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High Commission of India

Freetown

India-Sierra Leone: Bilateral Brief

Political

India and Sierra Leone share cordial and warm relationship based on common values and shared vision which dates back to over five decades. India is committed to being a reliable partner of Sierra Leone in its development journey and cooperates on capacity building under its ITEC Programme.

India had played an important role in achieving peace and stability in Sierra Leone by contributing troops to the UN Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 2000-2001.

In line with the Government of India’s decision to open resident Missions in more African countries, India opened its Mission in Freetown in August 2020. India has already accorded its agreement for opening a Sierra Leonean resident Mission in Delhi. India has also extended e-Visa facility to Sierra Leonean nationals for ease of mobility.

Visits from India

Hon’ble Vice President Shri Venkaiah Naidu visited Sierra Leone on 12-14 October 2019 for the first ever high-level visit from India. He was accompanied by Shri Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries; and Shri Ramvichar Netam, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha).

Hon’ble Vice President and President of Sierra Leone, H. E. Brig (Retd) Julius Maada Wonie Bio, discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relationship as well as global and regional issues of common interest.

A number of MoUs/Agreements were signed during the visit, including a Line of Credit for US$ 30 million for irrigation development in Tomabum for self-sufficiency in rice production. India also offered a Line of Credit for construction of a new Presidential Office Complex in Freetown. Another Line of Credit of US$ 15 million was reactivated for a potable water project.

The two sides also signed Agreement/MoU for (i) the setting up of a Joint Commission; (ii) Foreign Office Consultations; (iii) Training Programmes for Diplomats; and (iv) Cultural Exchange Programme.

Hon’ble Vice President also met Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament H.E. Mr. Abass Chernor Bundu and Foreign Minister H.E. Ms Nabeela Farida Tunis. He interacted with the Indian community as well during this visit.

The other high-level bilateral visits from India to Sierra Leone include the visit of Defence Minister Shri George Fernandes in July 2000 and Minister of State for External Affairs Shri Anand Sharma in January 2009. 

Shri Sushil Kumar Modi, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, participated in the “Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation” held in Sierra Leone from 30 January to 1 February, 2012. Special Envoy to the PM, Shri Ram Kripal Yadav, MOS (Water Resources) visited Sierra Leone on 16-18 July 2016, to deliver PM’s invitation to President Koroma to participate in 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit.

Visits from Sierra Leone

Former President Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, accompanied by Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade, visited India on 27-29 October 2015 for the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit with the theme “Partners in Progress: Towards a Dynamic and Transformative Development Agenda” at which the Leaders reviewed strategic partnership and implementation of the Framework of Enhanced Cooperation adopted at the 2nd IAFS held in Addis Ababa in May 2011.

During a meeting between President Koroma and Prime Minister Modi, the two leaders discussed issues of mutual interest and shared the view that there is scope to scale up bilateral cooperation in the areas of agriculture, mining and ICT.

During the visit of the President, accompanying Foreign Minister Dr. Samura Kamara met with EAM Smt. Sushma Swaraj and reviewed bilateral cooperation; and Trade Minister of Sierra Leone attended the Trade Ministers’ Meet on the sidelines of IAFS-III.

Mr. Alpha O Timbo, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education of Sierra Leone attended Partners’ Forum 2018 on Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health held at New Delhi on 10-14 December, 2018.

Dr. Anthony Augustine Sandi, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation led a delegation to attend the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention at New Delhi on 29 September to 2 October, 2018. Finance Minister, Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa, led a two-member delegation for CII-EXIM Bank India-West Africa Regional Conclave at Abuja, Nigeria on 8-9 October, 2018.

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Momodu Kargbo represented Sierra Leone at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the AfDB held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on 22-25 May 2017. Minister of Communications & Information Mohamed Bangura participated in the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) held in New Delhi on 23-24 November 2017.

The Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry accompanied by the Special Secretary to the Chief of Staff in the Presidency and two business executives participated in the 10th EXIM Bank-CII Conclave held in New Delhi in March 2014. 

Election Commissioners Mr. Mohamed Nfah Alie Conteh (CEC) and Mr. Edmound S. Alpha attended the 4th General Assembly of the Association of World Election Bodies and an international conference held at Bengaluru on 3-4 September 2019.

Relations at UN

India commends Sierra Leone’s role as Chairperson of the C10 in coordinating and voicing the position of the African continent on the issue of reforms of the UN bodies.

