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Ties with Sierra Leone expanding on broad front

By WANG XIAODONG | China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-28 09:58
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Relations between China and Sierra Leone are expected to be further strengthened by closer economic and trade cooperation, benefiting the peoples of the two countries, said officials and experts on Tuesday, as the two countries mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

For half a century, relations between China and Sierra Leone have remained strong, and frequent exchanges and genuine friendship have been maintained, resulting in fruitful tangible achievements, said Ernest M.Ndomahina, Sierra Leone's ambassador in China, at a ceremony co-hosted by the embassy and the Silk Road Youth Forum in Beijing. The two countries established diplomatic relations on July 29, 1971.

"Driven by the Belt and Road Initiative, our two countries have carried out pragmatic cooperation in the fields of culture, investment, economy, trade, infrastructure and agriculture, strengthening the friendship between Chinese and Sierra Leone people," Ndomahina said.

The ambassador said Sierra Leone hopes to strengthen bilateral relations, and cooperation in areas including culture, trade, investment and infrastructure will be enhanced.

Over the past five decades, China has provided assistance in various areas including infrastructure, agriculture, healthcare and training, and helped Sierra Leone deal with major emergencies such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Yu Jia, director of the International Development Cooperation at Peking University, said China-Africa economic cooperation has great potential. With factors such as rising labor costs and industry upgrading in China, many domestic enterprises are relocating manufacturing jobs overseas, which will bring business opportunities to African countries including Sierra Leone.

However, Yu said many African countries face challenges in becoming ideal destinations for relocated industries.

African countries have comparative advantages in labor and raw materials, but they suffer from constraints such as poor infrastructure and security concerns, which may deter private investment.

Yu also said many Chinese investors do not have enough knowledge about African countries and are hesitant to venture there despite their strong desire to relocate their production facilities.

First-mover advantages

African countries including Sierra Leone can learn from China's experience, such as setting up special economic zones to concentrate resources and provide policy incentives to obtain first-mover advantages and attract investment from foreign countries.

Shi Jiyang, former president of the China-Africa Development Fund, suggested Chinese enterprises focus on major projects while investing in Sierra Leone, so they play a leading role to boost the development of whole industrial chains in the country.

Zhan Shiming, a researcher in African affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said economic cooperation between China and Sierra Leone has great potential, as the two countries are complementary in many sectors.

"A key area should be infrastructure, which China excels in, to help upgrade basic facilities such as roads, bridges, water processing and electricity," he said.

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