Julius Maada Bio (right) took office as the President of Sierra Leone one year ago after winning a run-off Presidential election against Samura Kamara of the All People's Congress (APC) in March 2018.
Bio's victory took many observers and pundits by surprise as the APC had dominated the political landscape for over 10 years and their candidate was widely expected to sweep the board against the Sierra Leone People's Party's nominee.
Bio's relatively narrow victory (51.8% against 48.2%) nevertheless reflected the mood of the public, which had lost patience with the successive APC administrations.
This was the second time that Bio had become the head of state of this West African country. He was one of the group of young soldiers, including Captain Valentine Strasser, that had staged a bloodless military coup against President Joseph Saidu Momoh in 1992.
The National Provisional Ruling Council led by Strasser ruled for four years before an internal coup led by Bio ousted Strasser in January 1996. Two months later, Bio handed power to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People's Party, following Kabbah's victory in the 1996 Sierra Leone Presidential election.
Bio moved to the US, where he was granted political asylum and acquired a university degree--he is currently completing a PhD from the university of Bradford. He returned to Sierra Leone in 2005 when his safety in the country was guaranteed by then-President Kabbah.
Bio inherited a country whose treasury had been looted by the previous administration and which was still reeling under the ramifications of the Ebola epidemic. The IMF had withheld financial support because of poor governance and mismanagement.
New African met President Bio at an international investment conference in Casablanca, co-hosted by Attijariwafa Bank, where he was guest of honour. He had also just returned from important meetings with the World Bank and the IMF in Washington DC.
After one year in power, bave you changed your vision and strategy on Sierra Leone in the face of the realities on the ground? What do you see as your biggest challenge?
My vision has not changed. In fact I am more focused on it now than before I took over the leadership of my country. What is my biggest challenge? That is not so easy to answer.
Consider this: I took over a government that was on the brink of collapse in terms of the economy; one that had already been abandoned by the IMF and one that was extremely corrupt. All this meant that we had to start from scratch in every department of government--in a nutshell, to reorganise everything, starting with changing the mentality of our people while looking at financial resources, in order to undertake the social programmes that we want.
Without doubt, we are more focused now, the vision has not changed --the primary goal being to enhance the human capital as a means of spearheading our country's development.
How did your discussions with the IMF and the World Bank go?
Since last year, we have been able to fulfill all the conditions set by the IMF. These have been to devise and implement stringent economic management, prudent management of our resources, expenditures control, revenue mobilisation and reforms in the economic sector.
All of these activities that we conducted seriously were enough to convincc them that we mean business and that we want to put the economy on the right footing. We resumed relations with them since last year.
Once the IMF gives us a clean bill of health, all the other financial institutions normally come on board. We have had very useful discussions with the World Bank, and they are very happy with how we have managed the economy so far, and they want to encourage us to...