Developmental Cooperation

India’s developmental cooperation with Sierra Leone through our Lines of Credit and through ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) aggregates to about US$ 250 million covering a range of sectors. The projects implemented/signed/approved are:

  1. US$ 32 million for Construction of University of Science & Technology at Koidu Town, Kono District (under loan agreement signed between EXIM Bank of India and EBID for US$ 500 million in 2018 meant to be funding projects in ECOWAS countries) in 2020
  2. US$ 30 million for Irrigation Development in Tomabum in 2019;
  3. US$ 15 million for expansion of rehabilitation of existing potable water facilities in four communities in 2019;
  4. In 2018, the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) Board of Directors approved US$ 1 million out of the IBSA Fund for the a project entitled ‘Digital Financial Inclusion’ in Sierra Leone to expand digital financial services among women, youth, micro, small & medium enterprises of the country leading to resilient and inclusive economic growth.
  5. US$ 78 million for Transmission line and sub-station project in 2016;
  6. US$ 20 million for public lighting of Freetown and 13 municipal headquarters through solar energy through EBID in 2011;
  7. US$ 30 million for Rehabilitation of existing facilities and addition of new infrastructure to supply potable water in 2010;
  8. US$ 29.45 million for modernization and expansion of network and infrastructure of Sierratel project through EBID in 2010; procurement of buses for university and tertiary institutions through EBID;
  9. US$ 15 million for Agricultural projects including procurement of tractors, harvesters, rice threshers, rice mills, maize shellers and pesticide spray equipment in 2008.

Humanitarian & other Assistance

Government of India has been providing humanitarian assistance packages to Sierra Leone.

As announced during the visit of Hon’ble Vice President to Sierra Leone in October 2019, India has extended humanitarian assistance of1000 MTs of rice to Sierra Leone as a goodwill gesture. The consignment was delivered in Freetown in November 2020.

In order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, India provided a large consignment of medicines to Sierra Leone in February 2021.

To help the Sierra Leonean government combat Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), in December 2014 Government of India donated US$ 50,000 worth of medical equipment and medicines to the local government. This donation was in addition to the Government of India’s contribution of US$ 12 million to the UN Trust Fund for Ebola and cash contribution of US$ 50,000 to WHO to help fight the Ebola virus disease in the three countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

India also extended financial support of US $ 100,000 to the Sierra Leone Residual Special Court through the Permanent Mission of India to the UN in New York and US $ 50000 contribution to relief efforts for the damages caused by floods and mudslide in August 2017. 

Earlier, in 2009, India gifted 200 military barracks to Sierra Leone. India also provided 29 packages of indelible ink for Sierra Leone's Presidential and Parliamentary elections held in 2007. India supplied 40,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice to Sierra Leone in 2008 as assistance to meet urgent needs.

Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) & Capacity Building Programmes

During the visit of Hon’ble Vice President in October 2019, an MOU was signed for Sierra Leone to participate in our Pan-African tele-Education and tele-Medicine initiative e-VidyaBharati and e-ArogyaBharati. India has also offered to set up a Centre of Excellence in ICT in Sierra Leone.
 
In terms of capacity building, at present more than 180 Sierra Leonean students are studying different courses from Indian educational institution under the e-VidyaBharati programme, in virtual mode.

Sierra Leone is also one of the beneficiaries of ITEC and ICCR scholarship programmes and is provided 75 scholarships every year in different programmes to study in various educational institutes in India, including Undergraduate and Post-graduate programmes.

In 2018, five officers from the National Digital Crime Resource and Training Centre (NDCRTC) of IT Wing of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad visited Sierra Leone and imparted training to the Cyber Crimes Bureau of the Sierra Leone Police.

Economic and Commercial

India continues to be a strong trading partner of Sierra Leone and ranks 5th in terms of imports by Sierra Leone. Total bilateral trade figures between the two countries for the last few years are as follows:

US$/million

Period

India’s exports to Sierra Leone

India’s Imports from Sierra Leone

Total Trade

Balance of Trade

2014-15

80.40

23.59

103.99

56.81

2015-16

91.17

16.56

107.73

74.61

2016-17

93.71

12.23

105.94

81.48

2017-18

93.51

24.17

117.68

69.34

2018-19

112.27

11.73

124.00

100.54

2019-20

115.37

24.49

139.86

90.88

(Source: Department of Commerce, GOI)

Bilateral trade between India and Sierra Leone was US$ 139.86 million in 2019-20 registering a growth of 12.80% compared to 2018-19; India’s exports to Sierra Leone were US$ 115.37 million and recorded y-o-y growth of 2.76%. Whereas India’s imports from Sierra Leone were US$ 24.49 million and registered a growth of 108.86% during the same period. Major export commodities included pharmaceuticals, plastics, rice (other than basmati), vehicles (two and three wheelers), industrial machinery, electrical machinery and goods, ceramic products, articles of iron and steel and aluminium, etc.

A number of PIOs/NRIs have established trading companies and small industrial units mainly in the agro-processing and consumer durable sectors in the country.

Culture

During the visit of the Hon’ble Vice President, India and Sierra Leone signed an MoU for Cultural Exchange Programme for the period 2019-2023 to forge friendly people-to-people ties.

As part of Freedom70 celebrations, a Kathak Dance troupe sponsored by Ministry of Culture visited Freetown in January 2018.

The International Day of Yoga is organised in Freetown every year since 2015.

Indian Community

Early Indian traders are understood to have set foot in Sierra Leone way back in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. According to old records, there were about 600 Indians in Sierra Leone by 1977; two thirds of them were traders, while the rest were teachers and experts.

Presently, the Indian community in Sierra Leone is about 3,000 strong, mostly engaged in trade and manufacturing. Indian Mercantile Association is the only Indian association in Sierra Leone. There is a ‘Bhartiya Mandir’ in Freetown. 

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February 2021

Bilateral Relations