In a recent interview with AFP, Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio expressed his hopes for a future with less dependence on foreign aid.

The president, who was elected in 2018, attributed the current challenges faced by his country, including raging inflation, supply shortages, and a sharp drop in the value of the national currency, to external factors such as the global pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

President Bio emphasized that Sierra Leone would not be facing these difficulties if it weren’t for the exogenous factors affecting the country.

Looking forward, he pledged to prioritize achieving food self-sufficiency if re-elected, with a commitment to a “serious policy shift” focused on increasing domestic production to the extent that rice imports would no longer be necessary.

“I don’t believe in aid,” President Bio stated firmly, highlighting his belief that Sierra Leone has the potential to develop its own resources and reduce reliance on external assistance.

He expressed his desire to move away from the practice of seeking aid from other nations, stating, “It is not a pleasure to go begging around nations when you say you’re a sovereign nation.”

According to the World Bank data from 2021, official development assistance accounted for 17.4 percent of Sierra Leone’s gross national income, significantly higher than the average of 3.3 percent for sub-Saharan African countries.

President Bio raised concerns about the strings attached to foreign aid, suggesting that it compromises the country’s freedom and independence.

As the presidential election approaches in Sierra Leone, President Bio, who is seeking a second five-year term, addressed the impact of the war in Ukraine on his nation.

He stressed that the war has wreaked havoc not only in Sierra Leone but also in other countries. Urging an end to the conflict, President Bio appealed to the international community, saying, “For the sake of humanity, for what is happening, let’s end the war.”

The war in Ukraine has had severe consequences for African countries, particularly in terms of higher prices for food and basic goods due to disruptions in global supply chains. While African nations have been divided on the issue at the United Nations, Sierra Leone has aligned itself with Western nations by supporting resolutions that condemn Russia’s actions.

President Bio underscored Sierra Leone’s vested interest in ending the war swiftly, given the country’s own history of conflict and its current economic challenges.

Still recovering from the devastating civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002 and the West Africa Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016, Sierra Leone relies heavily on imports, and the prices of essential food items like rice have surged in recent years, doubling or even tripling.

President Bio’s call for reduced dependence on foreign aid and his plea for an end to the war in Ukraine resonate with Sierra Leone’s desire for self-sufficiency, economic stability, and a peaceful future. As the presidential election approaches, his stance on these critical issues will undoubtedly shape the country’s path forward.