Since the signing of the lease agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and ARISE Integrated Industrial Platform Ltd (ARISE IIP) on the 17th of January 2023 for the Development, Expansion and Management of the Pepel Port and Pepel-Tonkolili Railway awaits Parliamentary debate and subsequent approval, pertinent stakeholders have expressed the candid view that it is in the best interest of country’s development trajectory as looming economic benefits will be enormous.
The lease agreement, worth US$476 million, includes the introduction of a passenger rail service and a rail connection to Guinea.
Another major economic breakthrough which ARISE IIP will foster relates to the company providing services, chief among which is transporting raw materials and end products for mining companies and other investors via rail.
In a country where transportation costs are most times factored in the prices of basic goods that are produced locally , then having a transportation system that makes room for more capacity, in terms of the number of goods that could be conveyed from one point to another, it is expected that more locally produced products will flood markets and sold at low prices.
According to the CEO of ARISE, Gagan Gupta, if the agreement is approved by the Parliament of Sierra Leone, within 24 months, ARISE IIP will also replicate the establishment of a Special Economic/Industrial Zone as it has done in Benin and Gabon. The industrial zone in Sierra Leone will cost over US$ 1.2 billion.
Based on information sourced from the Communications Director of the Company the Industrial Zone will have electricity, water supply, health, and other basic amenities which could be accessible to investors working within the zone.
Another major positive transformation that the intervention of ARISE IIP will usher in has to do with an increase in the amount of surface rent paid to communities along the rail and port. Presently, the surface rent paid to these communities is under 1 billion old Leones.
However, as spelt out, with the new agreement with ARISE the communities will now receive over 5 billion old Leones and such will be spread among the communities.
In a country where ironically the mining sector has least benefited the majority of the residents in host communities, it is definite that with an increased amount paid as surface rent standards of living will improve as well as make it possible to undertake the implementation of various development projects.
One of the challenges that have been very difficult to surmount within the mining sector has to do with transparency and accountability in terms of the volume or quantity of minerals that are exported within a specific period of time. Because the right structures do not exist for proper stocks to be taken then possibilities are there for underreporting to take place and corruption to set in.
With the intervention of ARISE IIP, the requisite administrative structures will be put in place to ensure there is accurate data in terms of exports in the extractive and other production sectors in Sierra Leone.
From what was observed in Benin and Gabon where ARISE IIP has a strong presence, with regard to massive investments, the company influences other major investors to invest in the Economic and Industrial Zones it established.
With the presence of the country in this country there will be reputable and credible companies from across the globe that will be interested to operate in the Industrial Zone in areas like textile, tile, and processing agricultural raw materials, which in turn will mean more employment opportunities for Sierra Leoneans.
What all this will translate into is the creation of more job opportunities, increased revenue to the Government and a solid boost to the country’s economy.
According to a Social Commentator, in as much as the country is in dire need of investors this is a golden opportunity which should not be allowed to slip through our fingers but rather to wholeheartedly embrace and make good use of it.