Bank of Sierra Leone concerned over unregistered cooperative organizations

By Kemo Cham

The Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) has called for the harmonization of legislations relating to the cooperative sector as a way of ensuring proper coordination and regulation of the activities of cooperative organizations in the country. 

A representative of the Bank told stakeholders in the cooperative sector that failure by organizations to register with it constituted a major concern for the financial regulator. Esther Johnson said 

The failure to register makes it impossible for the Bank to coordinate the activities of Credit Unions in particular, which fall under its purview. She was speaking at a workshop convened to validate the first National Cooperative Policy, last week. 

The workshop, which was held at the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Conference Hall at Youyi Building in Freetown, was attended by leaders in the cooperative industry, as well as officials of the ministry and other relevant local and international development agencies.

Officials say the new draft policy is part of efforts to revive the sector which has been dormant for over a decade now, leading to the reduction in the number of cooperative organizations in the country.

Cooperative societies are voluntary organizations formed to represent the interest of their members who engage in a particular trade or profession. Examples of cooperative societies include mining, housing, fishing, arts and crafts, and transportation cooperative unions.

As of August 2020, there were 582 cooperative organizations in Sierra Leone, data from the Cooperative Department in the Ministry of Trade show. That number, according to officials, is a drastic reduction of what it used to be over a decade ago, when there were over 2000 organizations.

The sector lost its relevance over the years due to numerous factors, notably lack of purpose within the organizations, lack of finance, lack of capacity, as well as the effect of the (1991-2002) civil war, the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, climate factors and now Covid-19, according to Newton Martin, Acting Registrar of the Department of Cooperatives. 

Mr Martin said despite its woes, the sector makes a substantial contribution to Sierra Leone’s economy, arguing that the assets and contributions of the individual societies run in billions of Leones. 

“If properly managed, cooperatives can play a great role in solving of the socioeconomic problems facing the country,” he stated. 

Officials hope that the new policy will pave the way for the review of the 1977 Cooperative Act, the first and only existing law governing the sector in the country. They add that the outdatedness of the law is a major part of the reason for the near death of the sector. 

Khadijatu Barrie, National Coordinator of the International Trade Center (ITC), a UN agency that promotes the internationalization of Small and Medium Sized businesses in the developing world, which has been collaborating on the policy review process, called for gender inclusivity. Ms Barrie told the workshop that the protection of the rights of women and youths in the policy is important because the two demographic categories are key drivers in national development. She noted that women in particular are very active in cooperative societies, yet they tend to have little voice in decision making. 

Barrie goe4s on to say that that massive sensitization of the policy would be needed to popularize it in the public for its effective implementation.

The policy draft policy is reported to have been in the making since 2013. 

Dr Edward Hinga Sandy, Minister of Trade and Industry, presided over the opening ceremony of validation workshop. He told the participants in his keynote address on Thursday that the introduction of a policy for the cooperative sector is important in the context of the government’s Medium Term National Development Plan. He noted that the role of Cooperatives is well captured in the national development blueprint, as was articulated at its launch by President Julius Maada Bio.

Dr Sandi said the policy is important in that it promote entrepreneurship, which is a sure way to guarantying the livelihoods of the people. He also said that the policy is important because it seeks to encourage more local production, thereby cutting down on the country’s dependence on imported goods.

“We consume too much that is produced from outside,” the minister said, adding that a policy and eventually a legislation will be crucial to put in check exploitative investors who have contributed to the underperformance of the agricultural sector.

The opening ceremony was chaired by Augustine Sheku, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade. He said that the move to formulate a policy for the cooperative sector is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to improve on the livelihoods of its people.

“Cooperate societies have been moribund, but they are very key in the development of the sector,” he said, noting that that’s why the ministry deemed it fit to meet with stakeholders instead of sitting in their offices and develop the policy.

Foxconn chairman says expects ‘limited impact’ from chip shortage on clients

The chairman of Apple Inc supplier Foxconn said on Saturday he expects his company and its clients will face only “limited impact” from a chip shortage that has rattled the global automotive and semiconductor industry.

