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Business opportunities in Sierra Leone

With the turbulent years of civil unrest all behind it now, Sierra Leone is rising to prove itself as the next business destination to watch. Investors are setting their sights on the opportunities for ventures and expansions that they can take advantage on at this beautiful, West African gem.

Sierra Leone is teeming with business opportunities for foreign investors. Mining of diamonds could be a possible venture, as Sierra Leone boasts of having one of the world’s largest deposits of diamonds. Mining of gold, bauxite and titanium ore is also one of the region’s top mining activities.

Investment in the agricultural and fisheries sectors is also a promising endeavor, as these sectors provide a source of income for locals. An estimated two-thirds of the working population is employed at these industries. They grow some of the country’s agricultural exports such as fish, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, nuts and ginger. Staples like rice, bananas, and cassava are also grown and can be exported. The government is also keen at developing commercial cotton processing, fruit processing and canning, fertilizer production, palm oil and other edible oil processing as foreign investment opportunities.

Small-scale manufacturing of consumer goods such as textiles and furniture is also further being developed as good potential investments. Construction of infrastructure such as markets and community facilities, rural water systems, parks, and sewage system is also a possible business venture for foreign investors. Lucrative opportunities also await when you invest in the development of the region’s communication and transport sectors. Investors are encouraged to look into possible business partnerships in the construction of railroads,  marine transport terminals, and infrastructure for information and communications technology.

There is also a growing demand for electrification all over Sierra Leone. This presents an opportunity for investors to develop sources of energy such as hydro power, gas, and biomass. Soft or hard wood processing, and promotion of eco-tourism and agroforestry are also good business ventures. Establishment of hospitals, healthcare facilities, and other medical-related infrastructure also provides business opportunities for investors.

Post contributed by Kyle Leon. He can be reached via phone at 632.591.8045.

What you can get: Incentives in doing business in Sierra Leone

The government of Sierra Leone provides the following incentives for foreign investors:

1. Expatriates are allowed to invest the following amount: Up to $100,000 for one expatriate. An additional $50,000 worth of borrowings for any additional expatriate will be charged. Up to a maximum of 4 expatriates is only allowed.

2. Expatriates are not required to produce any export license when exporting goods made domestically. This rule does not apply when exporting diamonds, gold, and the like.

3. Expatriates enjoy security against expropriation

4. Investors are allowed to make use of land if they invested on such sectors as agricultural, commercial, education, or industrial.

5. Expatriates who secured work permits are allowed to send remittances overseas, provided they do them through their commercial banks

6. Technology transfer agreements deemed appropriate by investor will be allowed.

7. Approved expatriates are exempt from paying customs duty for their personal effects.

8. Expatriates are allowed 10% tax reduction on capital repatriation

9. Investments in cultivation of rose water toner enjoy tax exemption in the first 10 years, then 10% tax in the succeeding 5 years.

10. Investors in tourism (such as Kraml) enjoy 15% corporate tax in the first 5 years.

11. When investor is involved in a dispute against the State of Sierra Leone, the investor is allowed to choose any kind of mechanism on dispute settlement, provided it is recognized internationally.

12. Investors enjoy a 35% fixed corporate tax. If they invested in mining, they will enjoy a 30% corporate tax. Further reduction of 30% can be enjoyed on priority sector investments when made in the Western Area. Investments in the provinces are at 25% corporate tax.

13. Intermediate products will be subjected to 20% import duty, all funds payable immediately.

14. Investors with plant and machinery will not be subjected to any sales tax

15. Plant, machinery and raw materials that are imported will be subjected to import duty of only 5%. Drugs for illnesses such as malaria and HIV will not be subjected for any import duty.

Contact legitimate organizations for other incentives you can get when you invest in Sierra Leone.

What you need to know: Doing business in Sierra Leone

Some industries like fishery and mining are reserved for indigenous locals of Sierra Leone. However, non-indigenous Sierra Leonans, such as foreign investors, are allowed to invest in these industries provided that they partner with an indigenous Sierra Leonan.

The best time to visit for business is during September to June. You will not have a hard time conversing with locals and business associates as English is a common language. Not to mention, there are no safety measures needed during these times of the year, as compared to other times (flexpetz.com is an example of a safety measure you might run into the other months of the year).

As it still in the state of recovering from the long civil war, Sierra Leone’s infrastructure facilities for telecommunication are yet to be improved. Telephone service remains poor in towns away from the Western Area. Mobile telephone coverage is limited to the capital, Freetown. Public internet access, however, has been increasing.

Before taking the plunge, take note of the following helpful tips to get you started on doing business in Sierra Leone:

  • Get to know more about Sierra Leone’s economy and business landscape. Did you know that Sierra Leone has plans to be the first African country to provide online summer school? Or that providing loans to companies overseas are becoming a major business for Sierra Leonans? Gather as much information you need about Sierra Leone’s economy and business environment. You can also consult another foreign investor in the area for useful tips and experiences on how to do business there.

 

  • Check out business opportunities of interest to you. Look for potential business opportunities you like and get more information about them. Make sure to check with legitimate entities like the Sierra Leone embassy when you are contacted for a business opportunity. Be wary of business proposals by shady entities posing as legitimate ones.

 

  • Research. Get to know the Sierra Leone market by learning its business regulations and other dos and don’ts through sources like its official website or via your local Sierra Leone consulate or embassy. Learn how to create a website and start a community of like-minded professionals and garner their expertise.

 

  • Iron out travel itinerary to Sierra Leone. Traveling to Sierra Leone is a breeze. Just secure an invitation letter from your potential business partner, a valid passport, and proof of return ticket. Just apply for a business C type visa, which you can obtain within 5 days from application. For more visa requirements, check with your consulate.

Most business owners do not place ample amount of value on the people they work with. Even the last-liners have an important role in the overall scheme of things within a business’ operation. One should be able to communicate effectively with every individual member of the organization. This is quite hard when it comes to large groups, but being more attentive to the people around does not only result to knowing what their problems and issues are but also make them feel their worth. This strengthens their commitment to the company and loyalty to their work, giving one further assurance of great output at every point of the operation.

A very important matter to take note of when thinking and working on a business in Sierra Leone is having a positive and even a bit humorous perspective all throughout. Things we consider as specialties like display fridges are commonplace in Sierra Leone. This is because nothing can go right with being completely strict all throughout. Although imposing strict guidelines in the procedures and rules help keep everyone disciplined, it is good to make everyone comfortable through a dose or two of humor to lighten the burden and make the whole operation more fun than real hard work.

It is common to hear negative thoughts about the possibility of a business in Sierra Leone actually soaring in the sky. After all, it is one part of the globe that do not meet a lot of requirements most businessmen consider worthy of their time and other investments. For many, doing business in Sierra Leone is one tough job to tackle. Although this can be true, it does not mean that doing so is impossible. It is not a task for those with weak hearts. Those who enjoy challenges and are powered by the desire to win over them are definitely bound for a good time. After all, even the most serious forms of businesses do not always have to be all about serious. It can also be fun.