On January 31st, 2012 the newly appointed Minister of Local Government and Rural development (MLGRD), Mrs Diana Konomanyi, commissioned two important socio-economic infrastructures in Moyamba District Council (Southern Province) funded by UNCDF under the Local Governance and Economic Development Joint Programme (LGED-JP): (i) a rural market place with 10 lockable stores in Sembehun in Bagruwa Chiefdom and (ii) a Community Resource Center (CRC) offering vocation training, service and goods provision in Information and CommunicationTechnologies (ICT), tailoring and carpentry for the youth. The rural market is composed of 20 open stands and 10 lockable stores. The infrastructure improves the security of the market women and the safety of their goods. So far, as the Market Women Association, market women had to leave their homes very early in the morning, carrying all their goods on their head. They also had to be accompanied by their daughters and leave the market before sunset carrying the unsold goods back home. With the market, the can wolf freely to and from the market and they don’t need the help of their daughter anymore and they can now go to school.
The CRC is composed of three departments: ICT, tailoring and carpentry. The ICT department, first of the kind in the district will offer ICT trainings with access to Internet, photocopy, computerized secretariat services etc. The Tailoring and the carpentry will offer training in their respective areas while also producing goods for the local market. It is expected that for the first batch, 50 young girls and boys will benefit directly from the training and through replication, around 200 beneficiaries will be reached out.
Consistently with the Local Economic Development (LED) philosophy, the two facilities will be run as private businesses. The MDC has entered into public-private partnership arrangements with private sector groups accordingly. The private managers will pay rental fees and local taxes to the MDC while recruiting, managing the staff and maintaining the facility. Fees and taxes will be re-invested in service delivery and economic support to he community. The newly elected Chairman of the MDC insisted in his speech that this is business and the community should be prepared to pay a symbolic amount to ensure the sustainability of the facilities.
The completion of the LED investments projects in MDC is the result of UNCDF/UNDP support to local Councils is Sierra to improve their Financial Management, planning and budgeting systems and processes by mainstreaming local economic development (LED) initiatives in partnership with the private sector. Through the LED approach, LCs engage with private sectors to add value to key productive factors in the localities and provide income generating and employment opportunities to the communities with specific attention to women and other marginalized groups. In July 2012, UNDP/UNCDF supported the Government of Sierra Leone to launch the LED as a national initiative to making decentralization addressing the economic needs of the poor at local level.
According to the MDC Chief Administrator, Mrs Vivian Sally Senesie, the LED approach has changed their understanding of local development from planning and budgeting, the design of local infrastructures to the implementation, Monitoring &Evaluation of development activities with gender lens at all stages.
The commission of the MDC infrastructures was the first function of the new MLGRD, Mrs Diana Konomanyi outside Freetown. She praised the UNDP/UNCDF approach for its focus on strengthening Financial management and public expenditures management systems and procedures at local level. According to her, the LED investments will unleash the potentials of important sectors and trigger increased interest from other partners. The engagement of the private sector, which is the driver of inclusive growth as understood by the GoSL, is the key to the sustainability of the investments and also a way of leveraging more resources and attracting more investors she added. The Paramount chiefs and the community representatives swore to make good use of the infrastructure and cooperate fully with their managers.
The commissioning of the MDC LED investment is only the first on a series which will be followed by similar initiatives under completion in Kenema City Council, Kenema District Council and Tonkolili District Council.