A national consultation is currently underway in Sierra Leone, with the aim to help the country’s small and medium enterprises reach new export markets, and re-orient an economy still reeling from the Ebola crisis towards sustainable growth.
The stakeholder consultation, taking place in the capital Freetown, will look at ways to improve industrial product packaging in key sectors such as agriculture, agro-processing and manufacturing, to increase production and boost competitiveness.
A major outcome will be the formulation of a strategic action plan for Sierra Leone’s packaging industry, developed by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Trade & Industry and the Sierra Leone Investment & Export Promotion Agency.
Paulo Kautoke, Director of Trade at the Commonwealth Secretariat, which is supporting the Government’s consultation, reiterated the Commonwealth’s commitment to support Sierra Leone’s economy recovery by improving its export packaging. “Good quality packaging and labelling is of critical importance to improving the competitiveness of Sierra Leone’s exports, to enable the country to increase its market access. That’s why it is important that key stakeholders, particularly the private sector, have a forum and mechanism to discuss and plan the packaging needs of industry,” he said.
The consultation will involve discussion of a study by the Commonwealth Secretariat which identified poor packaging as a serious impediment to Sierra Leone’s ability to export to global markets.
The study found that a lack of national capacity in product packaging has been compounded by the fallout from the Ebola crisis which, according to the World Bank, resulted in a loss to the three affected countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – of at least US$2billion in forgone economic growth in 2014-2015.
Raymond Kai Gbekie, Chief Executive of the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), said the initiative would help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to emerge from traditional subsistence activities into higher value-added industrial manufacturing, agriculture and food processing activities.
Mr Gbekie said: “When SMEs are able to connect to international markets, either directly or by supplier linkage programmes, the prospects for growth of the economy and job creation are particularly high. We are particularly excited about this project because our current strategy focuses on the promotion of sustainable supply chains as a means of helping SMEs add value to their products and services.”