At the conference, Dr. Fofana showcased the potentials of Africa in terms of investment opportunities but also laid special emphasis on what Sierra Leone could offer to Turkish investors in its investment priorities for key sectors – including agriculture, infrastructure, fisheries, tourism, extractives, aviation, telecommunications, to name but a few.
The Ambassador described Africa as a safe destination for investors and referred to the business friendly environment in Sierra Leone which he said has started attracting many foreign investors from across the world following the devastating outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that saw GDP of 20 percent drop dramatically between 2014 and 2015.
He emphasized the potential for highly profitable foreign investment in Africa which he described as enormous, noting that numerous investment promotion agencies have been established across the continent to publicize Africa’s economic opportunities to facilitate investment.
On registering a business in his country, he said, the new business laws in Sierra Leone have made it relatively simple for any business person to register his/her business in Sierra Leone in less than 48 hours.
While speaking on the topics ‘Scholarship Opportunities for International Students’ and Investment in Africa and Business Opportunities between Turkey and Africa’, the Ambassador emphasized on the need for a new strategy of partnership with Africa for the mutual benefit of Turkey and African countries. He emphasized certain areas for possible investments in Africa and Sierra Leone in particular whose key sectors he mentioned with particular reference to the Post-Ebola Recovery Plan aimed at restoring and strengthening private sector growth and encouraging new inward investment.
Having thrilled investors, students and scholars with the vast investment opportunities in Africa in general and Sierra Leone in particular, Dr. Fofana also made a special appeal to the Turkish authorities to offer International Students scholarships to study in different fields that could impact positively on the overall development of Africa.
He noted that there are potential youths in Africa looking for opportunities to study abroad but to no avail. He expressed the belief that the Government of Turkey and the University authorities have the resources to assist African students by offering them scholarships to study in the technological and scientific fields, which he said are lacking in most African countries.
He, however, commended the authorities for their continued technical assistance to Africa in general and Sierra Leone in particular, which he hoped would be increased to a substantial level to benefit more African students.
The Ambassador hailed the ability of the African students to organize such a conference in collaboration with their lecturers, which, in turn, have attracted hundreds of investors, scholars, professionals, government officials, diplomats, students from other Turkish universities and many other dignitaries.
He admonished them to become the true Ambassadors of their respective countries and encouraged them to continue organizing such conferences that would give African representatives in that region a golden opportunity to continue presenting the case of Africa to the entire world, including its numerous investment opportunities craving for foreign attention.
The Guest Speaker ended his speech amidst applauses and speaker after speaker responded to his speech with great hope and satisfaction.
One of them was the Rector of the University, Professor Dr. Hussain Akan, who promised to see more African students admitted in his university before his four years term comes to an end.
Dr. Akan disclosed that there are about 250 African students from 44 countries only in his university and that there are more Africans in more than 200 Turkish Universities.
The Rector assured that because of the high demand for Africans to study in Turkish universities, both government and university authorities are working out modalities aimed at increasing the quota of scholarships for African students. Dr. Akhan also extolled the bilateral relationship between Turkey and Sierra Leone and assured that their technical assistance to Africa would grow from strength to strength.
He welcomed the ideas brought forward by the Ambassador on behalf of his colleagues and it was unanimously agreed that within the next few months, the University would sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with some African countries with regards to some of the proposals made by the Ambassador.
It was also agreed that some education authorities from Turkey would be visiting Sierra Leone and other African countries to conduct Annual Entrance Examinations for scholarships at University level aimed at enabling more Africans to study in different Turkish Universities.
In his contribution, President of ASAS, a Sierra Leonean, Abu Kamara, pursuing PhD in Geodesy and Photogrammetry also praised the Ambassador not only for his academic prowess but also for his presentation of Africa’s numerous investment opportunities across the continent.
Kamara said the conference organized by ASAS in collaboration with the University lecturers was an annual event and that Ambassador Fofana would always be one of their distinguished guests in future. The organizers, Kamara added, were also satisfied that Ambassador Fofana’s speech gave serious momentum to the conference that moved the Turkish investors,
University authorities and other dignitaries that participated. On behalf of his colleagues, the President further thanked all the attendees and particularly the Ambassador for the appeal made for African students to be offered more scholarships in different disciplines.
