Sierra Leone News: UNIDO Empowers Entrepreneurs on Renewable Energy

By Alusine Sesay

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday July 8, 2019, commenced a five-day training on Renewable Energy for innovative entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone with the theme: “Renewable Energy for Enabling Innovative Entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone”.

The training which is held at the Kabinday Hotel in Freetown brought together entrepreneurs from across the country, experts, and public officials, among others.

The training is aimed at improving the capacities of small and medium enterprises with the view of improving the standard of living through employment of youths, poverty reduction and export growth. It is also geared towards building awareness and enhances capacity for the identification and promotion of renewable energy focused innovative entrepreneurs, start-ups as well as SMEs directly or indirectly linked with energy generation, transmission and consumption.

The sessions of the workshop will also create a space for dialogue on critical small and medium enterprises and public and private partnership related issues related to SMEs development in Sierra Leone.

Country Representative, UNIDO Sierra Leone, Mrs Mariatu Swaray said that renewable energy sources provide an opportunity for developing countries like Sierra Leone to embrace a low carbon pathway powered by innovative, smart and locally relevant energy solutions.

Renewable energy has a great potential to help Sierra Leone become less dependent on energy imports, create jobs and mitigate climate change while contributing to prosperity,” said Swaray.

In this context, she said, UNIDIO’s energy-related activities include the promotion of renewable sources of energy, the facilitation of productive activities in rural areas and in industrial processes.

She said that UNIDO will focus not only on creating an enabling policy and market environment for such activities but also on the development of technical capacity and business skills.

The UNIDO Country Rep said, “UNIDO will focus on building capacity at all levels of renewable energy policy and regulatory framework, so that communities, institutions and governments are able to create an enabling framework for the development of mini-grids based on renewable energy technologies.”

The Director, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Momodu Alrashid Bah said that the training workshop is very important for the promotion of mini energy innovative enterprises green economic growth in Sierra Leone, “as without energy there can be no development”.

“Sierra Leone has extremely low energy penetration from the main energy grid especially in rural communities. The main existing national grid is dominated by conventional thermal power plants currently serves the cities of Freetown, Makeni, Bo and urban towns. This situation cannot continue as the Government’s New Direction under the leadership of His Excellency Dr. Retired Julius Maada Bio is determined and committed to provide clean energy and improve the livelihoods of our rural communities through the provision of energy min-grids,” he said. “Therefore, renewable energy project offer a solution for our current energy crisis by allowing for the provision of energy of rural communities without the cost of extending the main grid connection and mitigate the significant environmental & health impacts associated with conventional thermal electricity generation. The carbon emissions from thermal plants have significant impact on the environment and human health and also contribute to global warming and climate change.”

Bah said that the expansion of energy generation through renewable energy and sources and other technologies is a legitimate method of mitigating climate change. “Such an expansion would aid the country in meeting its commitment under its Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change .Furthermore ,our reliance of fossil fuels for energy generation will significantly reduce in the not too distance future,” he said.

The direct said, “As a Government agency responsible for the effective protection of the environment and promoting sustainable development, we will continue to support the spread of renewable energy in our communities and applaud the efforts of Ministry of Energy and UNIDO to make this workshop possible which will enhance the capacity of innovative entrepreneurs in the energy sector.”

Representing the Minister of Energy, the Director of projects, Cyril Grant registered government commitment in the expansion of energy generation through renewable energy sources.

The training consultant, Shashi Bhattarai said that the training will be an interactive, and there will be team sessions to generate local ideas and business planning models, among others.

The Chief Director, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Charles Mereweather Thompson said that considering the fact that most of the business enterprises in Sierra Leone are inactive and the rate of establishing new businesses is low, “this training workshop is expected to improve the capacities of the participants especially in the creation of more Small and Medium Enterprises. SMEs are the largest private sector group and there is no denying that the engine of economic growth in Sierra Leone”.

“In an attempt to address some of the problems facing the business sector, the Sierra Leone Government has developed a policy in 2014 that covers SMEs in almost every sector with the objective of providing an enabling environment for SMEs to operate and expressed the need to review laws and reduce barriers that inhibit their operation,” he said. “In the same vein, the government established the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency in 2017 with the mandate of revitalizing the economy through the promotion of SMEs.”

He said that, “it is within this context that I congratulate UNIDO, the Ministry of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency for jointly organizing this important workshop, which seeks to enhance the capacity of entrepreneurs and in the process create more SMEs and reduce poverty in the country.”

“UNIDO has been working closely with our Ministry in implementing developmental projects in the country including the establishment of 10 Industrial Growth Centers where youth are trained in middle manpower skills and the productive uses of energy,” he said.