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IFC to Increase Activities to Promote Sierra Leone’s Private Sector

In Washington D.C:                        
Houtan Bassiri
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In Freetown:
Sidie Sheriff
Telephone: +(232) 22-227555

Washington, October 23, 2007—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, signed an establishment agreement with the government of Sierra Leone that authorizes the opening of an IFC representative and program office in the country. The office paves the way for IFC to expand its activities that promote Sierra Leone’s private sector, helping create opportunities and reduce poverty.  

IFC will also house the Sierra Leone Business Forum, an IFC-supported program that aims to foster dialogue between the government and private sector and identify public policies to attract private investment to the country. The goal is to make Sierra Leone a more attractive investment destination and an easier place to do business.

“We are pleased to officially welcome IFC to Sierra Leone and look forward to working together to promote our country’s private sector,” said Hon. David Carew, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance. “Enabling private companies and businesses to grow and thrive is an important part of Sierra Leone’s long-term development strategy.”

IFC has already started to increase its activities in Sierra Leone after a decade-long hiatus during the country’s turmoil. In June, IFC invested $25 million in Celtel Sierra Leone and mobilized a further $25 million from other investors to help the company expand and upgrade its fast-growing mobile networks in the country.

Under its Global Trade Finance Program, IFC in March signed agreements to issue guarantees against the underlying trade transactions of three of the country’s leading banks—Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Rokel Commercial Bank, and Guaranty Trust Bank. The agreements will cover the banks’ payment risks and help increase Sierra Leone’s share of global trade.

“There is a critical need for IFC to become more involved in conflict-affected countries such as Sierra Leone,” said Jyrki Koskelo, IFC Vice President for Africa and Global Financial Markets. “The government has recently implemented a number of crucial reforms, allowing IFC to become more involved in fostering a vibrant private sector,” he added. “IFC is committed to working with the government to promote economic recovery.”

IFC's activities in Sierra Leone are conducted through its crisis-affected countries initiative for Africa, which is also enhancing IFC’s presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. Under the initiative, IFC’s strategy in Sierra Leone is to work closely with the government to improve the country’s investment climate, strengthen the domestic financial sector, finance select private sector companies, and support private participation in infrastructure.

Several programs are already moving ahead under the initiative. Working with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the IFC–World Bank Investment Climate team for Africa is advising Sierra Leone’s government on reforms to improve the country’s investment environment and remove obstacles to private sector development. The program has already had a number of successes, including simplifying customs procedures and easing tax hurdles and other regulatory barriers to private sector activity.

About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, fosters sustainable economic growth in developing countries by financing private sector investment, mobilizing private capital in local and international financial markets, and providing advisory and risk mitigation services to businesses and governments. IFC’s vision is that poor people have the opportunity to escape poverty and improve their lives. In FY07, IFC committed $8.2 billion and mobilized an additional $3.9 billion through loan participations and structured finance for 299 investments in 69 developing countries. IFC also provided advisory services in 97 countries. For more information, visit