“Since most of the customers we serve are large customers, they all have proper precautionary planning,” said Liu Young-way, chairman of the manufacturing conglomerate formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd

“Therefore, the impact on these large customers is there, but limited,” he told reporters.

Liu said he expected the company to do well in the first half of 2021, “especially as the pandemic is easing and demand is still being sustained.”

Story credit: REUTERS

Sierra Leone: President Bio Calls for More Rural Banking

President Julius Maada Bio has told the opening of the Union Trust Bank, UTB, branch in Makeni that he is
proud of the only indigenous private bank in Sierra Leone promoting more access to services in
the rural areas.

“No doubt, its customer-focused banking products have helped deepen financial inclusion among
citizens who live and do business in rural communities. But beyond this, my Government believes
that we can gain a lot as a nation if we promote a savings and investment culture among citizens.
The days of ‘earn and spend’ are gone. Banks can therefore work with Government to foster that
savings and investment culture,” he said noted.

President Bio emphasised that the government expected that banks would be able to make
available low cost credit to credit-worthy Sierra Leoneans who had proven investment ideas,
adding that they had undertaken various efforts to promote financial inclusion in the country,
including creating a digital biometric registration for citizens wishing to open bank accounts.

“I am informed that Union Trust Bank Limited is a client institution for both the African
Development Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank Group. It is also the first Western
Union Money Transfer agent in Sierra Leone with agencies in all districts. This international reach
and the diversified financial services portfolio is also very helpful.

“I am informed that Union Trust Bank did not experience a cash shortage during the two weeks of
the Christmas period. I want to encourage Union Trust Bank, as well as other players in the
sector, to adopt liquidity management practices that assure that depositors can access their
money in banks as and when they need it.

“Let me conclude by stating that I am proud that Union Trust Bank Limited is the only indigenous
private bank in Sierra Leone. It clearly demonstrates the capacity of Sierra Leoneans to develop a
corporate culture and compete actively in the banking sector. The establishment of several brick-
and-mortar branches all over Sierra Leone demonstrates that the bank is visibly re-investing its
profits in Sierra Leone,” he said.

Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said since its establishment in 1995 the bank continued to
make significant gains in the financial sector, adding that its management was really committed to
creating wealth and contributing to the socio-economic wellbeing of the people of Sierra Leone.
Chief Executive Officer of UTB, Dr Sanpha Koroma, expressed gratitude to President Bio for
gracing the event, noting that he was pleased to host him in that part of the country

Rural women in India go digital to manage the pandemic’s disruptions

Women artisans from Barara village in Gujarat’s Patan district doing traditional embroidery.

Muskanben Vohara and her group of women weavers in Gujarat’s Anand district were overcome with worry when the lockdown was announced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

I look after eight members of my family,” said the 20-year-old on a video call from her village home. “All our work had come to a grinding halt. How would we survive?”  

Luckily, Muskanben and her group had just been trained in digital skills by the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a membership-based organization that seeks to improve the lives and livelihoods of women who work in the informal sector, including seamstresses, artisans, vendors, and small and marginal farmers.Our Leelawati project proved timely. When we first launched it, traditional occupations were being buffeted by globalization, liberalization and other economic changes. Little did we realize how useful the training would become during the pandemic.Reema NanavatySEWA’s Director

Armed with the training, the group was soon able to share photographs of their products online, create Whatsapp groups of customers, and enable digital payments for purchases.

Not only were we able to continue our work uninterrupted,” declared Muskanben proudly, “we sold off all our stocks of domestic furnishings.”  

“Our Leelawati project proved timely,” explained Reema Nanavaty, SEWA’s director. “When we first launched it, traditional occupations were being buffeted by globalization, liberalization and other economic changes.  Little did we realize how useful the training would become during the pandemic.”

While the trainings have enabled Muskanben and other crafts persons to broaden their customer base through Facebook and Instagram , most women have used their new skills to weather the pandemic’s disruptions by learning how to carry out basic online transactions.  

Many of them now make cashless payments through PayTm, the BHIM App, and Google Pay rather than meeting people, handling cash and risking infections. 

