for  investments in tourism.

All of these show the seriousness of Government to attract investors.

Tourism in Sierra Leone has taken a central position in the country’s developmental strides. These include:

  1. Eco-tourism where the government and private industry will create conditions, the knowledge, the infrastructure and the synergies for a sustainable focused tourism economy. Our goal is transferring Sierra Leone into a role model in West Africa for eco-tourism
  2. Wild life tourism – where the visitor can see extensive wildlife like apes, chimpanzees, elephants and many species of birds.
  3. Beach tourism- the wide beaches are directly facing the Atlantic Ocean
  4. For the lovers of water sports, there are excellent opportunities for Surfing and other activities.
  5. Excursions to well-preserved areas which show the cultural heritage of Sierra Leone

The people of Sierra Leone and we like to invite you to explore our beautiful country and welcome you to SERRAOUSLY SIERRA LEONE at ITB 2019

I am sure the Hon. Minister will dilate on these few points I have mentioned.

Once more, I welcome you all to this Press Conference.

I thank you for listening.

TOURISM DELEGATION FROM SIERRA LEONE IN GERMANY FOR ITB.

A delegation from Sierra Leone headed by the Minister of Tourism, Memunatu Pratt and comprising officials from her ministry, the National Tourist Board and the Relics and Monument Commission respectively, arrived in Berlin Germany on Monday 4th March ahead of the 5-day annual International Tourismus Bourse (ITB) which bring together countries from around the world to showcasing and exhibiting their tradition and culture for touristic attraction.

On the evening of their arrival, the minister was welcomed at the embassy and held a briefing session with the diplomatic staff.

She was upbeat about rebranding of the tourism sector both at home and more importantly abroad and seemed very pleased with the success and significant progress made so far. She revealed that from records made available by the immigration department at the Lungi International airport, 20,000 tourists visited Sierra Leone in the last three months. And the priority is open up this part of the world to Sierra Leone touristic attraction.

The ITB is a global event attracting about 60,000 people across the world this year. Sierra Leone will be showcasing her cultural values and have a booth where all of these will be displayed or made available, including local cuisines and traditional dance.

Ambassador MBaimba Baryoh promised to do follow ups on all of the issues raised and discussed as he too has used every available platform since assuming office to invite investors to focus attention on Sierra Leone tourism sector emphasising that it is a priority area of President Bio and the NEW DIRECTION.

On the morning of Tuesday 5th March, KPRN Network represented by Hanna Kleber, Managing Director and Jens Frenzel, Project Manager for Africa who are in charge of planning the Sierra Leone event in Germany, held a briefing session at the Sierra Leone embassy at which the Minister, representatives of the tourist board and staff of the embassy were in attendance, presented a comprehensive plan for the uplift of the tourism industry in Sierra Leone over a three years period which the Minister and Ambassador Baryoh nodded.

FBC on exchange programme with University in Germany.

A student exchange and research teaching programme between the SRH Hochschule Berlin, a private University in Germany and FBC (University Of Sierra Leone) is being considered following extensive discussions between Ambassador M’Baimba Baryoh and Prof. Hartman, Vice Chancellor SRH, and a follow up visit to the University on the evening of February 14 by the Ambassador where he delivered a speech on ‘NEW INVESTMENT STRATEGIES’ of the Government of Sierra Leone to faculty members & students.

The University offers courses in applied sciences with focus on renewable energy and when Prof. Hartman visited the Sierra Leone embassy earlier, he stated categorically during the discussion that “wherever energy is mentioned I run to go there”. This was when Ambassador Baryoh extended an invitation for him to visit Sierra Leone where he spoke with Prof. Foday Sahr, Vice-Chancellor USL during which a MoU was planned and now ready for signing.

Ambassador Baryoh stated in his speech at the University that the NEW DIRECTION government of President Maada Bio has key areas of priority including energy, agriculture, health, tourism, marine resources with education as the flagship programme in which 21% of the national budget is invested which has seen the introduction of free, quality primary and secondary education and extended recently to include some core courses at university level.

He stressed that the Sierra Leone is politically stable, the fight against corruption is making remarkable successes and gave the assurance of investors protection and security whilst explaining the conduct of three democratic elections that were free, fair and transparent between 2002 and 2018 with the change of governance on two occasions.

Also, he elaborated on challenges faced travelling by sea between the international airport and the capital and the plans to construct a bridge linking the airport to the city. Sierra Leone he emphasised is completely ready for business.

The ambassador was accompanied by his wife Elizabeth Baryoh and the Deputy Ambassador Mr. Jonathan Leigh and both took part in discussions on the side-line.

Agriculture Minister attends GFFA in Berlin.

Agriculture Ministers from across the world have ended their 3-day German Forum for Food and Agriculture meeting hosted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and held at the City Cube in Berlin.

Sierra Leone’s Agriculture Minister, Joseph Ndanemah participated actively as one of four panellists on the topic OUT OF DEADLOCK: NEW VISION FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRADE, the only African on the panel, on Friday morning where he stated he would prefer trade to aid and grant at the pre-briefing session.

And in the session proper before an audience of about 120 attendees, including Ambassador M’Baimba Baryoh, the minister suggested the dismantling of trade barriers as Agriculture is important to keep rural areas going.

Later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Markel addressed the session which was exclusively for ministers.

On Saturday morning, minister Ndanemah chaired a session discussing digital agriculture using the Chatham rules, in his words. And later reported on its outcome at a session chaired by the Germany Agriculture Minister culminating to the end of the event during which the draft communique was overwhelming approved.