On their part, the Deputy Manager, Foreign Affairs Department of the Samsun Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Onus Candice said Government officials in Turkey are aware of the investment opportunities in Africa and the environment created in many African countries for businesses to thrive. The official assured that they would encourage their investors to grab those opportunities especially in countries like Sierra Leone where Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is on the increase because of political stability and sound macroeconomic fundamentals. He said Turkey has been doing business with stable African countries and would continue doing business with them to strengthen the relationship between Turkey and African countries.
A representative from the investment community in Turkey also praised Ambassador Fofana for educating them on the investment opportunities in Africa, which, he admitted, they were not privy to. The investor assured that since investment opportunities still exist in Africa coupled with private sector friendliness, they were willing to send a team of investment experts to some identified African countries to do feasibility studies on the possibilities of doing profitable business there.
The investor however, acknowledged the fact that, there are a few successful Turkish investments in Africa whose businesses have flourished over the years; though most of them still have scanty information on investment opportunities in Africa and how governments are strengthening private sector growth and encouraging Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into their countries.
In another engagement, the Ambassador also met with the Governor of Samsun. In their meeting, he appealed to the Governor to encourage more Turkish investors to do business in Sierra Leone during this post-Ebola recovery era. He said the country has a lot of investment potentials with untapped resources to invest in. He also dilated on the point that President Ernest Bai Koroma has created a friendly business environment that has been and continues to attract more foreign investors into Sierra Leone.
In his response, Governor Sahin sympathized with Sierra Leone for the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease and its impact on the national economy and human lives.
He assured that Turkey would always support Sierra Leone in terms of dire need. The discussion between the two Government officials ended on a very good note with Ambassador Fofana beaming with smile for such diplomatic break-through.
The Ambassador also a paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Mayor of the Samsun Metropolitan Municipality Council, Turin Fakir. During the visit, Ambassador Fofana also put forward for consideration the visit of the Mayors of the Freetown City Council, Bo and Makeni City Councils to Turkey to twin with other three cities in Turkey to further strengthen the bilateral relationship between Sierra Leone and Turkey.
Dr. Fofana’s request for the three Sierra Leonean Mayors to visit Turkey with the prospect of twinning with other three cities in Turkey was responded to positively by the Deputy Mayor. On behalf of the Mayor, who was on an official assignment out of Samsun, his deputy said they would do everything that would be beneficial to both countries as long as it is in furtherance of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
It would be recalled that the Mayor Samsun city, His Worship Yusuf Zirya Yilmaz, had invited his Sierra Leonean counterpart, His Worship Franklyn Sam Bode Gibson last year, but other pressing official matters prevented him from visiting Samsun. But this time around, the visit of the three Mayors is expected to materialize and an official communication through diplomatic channel has started. The Ambassador concluded his official visit by meeting with fellow Sierra Leonean nationals who welcomed him to Turkey.
Addressing the group of Sierra Leoneans, most of them students, both in Istanbul and Samsun, the Ambassador told them to portray Sierra Leone as a safe trade and investment destination to Turkish entrepreneurs and investors. He briefed them on the political and socio-economic situation at home and that the macro economic situation had significantly improved because of the hard but sound financial disciplinary measures taken by the Ernest Koroma-led APC Government.
According to him, the “government has over the years succeeded in laying a solid foundation by implementing policies and programmes that have significantly transformed the landscape of Sierra Leone and created the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.”
He also urged them to remain law-abiding and be focused on what they are doing out there. He also appealed to them to return home and contribute to national development when they complete their courses. In their response, the nationals promised to return home and assist the Sierra Leone Government in its development strides. They also promised to remain law-abiding in order to portray a good image of Sierra Leone which would help maintain, and even further improve, the bilateral relationship between the two countries respectively.
At the end of his official visit to Turkey, the Ambassador was able to woo many investors and some of them personally assured him of their readiness to go and invest in Sierra Leone as part of their contribution to the post-Ebola recovery plans. “Ambassador Fofana’s successful visit to Turkey shows that he believes more in robust economic diplomacy than arm-chair diplomacy,” remarked a Professor of Diplomacy and Political Science at the Mamara University in Istanbul, Professor Dr. Aysegul Sever.
The Professor added: “Ambassador Fofana is introducing a novelty in the field of diplomacy to ascertain an undeniable fact that there is a lot that envoys can do for their countries other than engaging in what some may deem as ‘cosmetic’ diplomacy.”
He concluded: “It is like Fofana is implying that there is a great deal of substance imbedded in active diplomacy with a well-defined strategy.”