Mitali Prajapati, whose father runs a utensil shop in Ahmedabad district, remembers the difficulties they faced in the early days of the pandemic. “Our business stalled as my father could no longer travel to other villages to pay his suppliers,” she recalled. “The training helped me overcome my fear of losing money and now I make these payments digitally for him.” Image

Younger generations hone their skills in traditional embroidery in Gujarat’s Patan district. Photo Credit: Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
“Through this program, our effort has been to open up new livelihood opportunities for poor rural women, promote women-led entrepreneurship and accelerate a national shift towards the greater inclusion of women in the workforce,” said Junaid Ahmad.

Jayshree Gharoda from Gujarat’s Kutch district never used her mobile phone for anything other than calls. Now, this 30-year-old who lives with her husband’s 14-member extended family, pays all the household’s bills online.

Mauritius Commercial Bank Taps Windward’s AI Solution to Optimize Trade

Windward ( the Predictive Intelligence company applying AI to transform global maritime trade, and Mauritius Commercial Bank Ltd ( the longest-standing and leading banking institution in Mauritius, announced a long-term, multi-year partnership to enhance MCB’s due diligence and monitoring processes linked to its commodity trade finance business. Windward’s AI-powered solution will increase efficiency across MCB’s maritime trade finance practices and strengthen compliance and trade-based money laundering screening processes.  

Financial institutions in both Mauritius and around the world are under increased pressure by both national and international compliance regulators to implement extensive due-diligence processes, especially in light of new sanctions advisories by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the US and the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) in the UK. To this end, forward-thinking financial institutions are turning to AI systems to bolster effectiveness, streamline lengthy processes, and gain insights into deceptive practices used to facilitate financial crimes.

“Windward’s platform was the natural choice when we were looking to boost efficiency of our due diligence and Know Your Vessel processes,” said Zaahir Sulliman, Head of Specialized Finance at Mauritius Commercial Bank. “As maritime trade becomes increasingly complex to navigate, our partnership with Windward enables us to more effectively meet regulatory expectations and enhances our efforts to improve business operations, reduce risks, and improve compliance across our commodity finance business.”

This partnership comes on the heels of Windward’s announcement of a partnership with Danske Bank ( in November 2020. Windward’s powerful AI-based dynamic risk solution provides financial institutions with a state-of-the-art platform to effectively streamline the risk management journey. Windward’s Predictive Intelligence is powered by advanced maritime AI technology which is based on 300 behavioral analytics models and over 10 billion data points.

“We pride ourselves on partnering with best-in-class financial institutions,” said Ami Daniel, CEO and Co-Founder of Windward. “As trade finance becomes more complex due to increased regulation, it is essential for banks to enhance their compliance processes and to be better informed on the entities they conduct business with. We are proud to push the digital transformation of the industry forward by providing Mauritius Commercial Bank with the highest level of comprehensive risk-based analysis of maritime trade.” 

Empowering Smallholder Farmers to be Food System Change Agents

NOTE: This article was first published on and is reposted here with the permission of Farming First. 

The Nutrition for Growth Year of Action got off to an auspicious start at a virtual launch event last month, where prominent stakeholders announced investment commitments of more than $3 billion toward the upcoming Nutrition for Growth Summit‘s goal of addressing the hunger and nutrition crisis.

Separately, the UN is convening a Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in September to identify strategies for making food and agriculture systems not only more nutritious but also more equitable, environmentally sustainable, and resilient to shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic’s serious impacts on health, well-being, and economies have heightened the sense of urgency to ensure that food systems can deliver nutritious diets to everyone, under any conditions. But food systems transformation will only happen if we succeed in engaging and empowering the hundreds of millions of smallholder farming families around the world who are highly vulnerable to malnutrition.

These families work three-quarters of all agricultural land and their diets depend primarily on what they grow. In Africa, 80 per cent of farms ­– 40 million across the continent – are of smallholder size. Often, these smallholders lack the means and the financial incentives to produce more nutritious foods for themselves, as well as for those who purchase from them.

