Many African countries are currently looking inward for production, particularly food and other basic consumables
Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, has already attained rice self sufficiency, by being the largest rice producer and exporter in Africa today.
Sierra Leone, from analysis of the budget 2024, presented by the Minister of Finance, Sheku Fantamadi Bangura, to parliament last week, squarely aims at this direction.
Under the “Feed Salone” initiative by President Julius Maada Bio, with an 800 million dollar rice industrial complex already presented to institutional investors at the just concluded Marrakesh AIF and Saudi-Africa Summits, Sierra Leone is on the road to self sufficiency in local rice production and even to export.
The prime objective is to boost local food productivity, particularly rice, through industrial production, via private sector initiatives, to achieve self sufficiency and not be vulnerable to external shocks currently ongoing.
Nigeria and other African countries are locally milling quality rice for local consumption and export. Why not Sierra Leone? This is what the Minister targets in the just presented budget to parliament.
Second, the tax base will be broadened. Tax on imported rice will be increased and that of cement, to encourage local production.
There is currently a slow down in world economic outlooks. from 3.5% in 2022, to 3.0% in 2023, to a further 2.9% in 2024.
US, Europe and Asia are slowing down in economic outlooks.
China, Sierra Leone’s leading economic partner, is slowing down, with huge problems in its property and real estate sectors.
This has a telling effects on Sub Saharan African countries like Sierra Leone, whose economic growth rate is low, with a mounting debt crisis close to 90% to GDP, high inflation, volatile interest and exchange rates pressures. It is only in the last few days the leones is slightly appreciating.
Food prices remain volatile, could be worsened by the escalating wars ongoing in Ukraine and Gaza. Definitely, the effects on Africa is devastating, with high costs of living for the people
Rationale for inward looking strategies
Rice, Sierra Leone’s staple and the peoples delightful dish, was up in the international market from $ 495.0 per metric ton in January 2023, to $620 per metric ton in September 2023. Looking inward to produce rice on industrial scale in imperative. This is in tandem with last week’s 800 million dollar rice industrial complex project proposal by President Bio to investors, to complement “ Feed Salone” project.
Fortunately for Sierra Leone, the country’s revenue spinner, iron ore price, is globally stable at $ 120 per metric ton and may likely shoot up, due mass flooding in Brazil’s biggest iron ore mines. Sierra Leone stands to gain.
There is also another good initiative by Leone Rock Mining Company to locally commence iron ore smelting in Sierra Leone, into steel production, when the energy situation in the country improves. The amount of steel production and utilisation in a country determines its level of industrialisation.
The inward looking strategies by the Finance Minister in his budget speech last week, to counter external challenges ongoing, with no end in sight, though difficult, for a start, is the ultimate strategy by other African countries to develop, including food sufficiency and infrastructure development.