Back in Business: Sierra Leone's President and CEO

Article excerpt

From 1991 to 2002, civil war devastated the Western African nation of Sierra Leone. The conflict pitted the government against the Liberian-aided Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The RUF established a base of economic power through control of the country's vast diamond mines and reached its zenith with a successful coup in 1997. After significant British military involvement on the side of the civilian government, the RUF finally admitted defeat on January 18,2002. Western politicians and journalists often characterize the resolution of the civil war as a successful example of Western liberal interventionism to safeguard lives and support democracy. However, Sierra Leone is still feeling the effects of a conflict that killed 100,000 citizens and displaced over 2 million people.

Recovery has been slow, and seven years later, the legacies of both the civil war and the preceding decades of poor governance continue to hamper Sierra Leone. But a variety of factors are finally combining to create a new sense of optimism about the country's future. In a visit to Sierra Leone in April 2009, Tony Blair, British Prime Minister during the civil war, reported that the outlook for Sierra Leone was now the most positive that he had ever seen. The combination of a promising new administration and of economic possibilities offered by tourism has given the country a real chance at becoming an African success story.

President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress (APC), who took office on November 15,2007, deserves much of the credit for the country's progress. A former CEO, Koroma promised to run the government like a business, and he has followed through on that vow. In a major step, he has begun requiring performance contracts for cabinet ministers. These contracts aim to decrease corruption and levity in government by incentivizing efficiency and good performance. If this method works, Koroma can potentially revolutionize approaches to good governance across the continent.

In a similar vein, Koroma has launched a vigorous campaign against public corruption and has shown impressive skills dealing with social issues. While his counterparts in Nigeria have had well-publicized difficulties in dealing with issues of gender equality, Koroma has avoided such problems. In January 2008, he appointed a woman named Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh to the hugely powerful role of Chief Justice, the head of Sierra Leone's judiciary. Justice Tejan Jalloh is only the third woman in Africa to be appointed to run a judiciary. Her appointment indicates a society-wide commitment to equal female participation that places Sierra Leone at the vanguard of sub-Saharan African nations on issues of gender equality.

Most notable, however, is Koroma's focus on the economy. He is committed to weaning Sierra Leone off of its dependence on foreign aid, especially British aid. While Britain is an important ally and the African nation's government has maintained excellent relations with the former colonial power, Koroma realizes that subsisting on charity is not a long term solution for Sierra Leone. …