Published on Africa Can End Poverty

World Bank launches global online survey for Sierra Leone Diaspora on the challenges and opportunities to investing in Sierra Leone, post-Ebola

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After months of outreach and focus groups in Atlanta, Toronto, London and Washington, DC the World Bank is expanding its Sierra Leone Diaspora Investment and Trade Study to the entire global Sierra Leone diaspora. 
Through an online survey, the World Bank hopes to gain additional insights on diaspora views regarding investing in Sierra Leone, post-Ebola.  The overall aim of this study is to gather data in an unprecedented manner that will inform the development of new lending policies, technical assistance and investment models specifically designed to foster diaspora engagement and involvement in investing in their home country.  In this way, the World Bank hopes to expand current diaspora contributions beyond charitable donations, remittances and direct financial investments into other long-term and more sustainable ventures. 
Some of the potential new investment models the World Bank may support, include catalytic funds to support SMEs, matching fund schemes and public-private joint ventures in various sectors of the economy where the diaspora expresses investment interests.  Also available are opportunities to provide assistance for targeted short and long-term volunteer work by professionals, particularly in the sectors of healthcare and education.  Besides the World Bank, the information would be available to other financing institutions, foundations, investment funds and donors like USAID and DFID that have expressed interest in supporting diaspora investment and trade initiatives in Sierra Leone. 
This venture comes at a critical time in Sierra Leone’s history.  The recent regional Ebola outbreak has had a devastating impact on the Sierra Leone economy and wreaked havoc not only in public health but in all sectors.  Advances in mining, agriculture, energy and tourism have all but ground to a halt.  2014 growth projections of 11.3 percent were never realized, instead falling to 7.1 percent by years-end.  Recent estimates further show that there is a considerable risk that recent economic progress and related gains in social and economic well-being stand to be reversed, due in large part to investor aversion as well as the closure of iron ore mining in early 2015, which could potentially lead to a severe economic contraction of up to 23.5 percent if iron ore mining does not resume within the year.  This contrasts sharply with the pre-Ebola forecast of +8.9 percent real GDP growth.  In such a worst case, GDP in 2015 would be $ 1.4 billion lower than the pre-Ebola forecast. 
As of April 2015, the World Bank Group has mobilized US$1.62 billion in financing for Ebola response and recovery efforts to support the countries hardest hit by Ebola.  Some of the funding has been used to support foreign and local health care workers, ensuring the continued supply of essential goods and services and to finance medium and long-term projects.  This study and its proposed diaspora investment models are part of the World Bank’s long-term commitment to partnering with Sierra Leone in its economic recovery post-Ebola. 

Why is it important for the Sierra Leone Diaspora to participate in this study?
The challenge of Sierra Leone’s economic recovery offers many opportunities to create new solutions to address the country’s development needs.  Diaspora investments stand to play an important role in rejuvenating many sectors, including education, agriculture, mining, tourism and health. 
For members of the global Sierra Leone diaspora this survey is an important opportunity to participate in a new venture by the World Bank.  To date, the World Bank has never engaged the Sierra Leone diaspora at this level, offering a direct opportunity for nationals to have a real impact on the development of operations by making their views known.  As key stakeholders in Sierra Leone’s development the diaspora stands to shape the conversation and orient the organization’s approach to post-Ebola investments.  Individuals and organizations representing the diaspora also stand a chance to obtain funding for their investment projects as they align with World Bank in-country commitments.
The online survey is available April 27th - May 31st, 2015.  All Sierra Leoneans who live outside of Sierra Leone or consider themselves to be members of the Sierra Leone diaspora are welcome to complete and share it through their networks.  Please join in because the greater the response rate, the greater the impact of the Sierra Leone diaspora’s voice.

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