He said Sierra Leone like other African countries is urbanizing a historically rapid rate with 39.1% of her population living in urban areas as at 2015 compared to 34.2% in 1990.
He however maintained that the high rate of urbanization brings with it considerable opportunities if accompanied by productive employment and sufficient urban amenities such as housing, transport, health, etc, but laments that a large proportion of the country’s urban labour force remains trapped in low-productivity informal service activities, with limited prospects of durably improving their livelihoods. He pointed that in that regard that informality remains a critical challenge to the broadening of the country’s tax base.
Minister Kargbo also mentioned that climate change and urban growth are challenges that heighten environmental pressures on urban areas in the country, pointing out that this high environmental risks compound the development of the country’s urbanization; citing unsafe water and sanitation, air pollution, flooding in low-elevation coastal zones as some of these risks in Freetown and other cities.
The Minister was however upright that “Government understands the problem and is working on delivering better infrastructure and services for sustainable urban development,” by pointing out government’s investments in affordable energy, sanitation, solid waste, transport and healthcare services with a view to providing a means by which urban citizens become more productive.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development therefore referred to the African Economic Outlook Report and Country Note as a product of “critical knowledge” that proffers policy options to ensure that Sierra Leone reaps the dividend of urbanization. He thanked the institutions that came together to put the report together including, the African Development Bank (AfDB) UNDP and the OECD Development Centre for their collaborative efforts that led to the production of the report, which is the 15th edition so far.
The Minister entreated all and sundry to read the reports; the African Economic Outlook and Country Note on Sierra Leone 2016, noting, that they “are good reference documents” that could be very useful to the work of the Government of Sierra Leone, Development Partners, UN agencies and other stakeholders.