Salone News

Sierra Leone: Russia returns with a big splash

2 December 2020 at 18:52 | 1826 views

By Santigie Momoh, Freetown

It looks like the Russian Federation is gradually replacing China as the biggest investors and philanthropists in Sierra Leone and other African countries.

But the Russians are playing it smart. They know China has a bigger economy and has the money to invest in all sectors but they (China) almost always give Africans loans they cannot repay within the stipulated time.

The Russians on the other hand will say to Africans: Don’t worry, you don’t need to take a loan from us. We shall build whatever you want, employ your people, run it for a few years to recover our money with interest and then hand it over to you. This arrangement is called Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT). African governments like BOT a lot. For those who don’t know, the recent Lungi airport extension project is a BOT project. I suspect the Chinese will switch to BOT for all their projects soon. Then of course the Russians will think of something else just to stay ahead.Change and business are synonymous.

For philanthropy, the Russians also know how to make a big impact. Take their recent garbage truck donation to the government of Sierra Leone. In a situation where the British or Americans would donate one or two trucks, or the Chinese donating ten or twenty, the Russians donated 200 trucks!
50 of those trucks have arrived in Freetown and President Bio commissioned them on Tuesday. Waste disposal has been a huge problem for succeeding governments in Sierra Leone. No more.

Russians like to do things in a big way. I remember the hundreds of scholarships they use to give Sierra Leoneans to go and study in their country in the past, before our civil war, during which they had to leave. A lot of our doctors, engineers and other professionals were trained in Russia. Those days are coming back.