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Published: 20 June 2009      

Sierra Leone opts for privatisation

A Sierra Leonean government body instructed to examine the future of the country’s ports has published its recommendations

The National Commission for Privatisation (NCP) has recommended that the Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) should be privatised, although it has yet to make clear whether it proposes the outright sale of the ports authority or the kind of port landlord model that has become common elsewhere in Africa.

Press reports in Sierra Leone suggest that the NCP is pushing for the planned port reforms to be completed quickly in order to improve the performance of the port of Freetown.

Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia appear to be following the same policies on port reform and reconstruction. Both were involved in bloody civil wars during the 1990s that destroyed their economies, but both now have democratic governments that have secured substantial donor support for infrastructural rehabilitation.

Most multilateral and bilateral financial support is dependent on allocating a greater role in the economy to the private sector, so it is no surprise that both governments favour private sector investment in port redevelopment.

However, potential investors may be deterred by the lack of trade. Freetown in Sierra Leone and Monrovia in Liberia are the least used international ports in West Africa, recording fewer port calls from major shipping lines than even the ports of Cotonou in Benin and Lomé in Togo.

However, iron ore investment in both countries is expected to kick start the modernisation of their transport infrastructure, which should benefit container traffic as well as the dry bulk sector. While the other Sierra Leonean ports of Nitti and Pepel focus solely on the export of bauxite, iron ore and rutile, Freetown handles container and dry bulk cargo at its six berths.

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