The newly restructured Ministry of Information and Communication has made great progress in helping to bring Sierra Leone up to international standards in its media and information related activities. “We established an information and communications technology (ICT) policy and set up an ICT council, and we have joined the Africa Europe project to bring a submarine fibre optic cable link to Sierra Leone,” says I.B. Kargbo, Minister and government spokesman, who is well known as the charismatic ‘face of Sierra Leone’.
The ministry is also involved in restructuring Sierratel, the country’s public sector telecom provider, and plans to privatise it in the future. As an initial step, the ministry plans to offer tenders for management contracts. I.B. Kargbo points out, “Sierratel’s advantage is that it had infrastructure in place all over the country before the war. It can be a very successful privatisation, but we need to modernise it first.”
Another project for the ministry is to upgrade the performance of Salpost, the country’s postal service, and also to establish a strong regulatory environment for Sierra Leone’s post and courier sector through setting up a postal and courier services agency. I.B. Kargbo cites the positive example of NATCOM, which is widely recognised as an effective regulatory authority in Sierra Leone.
The ministry is also helping to bring new operators to the country’s telecom sector, including Greenet and Intergroup. “Our government’s open door policy is encouraging many telecom companies to invest in Sierra Leone,” I.B. Kargbo explains, citing Comium, Africell and Zain (Airtel) as success stories.
Promoting an attitude shift
An important task for the ministry is to promote a change in attitude in the people of Sierra Leone concerning what their country is and what it can achieve. “We need to have the mindset to let investors come in, and to realise that our country has changed and is moving forward,” Minister Kargbo says. His ministry will organise the celebration of Sierra Leone’s 50th anniversary of independence, a key event in promoting national pride and unity.
I.B. Kargbo is also determined to make the world more aware of Sierra Leone’s potential. He concludes, “We want to make it very clear that Sierra Leone can be a productive member of the global community. We also want investors to know that we have implemented measures to protect their investments. The first to come here will be far ahead of those who come later!”