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REGIONS MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA


Freetown’s treetown S


ierra Leone has suffered severely fromthe economic fallout from Covid-19, and the capital, Freetown, is no exception, says its


mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr. She is nowfocusing on a sustainable response to rebuilding follow- ing the crisis. “Here in Freetown, the impact on the econ-


omy has been huge. We continue to be an import-dependent country, so it was extremely tough when borders and airports closed and many jobs disappeared in all sectors,” Ms Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr tells fDi. “We already had youth unemployment or


CURRICULUMVITAE YVONNE AKI-SAWYERR


2018 Freetown Mayor


Previously IDEA, investment director


CITYPROFILE FREETOWN


Country Sierra Leone


Population 1.168 million


%of nationalGDP 30%


underemployment of around 60% in a popula- tionwhere65%areunder 35. Inflationhas risen. There have been inter-district lockdowns for a number of weeks, and although agriculture has nowgotmoving,thesethings areneversmooth... there were reports of fresh food wasting at checkpointsbecause they couldn’tget through.”


Gradual reopening The country is slowly starting to open up its borders and resume flights, however, and Freetown is starting to look ahead. “We’re continuing towork on transforming


the city,” says Ms Aki-Sawyerr. “The pandemic has pushed waterdemand to the fore and we’ve been able to increase water supply in informal settlements by 20%, so we’re continuing to work on sustainability models for this. We’ve also had a campaign in Freetown to distribute locallymadeface coverings, whichwe’re target- ing at traders in the markets.” The city’s pre-Covid focus for investment


was on tourism, she says. “Clearly, this has taken a big hit globally. We’re currently renew- ing our focus on the green sector and waste management, making sure that investment in these sectors continues to grow. One of our big sustainability initiatives is FreetownTree Town, which will see us planting 500,000 seedlings this rainy season out of a target of one million. ”A city where you invest in the green econ-


THEMAYORSPEAKS:YVONNEAKI-SAWYERR


THE MAYOR OF SIERRA LEONE CAPITAL FREETOWN, YVONNE AKI-SAWYERR, TELLS WENDY ATKINS WHY SHE BELIEVES SUSTAINABILITY WILL DRIVE JOBS AND BETTER LIVING STANDARDS


omy is one that will lead to jobs and improved living standards, so we’re partnering with the private sector on some of these initiatives. For example, we’ve converted a huge derelict roundabout and lorry park into a beautiful green space in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank.We’re also developing a house- building initiative based on a public-private partnership model and this is attracting inter- est froma range of companies.”


Infrastructureschemes The city is also working with the World Bank and the ministry of finance on a major new sanitary landfill waste management scheme being built just outside the city. “This will be a huge investment, and in


addition to the World Bank, we will need pri- vate sector expertise in construction and opera- tion,” says Ms Aki-Sawyerr. “So we’re seeing opportunities for local and international col- laboration.” One of the city’s biggest green initiatives is


a mass transit cable car project, which is a key plank of its central business district regenera- tion, she says. “We’re working on this in con- junction with the ministry of transport, devel- opment partners and private businesses. It will really fill a gap because we’ve never had mass transit, which was bad news for the climate.” The city is also continuing to support start-


ups. “We’ve partnered with business incubator Innovation SL to hold pitch nights focused on transforming Freetown and we have picked up on some of the ideas that have come out of them, such as for tourism, plastics and recy- cling,” says Ms Aki-Sawyerr. “There is a lot of room for growth and collaboration with the private sector on this as part of our post-Covid recovery. An exciting example of this is the partnership [centred on small and medium- sized enterprises] we are working on with the city of Milan, which is focused on waste man- agement on our side and fashion on theirs.”■


WE’VE BEEN ABLE TO INCREASEWATER SUPPLY IN INFORMALSETTLEMENTS BY20%


70 www.fDiIntelligence.com August/September 2020


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