On July 10, 2012 the Decentralization process in Sierra Leone achieved another major step. The Vice President of the Republic, Hon. Alhaji Sam Sumana, on behalf of the Head of State, presided over the official launching of the Local Economic Development Programme in the country. Organized by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) in Freetown, the event was attended by 238 participants from various government sectors, private Sector, civil societies, parliamentarians, local council’s authorities and Paramount Chiefs. Also present were the supporting partners: UNDP, UNCDF, GIZ and JICA.
The Hon. Vice President in his keynote address praised development partners support and urged Local Councils and traditional leaders to cooperate and stand up to the challenges that lie ahead with the introduction of LED as a supportive arm to the Decentralization Programme. He saw LED as a further contribution of decentralization to attain the MDGs. The Hon. Vice-President speech was preceded by a series of statements by key representative from key government agencies and development partners. The Acting Mayor of Freetown warmly welcomed the participants and emphasized that the prime focus of LED is to promote economic opportunity and wealth creation within local communities. The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay then reminded participants that the majority of the people of Sierra Leone are farmers and therefore LED concerns most of the people involved in agriculture. The Minister of Local Government Ambassador Alhaji Dauda S. Kamara welcomed all participants to the Conference. LED he said, aims at "Attaining Improved Economic Opportunities at the Local Level". He stated that this Conference launches the concept of LED in Sierra Leone that is anchored on the decentralization Policy. Representing the donor community in Sierra Leone, the UNDP Country Director, Mrs. Mia Seppo, expressed her wish for the conference to take decisive steps towards actions that will make a difference at the local level through the formulation of a National LED policy endorsed by key MDAs, local councils and their partners.
The technical session started with an overview presentation by Mr. Kadmiel Wekwete, UNCDF Special Policy Advisor for Africa (Johannesburg Regional Office). He defined LED as the engagement of local governments in economic development activities and investments in partnership with private sector and CSOs/CBOs to add value to the economic potentials of the locality. Mrs. Mary Okumu, CTA for the GELD Programme brought in the gender lens to raise participants’ attention on the critical role of women in development especially at local levels. After the plenary presentations, participants split into four working groups. The outcomes of the working groups were summarized in the key action points emerging from the final Conference communiqué and MLGRD asked UNDP/UNCDF to support their implementation.