Biofortification: A proven and scalable solution  

There is one proven, agriculture-based strategy, specifically tailored to smallholder families, which should be part of the solution toward food systems transformation: biofortified staple crops. These are varieties of rice, wheat, maize, beans, and other common staples that have been conventionally bred to contain nutritionally-significant levels of iron, zinc and/or vitamin A—all micronutrients that are essential for maintaining good health and ensuring proper mental and physical development in children. Biofortified crops are scientifically proven to improve nutrition and health outcomes when eaten regularly.

Biofortification research began in the 1990s within the CGIAR international agricultural research partnership, under the leadership of the HarvestPlus programme, as a response to widespread micronutrient deficiency among the world’s rural poor. The first biofortified crop variety was officially released to farmers in 2004 (a vitamin A orange sweet potato variety in Uganda).

Biofortified crops make nutrition accessible to farming families: They are one-for-one replacements for the lower-nutrient staple varieties that these families already grow. There is no sacrifice in yield or other agronomic traits important to farmers. These crops are also affordable for smallholder farming families, requiring no additional investment, and deliver micronutrients less expensively than typically higher-nutrient foods such as fruits, vegetables, and animal source products, which tend to be too costly for these families.

Biofortified crops also provide livelihood opportunities for farmers as well as small-scale entrepreneurs. SME food businesses are springing up throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America to develop and sell food products with biofortified ingredients, creating a market for smallholders’ biofortified crops and an attractive financial incentive to grow them.

Most significantly in the Covid-19 era, biofortified crops also provide key micronutrients (particularly zinc and vitamin A) that boost health resilience by strengthening immune systems. Furthermore, since the micronutrients are delivered through staple foods, they are more likely to reach and benefit female household members. Research has shown that, in many rural regions, male household members have preferential access to animal source foods and other higher-nutrient food items.

Currently, more than 340 varieties of 11 staple crops are available to farmers in 40 countries, benefiting about 50 million smallholder family members. The CGIAR research centers provide biofortified varieties as public goods to countries, where national agricultural researchers work with farmers to adapt these varieties to local conditions and farmer preferences.

Biofortified crops are ready for rapid scale-up, based on this extensive proof of concept under real-world conditions. The HarvestPlus goal is to work with multiple partners to reach one billion people with these nutritious crops by 2030.

Strong interest among policymakers

There is strong and growing interest among national leaders for scaling up biofortification in their countries. In just the past few months, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a public declaration in favor of biofortified crops and their integration in nationwide food assistance programmes.

Tanzania released comprehensive biofortification guidelines that provide welcome guidance for farmers and food businesses. And Guatemala’s government included biofortified crops in a new national strategic food reserve that is part of a new Covid-19 economic recovery plan. These and other leaders recognise the valuable role biofortification can play in better food systems.

Commitments at this year’s two summits to scaling up biofortification will show that the international community has the interests of the most vulnerable rural families top of mind. Biofortified crops are an equitable, inclusive, and complementary response to global malnutrition that put positive food systems change in the hands of these families.

Andrew Natsios served as Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development from 2001-2006. He is Advisory Committee Chair of HarvestPlus, and executive professor at the Bush School and director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University.

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Inspects Agricultural Machinery at the Agriculture Central Stores

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio has embarked on an inspection tour of the stores of the Ministry of Agriculture that is housing about 2,410 agricultural implements and 410 tractors for the 2021 planting season. 

In the 2018 New Direction Manifesto of the SLPP, the President emphasised that the overall goal of their agricultural policy was to sustain and diversify the production of food, increase investment in agriculture, develop and implement mechanised commercial farming to transform the traditional subsistence agricultural sector. 

At the inspection site, east of Freetown, President Bio said his visit was to show that his government was serious about improving the agricultural sector and providing the enabling environment for farmers to exhibit and discover their true potentials. 

“There has been constant grumbling about the lack of mechanisation in farming over the years. With these machines, it is now left with us as a country to effectively utilise them to increase agricultural productivity for the years ahead,” he noted.

The Acting Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr Abubakar Karim, disclosed that all the 410 tractors and 2,410 farming implements would be distributed across the country by next week to ensure that farmers were ready for the 2021 planting season.