The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Dr Julius Maada Bio, has said that Democracy and the rule of law are not foreign concepts to Africa. He made this known during his speech at the African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards in Balaclava, Mauritius.

While presenting his keynote at the event, the President who received the African of the Year Award stated, “Democracy and the rule of law are not foreign concepts to Africa. These concepts are rooted in the experiences and struggles of our people. Therefore, as Africans, we must embrace these principles not because they are imposed upon us, but because they are part of who we are.”

President Bio, who is primarily regarded as the father of Democracy in Sierra Leone due to his role in restoring party politics and Democracy in the country after years of military incursion in politics, maintained that “We must not be afraid of dissent or debate, but rather recognize that these are the hallmarks of a healthy society.”

 “This is why, under my leadership, we have worked to create a culture of openness and transparency in Sierra Leone. We have repealed sedition libel laws, removed barriers to freedom of expression, and allowed a free press – essential for good governance and creating an informed citizenry. I am proud that no journalist in our country is jailed for practising journalism. We recognize that the freedom to speak one’s mind, criticize the government and hold leaders accountable is not just a right but a vital part of any democracy. He said that we have removed the shackles of repression and developed a culture of participation where all voices can be heard, and all people can contribute to nation-building,” he added.

Before he participated in the event, President Bio was received at the Clarisse House, on 37 Riverwalk Vacoas, in Port Louis, by the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth. Both leaders discussed areas of mutually beneficial partnership and exchange of ideas on the shared potentials of both countries. President Bio is committed to learning more about the country’s tourism advancement strategy. The Mauritian economy depends heavily on the tourism industry, which accounts for 8% of the country’s GDP and 10% of its total employment. Tourism accounts for about 24% of Mauritius’s GDP if the hotel industry and related businesses are included. The sector also attracted over $360 Million in 2022, with over 2 million visitors. He also met with the President of Mauritius Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun.

President Bio, on a two-day visit to the Island of Mauritius, rounded up by participating in the 11th African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards, with the theme Reimagining Opportunities in a turbulent Time. The event also served as the platform for formally presenting the instruments of honour to Africans who emerged winners in the annual vote-based polls. The event had in attendance delegates from over 13 countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Mauritius, Liberia, Angola, Kenya, Congo DRC, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Namibia, amongst others.

The African of the Year, His Excellency Julius Maada Bio, won a popular vote. He came to power in 2018 on the promise of prioritizing human capital development and providing free and quality education to the citizens of Sierra Leone. Four and half years on, he has sustained his commitment amidst economic shocks occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Recent data by UNESCO Institute for statistics put the country’s total government expenditure on education at 32% of the GDP – making it one of the highest in the world. His government’s massive investment in health, agriculture, mining and infrastructure development also reshapes the country’s trajectory.

Other guests and award recipients at the events include Hon. Lucia Iipumbu, Minister For Industrialisation and Trade, Namibia;  Lieutenant General Yakuba Drammeh, Chief of Defense Staff, The Gambia Armed Forces; Mrs Naseem Lahri, Managing Director, Lucara Diamond, Botswana; Sonny Zulu, Managing Director, Standard Chartered Bank, Zambia; Dr Sibongile Moyo, The Managing Director, Nedbank Zimbabwe; Mr Mathieu Mandeng, CEO, Standard Chartered Bank Mauritius;  Dr Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan Group Managing Director/CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Dr Gertrude Mwangala Akapelwa Vice Chancellor, Victoria Falls University of Technology, Zambia, among others.

Earlier, during the unveiling of the winners of the 11th edition of the POTY, the Chairman and founder of the African Leadership Organisation, Dr Ken Giami, stated, “Africa has traditionally been the cradle of great leadership; from Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Steve Biko, to Julius Nyerere, the Continent’s contribution to leadership philosophy remains indelible. However, a new leadership paradigm is evolving in the Continent – they are the new Changemakers.” Continuing, the Chairman added, “our nominees are Changemakers, who have chosen to push through with their vision to build and bequeath an Africa that works for all to the next generation.”

“Our nominees see progress, whereas others see retrogression; they see possibilities amid challenges. They are on a mission and are eager to lead Africa to the promised land,” he said.

The African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards is Africa’s premier vote-based endorsement, reserved annually for the leading Africans contributing to promoting the Continent’s progress and positively altering Africa’s perceived negative image. The annual event has also become a platform for honouring people-centred leadership and Africans pursuing a pan-African agenda in their chosen fields of endeavour. This year’s event will provide a platform to celebrate the Continent’s merchants of hope, ready to lead an army of change agents and reformers, to build an Africa that works for everyone.

Baobab Africa
Baobab Africa People and Economy reports the continent majorly from a positive slant. We celebrate the continent. Not for us the negatives that undermine the African real story of challenging but inspiring growth.

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