ReGrow is Underway, Supporting Post-Ebola Economic Recovery in Sierra Leone
May 3, 2017
Sierra Leone is a country that has been blessed with potential, but potential that we have all too often failed to realize. When I returned in 2009, Sierra Leone was poised to embark upon the greatest period of economic growth in its history. Sadly, that promise was crushed by the twin evils of Ebola and the worldwide downturn in commodity prices, bringing with them thousands of deaths and economic collapse.
Sierra Leoneans are a resilient people. In the 55 years of our independence, we have weathered many storms, and we will weather this one. But if we are to deliver on our potential, we must learn from our travails. Our country is not incapable of producing world beating businesses. Choithrams, a global trading company with a presence in Europe, the Americas and Asia, was born in Sierra Leone. We are not short of entrepreneurs. Anybody driving our streets can testify to the entrepreneurial zeal of our people. What is lacking is a middle; both a middle class and the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that, in developed countries, typically contribute up to 50% of GDP and 60% of employment. People and businesses committed to the country, with the potential to grow, to employ, feed, clothe and educate our populace – and with the will and resources to sustain themselves even when the going gets tough.
The ReGrow programme, funded by Chevron and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) seeks to help develop this middle. Working with the internationally-renowned non-governmental organization Cordaid, we will harness the potential of our entrepreneurs, providing free Resilient Business Development Services to 25 carefully selected SMEs who, on completion of their training, may be supported by loans from the specially created ReGrow Revolving Loan Fund to help them sustain and grow their businesses. In partnership with Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), we will identify investment opportunities to showcase on the ReGrow Marketplace, a portal which will be developed by ReGrow, and hosted within the SLIEPA website. Larger scale sectorial opportunities will be highlighted in the international Convergence platform. ReGrow on its own will not change the economic landscape of Sierra Leone, but it is our hope that we will serve as a catalyst for that necessary change.
RESOLVE and USAID held a launch event for ReGrow at the US Embassy in Sierra Leone on January 15, 2017. Thereafter, RESOLVE established its ReGrow implementation infrastructure in Sierra Leone and began organizing all of the necessary implementation partnerships. By April 15, 2017 RESOLVE expects to initiate Stage-1 of its SME Support, starting with recruitment and due diligence of SMEs. At the same time, RESOLVE also expects to begin working with SLIEPA and other partners to design and develop the ReGrow Marketplace and will commence planning and promoting an impact investment training seminar and workshop.
Sheka Forna, Strategic Partner, RESOLVE