BackgroundSierra Leone has faced multiple crises in the last three decades, including the civil war from 1991 to 2002, the Ebola epidemic in 2014, and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. While the country continues to register positive GDP trends, Sierra Leone’s economic growth has not been inclusive. Poverty levels have gone up with 32 per cent of the total population living below the poverty line, including vulnerable groups such as women and youth below the age of 35 (representing more than 60 per cent of the population) and persons with disabilities (representing 1.3 per cent of population) who experience significant challenges related to lack of educational and employment opportunities. Moreover, the country faces numerous challenges including unconducive business environment, depreciating currency, reduced export revenues and high dependence on imports, limited investment in key sectors, poor education and health systems and low infrastructure development.
Agriculture is the dominant economic sector in Sierra Leone. It employs over half of Sierra Leone’s population and contributes to almost 60 per cent of the country’s GDP. Despite its economic significance and growth potential, the sector is characterized by low levels of productivity, informality, and a generalized absence of linkages with markets, inputs and support services such as access to finance and skills development. This is further exacerbated by poorly maintained feeder road networks, which significantly impairs trade of goods and services in rural areas. Funding limitations, limited capacity to plan and supervise road rehabilitation work, poor technical knowledge and lack of road maintenance equipment are some of the persistent barriers that prevent road networks from being appropriately maintained. To address this and improve the resilience youth, women and persons with disabilities, the ILO proposes the Opportunity Salone Programme.
Project objectiveThe Opportunity Salone programme is part of the larger EU funded “Jobs and Growth” Programme, which aims to stimulate job creation by improving the investment climate that relates to access to finance, rural transportation, and vocational training and education. More specifically, this project aims to contribute to more decent job creation in terms of quantity and quality of jobs for young women and men and persons with disabilities in four rural districts in Sierra Leone: Bo, Bombali, Kenema, and Port Loko. It seeks to achieve this through inclusive value chain development focused on SMEs and cooperatives, and feeder road maintenance supported by the ILO Employment Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP) to improve access to markets.
Project approachThe Opportunity Salone Programme adopts a value chain and market systems development approach, which it links to infrastructure improvement actions. While road infrastructure development will create new job opportunities in the short run, the development of agriculture value chains will promote longer term sustainable economic growth as well as benefit from improved road infrastructure which can serve as a key enabler of long-term development.
The project is being implemented in close collaboration and consultation with local partners, stakeholders and government agencies in order to ensure national ownership, complementarity with ongoing initiatives, and sustainability of interventions beyond the scope of this project. It has three key outcomes:
- Enhanced, conflict-sensitive, agricultural value chain and entrepreneurship development for SMEs, youth, women and persons with disabilities: The project undertakes value chain selection, analysis to identify barriers to establish or participate in successful enterprises, and results analysis to design targeted interventions in each value chain. They encompass both “push” and “pull” interventions, where push interventions contribute towards building the capacity of the target group to create and access opportunities in the selected sectors (supply side), and pull interventions strengthen the linkages between value chain actors to create opportunities for the target group (demand side).
- Improved feeder road maintenance contributing to resolve infrastructure bottlenecks to immediate job creation: The project undertakes analysis of technical and institutional challenges that limit road maintenance to support capacity building of national stakeholders in addressing feeder road maintenance. It facilitates training of local contractors, with attention to youth-owned SMEs, to encourage hiring from local communities.
- Improved business environment for entrepreneurship development and feeder road maintenance: The project provides policy guidance and support to further development in selected value chains and maintenance of feeder road network. It builds on ILO's previous work on promoting Sierra Leone's business environment, and utilizes the findings of the four market systems analyses (see Outcome 1) to identify key regulatory and enabling environment bottlenecks that can be feasibility addressed within the project.