Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has met with UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, on his way out after signing a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the government to improve trade relations between the two countries.

I met with Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly to discuss ongoing partnerships to promote our shared values and common interests,” President Bio said on a Twitter post.

Appointed Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs on 6 September 2022, the former Conservative MP was visiting the country, the birthplace of his mother, when on International Women’s Day in Bo he announced a new strategy to help women and girls.

Trade drives growth. It drives prosperity and development. Women’s empowerment is the best tool when it comes to lifting millions of people out of poverty in the world. The MoU will enhance the trade and investment relations between the UK government and Sierra Leone. It will help transform the very long relationship between the two countries.

“It will unlock exciting new international business opportunities in Sierra Leone and 64 other countries worldwide. It will not only cover duty-free export for businesses from Sierra Leone into the UK, but it will also ensure much easier ways of selling Sierra Leonean goods to the UK, with greater opportunities for businesses in textiles and palm oil businesses,” he informed.

He told the President that he was grateful for the warm welcome he received during his visit to the country and expressed hope that the agreement would help transform and strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The British government wants to see Sierra Leone become a middle-income country, with more investments coming into the country from UK firms and entrepreneurs growing their own businesses. The two countries have a long history, but by also doing business and trading together, they can develop a genuine relationship. The UK will be very supportive of that,” he said.

In his remarks, President Julius Maada Bio assured the UK Foreign Secretary of his government’s commitment to fully implementing the MoU in the interests of his government and the people.

You can rest assured that my government will do whatever we can to ensure we achieve those aspirations. That is the essence of a government: to make sure the business climate, the incentives, and everything that we have to make sure that we have an ecosystem that is conformable as far as businesses are concerned.

“My government wants to make sure we attract the best businesses. With the relationship between the two countries, it is easier to do business with the UK. So, that is why we are excited about the MoU and we are hopeful that your visits to Sierra Leone will help keep the relationship and expand beyond what it is at the moment,” he noted.

He acknowledged the difficult times around the world but expressed hope that as leaders they could comfort, protect, and secure their people’s interests by taking into consideration the global hike in prices.

As a government and people of Sierra Leone, we are excited about your visit, the signing of the Sierra Leone-United Kingdom Memorandum of Understanding on Trade and Investment, and the launch of a bilateral trade and investment forum,” he concluded.

Cleverly also visited UK-funded projects site to expect progress.

The UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to Sierra Leone has seen the opening of a charity in Bo where his mother worked as a teacher before emigrating to the UK in 1966.

The Conservative MP was once quoted to have said that he is British MP with Sierra Leonean heritage.