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President Ernest Koroma speaks on outcome of China visit

By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte & John Baimba Sesay-Sanya, Hainan Province South China::

With this serving as his third visit as President of Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma on Monday June 30th ended a six days visit to the Peoples Republic of China. His visit was upon the invitation of the Chinese leadership and Tsinghua University where he was invited to deliver a speech at the 2nd World Peace Forum in Beijing.
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The World Peace Forum was, in 2012 launched as China’s first and only high-level non-governmental international security forum which won universal acclaim from all sectors of society.

During his weeklong visit, President Koroma met with the Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping and Vice President Li Yuanchao and the leadership of Tsinghua University. President Ernest Bai Koroma held fruitful discussions with China Kingho Energy Group and also visited their headquarters in Beijing; visited Kingho Group Recycling and Industrial Park in Inner Mongolia; visited a rubber plantation in Hainan Province and a host of tourism projects in Sanya, Hainan Province.

President Koroma who was accompanied by a number of state officials, including government ministers and staff from the Office of the President, also had several discussions with China’s Export and Import Bank-Exim Bank; met with Chinese enterprises and representatives from a number of financial institutions and with Sierra Leoneans in China.

Flying with China Air to Hainan Province from Inner Mongolia, we (Press Attaché, Sierra Leone Embassy in China and Communications Unit, Office of the President) caught up with President Koroma, to amongst other reasons know his impression about his visit to China, and to also know what were some of the outcomes from his meetings with Chinese leaders and financial institutions.

It should be noted, that China and Sierra Leone entered into diplomatic relations in the early 1970s. Over the years both countries have been working tremendously well in fostering the bars of cooperation and bilateral ties. Read the interview below:

Ques: What is your general impression about this your latest visit to China?

Ans: Well this came out as a very successful visit. I believe I have visited a few times. I had more opportunity to interact with the leadership-the President, the Vice President and the Foreign Minister. They presented their own policy guidelines with the way they would want us to collaborate and move forward.

Ques: What can you say about the outcome in terms of tangible results?

Ans: You know that they have made an offer of 250 million RMB, which was given to us as a grant with a commitment of supporting the construction of the centre of excellence and other ongoing programmes. But as a leadership they have stated that they will require more interactions at our levels; collaborations both at a bilateral and multilateral levels.

Also, we had several meetings with the private sector-companies that are already doing business in Sierra Leone and those with the desire to do business in Sierra Leone. Most importantly we had a meeting with EXIM Bank with a view of preparing a kind of package of support by the bank to programmes in Sierra Leone, and we also met with the China-Africa Development Fund. Now for the projects we had already negotiated, the Kingho Group and the Hainan Group, I have visited one of the outfits of Kingho. Am sure we are all impressed with what we saw. There was a great commitment on the part of the chairman to replicate the kind of industrial park that they have in Wuhai, Inner Mongolia in Sierra Leone. They have already signed a 6.5 billion dollars agreement with the Sierra Leone government to develop a mine and a port. Our visit was impressive

Again, the Hainan Project is a project that we have negotiated and we are now going to conclude the negotiations by signing. It is also 1.5 billion dollars that will grow rubber and embark on irrigation of rice. We have also concluded discussions on the airport project. Now what we have derived from this visit is a conclusion of the airport project; the Hainan agricultural project; and the Kingho project. The Kingho project is 6.5 billion dollars; the airport is a 300,000 million dollars project and the Hainan is a 1.5 billion dollars project. So in terms of both the political engagement and the private sector engagement, I consider it a very successful trip.

Of course, I had the opportunity of meeting Sierra Leoneans in the embassy and I admonished them to work very hard and endeavor to be part of the Agenda for Prosperity.

Ques: There was also an issue on building of human resource capacity?

Ans: The Kingho Energy Group is committed to supporting sierra Leoneans to come here and be trained, especially those that will be interested in involving in their outfits. They are also committed to support efforts of government projects to the tune of about 10 million dollars. The Chinese leadership has also indicated s strong commitment to support the development of our human capacity with frequent in-house trainings of government officials and other employees to enhance their professionalism in what they are doing and also learning from the Chinese experience.

Ques: Can we relate these outcomes to the prosperity agenda?

Ans: You see, we will be launching the Agenda for Prosperity in July and with the launch we intend moving forward with the implementation and all of what we are doing is preparing support for the implementation of the programmes.

Ques: Thank you Mr. President

Ans: My pleasure.

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