President Bio: Leading Change Through Human Capital Development To Upscale Sierra Leone

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In two stints, and at different times, President Julius Maada Bio has led his country in the capacity of the Presidency; and in each of these times, he has proved to be capable of creating and making relevant changes that impact his people.

President Bio’s first test of leadership and public-spirited demeanour came when he took over power on 16th January 1996. As a Military Head of State at a time when military coups and governments were the norms in West Africa, Bio resisted the pressure from contemporaries to stay on. Instead, he sought better governance for his people. He organized elections and handed over power to a democratically elected President. But he was not done with the political scene.

In May 2018, in pursuit of a better life for millions of Sierra Leoneans; President Bio led the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to upstage the ruling party and emerged as the democratically elected President of the country.

President Bio assumed office at a time of global uncertainties, but that was not enough to impact his determination to return the country to the ‘Athens of West Africa’.

It has rather propelled his administration to allocate the most significant part of its budget and resources toward building the country’s present and future. Continuously he is making bold and strategic decisions designed to return Sierra Leone to its glory days.

He unveiled his roadmap and aptly christened the “New Direction” agenda – with Human Capital Development as the cardinal plank of the plan.

What better way then is there to develop Human Capital than through education? President Bio, on the 12th of May 2018, announced the introduction of free and quality education for both primary and secondary school-age children, in line with his primary campaign pledge.

Analysts and critics question the sustenance of such a bold move, but four years on, the government hasn’t only proved naysayers wrong, President Bio has also practically given wings to the famous phrase, “where there is a will, there is a way.”

The Free Quality School Education Project launched in 2018 has led to an increase in the number of pupils enrolled in schools and a decline in the mortality rate of children in Sierra Leone. In 2021, more than 600,000 additional children, especially girls, accessed schools with 5,000 additional qualified teachers recruited.

In an exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine, President Bio captures the intent of his administration for his country:

“My desire to make a difference in the lives of Sierra Leoneans through good governance, accountability and the rule of law was and still is unquenchable. Since assuming office, my government is resolute on driving and leading the change from fragility and corruption to resilience, peace, and sustainable national development,” he said.

President Bio’s focus is to bring education that is fit for purpose, one that fits into the 21st century so that Sierra Leone can reposition itself for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and fully partake in its benefits for national development. He stated his commitment to seeing Sierra Leone become a hub of science, technology and innovation.

Beyond education, other highlights of Bio’s administration have seen him fight corruption, commit to the development of industries and improve the government’s commitment to the welfare of citizens.

In less than a year into his administration, President Bio greatly improved all of Sierra Leone’s financial and economic performance markers for the IMF’s positive approval ratings. This has made global institutions and credible investors like the World Bank and the African Development Bank more comfortable to come in as development partners to support the country’s socioeconomic reforms.

For 3 consecutive years, Sierra Leone has passed the control of corruption indicator on the Millennium Corporation Challenge’s (MCC) scorecard and Transparency International rates the country as the highest in their Corruption Perception Index.

President Bio’s administration has seen the reorientation of our the country’s policy in the mining sector that revenues generated from our mineral resources are managed in transparent, fair and accountable ways. Perhaps this is one great achievement that will stand the test of time as it means both the State and its citizens benefit significantly from available mineral resources and wealth.

Overall, President Bio has maintained his commitment to driving change and improving standards in Sierra Leone. As a people-centred leader, he continues with policies that directly impact and influence citizens positively.

Across his first stint, 22 years ago, now, one thing is certain – President Bio wishes only the best for his country and he holds the unfettered ambition of seeing this come true.

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