His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio and the First Lady Dr. Fatima Maada Bio have met United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, The Rt. Honourable James Cleverly, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the government to improve trade relations between the two countries.
Appointed Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs on 6th September 2022, the former Conservative MP was visiting the country, the birthplace of his mother, when on International Women’s Day in Bo he announced a new strategy to help women and girls.
“Trade drives growth. It drives prosperity and development. Women’s empowerment is the best tool when it comes to lifting millions of people out of poverty in the world. The MoU will enhance the trade and investment relations between the UK government and Sierra Leone. It will help transform the very long relationship between the two countries.
“It will unlock exciting new international business opportunities in Sierra Leone and 64 other countries worldwide. It will not only cover duty-free export for businesses from Sierra Leone into the UK, but it will also ensure much easier ways of selling Sierra Leonean goods to the UK, with greater opportunities for businesses in textiles and palm oil businesses,” he informed.
He told the President that he was grateful for the warm welcome he received during his visit to the country and expressed hope that the agreement would help transform and strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
“The British government wants to see Sierra Leone become a middle-income country, with more investments coming into the country from UK firms and entrepreneurs growing their own businesses. The two countries have a long history, but by also doing business and trading together, they can develop a genuine relationship. The UK will be very supportive of that,” he said.
President Julius Maada Bio assured the UK Foreign Secretary of his government’s commitment to fully implementing the MoU in the interests of his government and the people.
“You can rest assured that my government will do whatever we can to ensure we achieve those aspirations. That is the essence of a government: to make sure the business climate, the incentives, and everything that we have to make sure that we have an ecosystem that is conformable as far as businesses are concerned.
“My government wants to make sure we attract the best businesses. With the relationship between the two countries, it is easier to do business with the UK. So, that is why we are excited about the MoU and we are hopeful that your visits to Sierra Leone will help keep the relationship and expand beyond what it is at the moment,” he noted.
He acknowledged the difficult times around the world but expressed hope that as leaders they could comfort, protect, and secure their people’s interests by taking into consideration the global hike in prices.
“As a government and people of Sierra Leone, we are excited about your visit, the signing of the Sierra Leone-United Kingdom Memorandum of Understanding on Trade and Investment, and the launch of a bilateral trade and investment forum,” he concluded.
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. David Francis thanked the Foreign Secretary for his visit not only in the capacity of UK Foreign Secretary but also as a son of the soil. He assured the UK delegation of President Julius Maada Bio’s continued effort in creating the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Sierra Leone.
Prof. David Francis said: “The UK has been a trusted partner in good and bad times. For us in Sierra Leone, the UK is a “all weathered friend”.
Cleverly was born on 4th September 1969 in Lewisham, London, to James Philip and Evelyn Suna Cleverly. His father is British and worked as a surveyor and his mother worked as a midwife and is from Sierra Leone.
He was privately educated at Riverston School and Colfe’s School, both in Lee, London. Cleverly then trained in the army, but his training was cut short by a leg injury in 1989. He went on to gain a Bachelor of Arts degree in hospitality management studies from Ealing College of Higher Education (now University of West London) in 1991.
After graduating, he worked for the publishing company Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen; he joined Informa as international sales manager in 2002. Two years later, Cleverly joined Crimson Publishing as an advertising manager. He became online commercial manager for Caspian Publishing in 2006. The following year, he co-founded web publishing company Point and Fire.