The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone Madam Fatima Maada Bio has launched the Sierra Leone Indigenous Importers Welfare Association (SLIWA) at the City Hall in Freetown.

The Sierra Leone indigenous importers welfare association, an establishment set to represent local business traders that travel out of the country to buy good’s or do business has launched its first welfare association in the country under the distinguish patronage of the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

According to the membership of the association, the First Lady has been pivotal in seeking the welfare of Indigenous business traders in the country, since their concerns were brought to her attention in 2020.

According to the Chairlady of the association Mrs Marie Obi Mansaray, the association was formed in May 2020, to support and serve as a hub to channel the numerous concerns, challenges and enquiries of business people in Sierra Leone that trades internationally, and a voice to advocate for their colleagues.

She suggested that Banks in Sierra Leone should be loaning them money with low interest rate to do their business, while calling on the Sierra Leone Ambassador to China to look into their concerns and create a platform for genuine communication with their international suppliers.

Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Hu Zhangliang outlined the many benefits both countries continue to enjoy and the friendly, mutual and cordial relationship between Sierra Leone and china, while committing his government’s continued support to the people of Sierra Leone, especially the business people who are part of their GDP growth.

“This association will not only help themselves as business people, but will further strengthen the ties between the two countries, as for the past ten years, China has been Sierra Leone’s trade partners and under the two current leadership, both countries will grow more in the coming years” he noted.

His Excellency disclosed, they will be inviting the association to their annual investment symposium either in Sierra Leone or China, and will further provide easy access to Visa and a platform for manufacturer and importers to be in effective communication.

Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to China, H.E Ernest Ndomahina gave a brief of his earlier encounter with the association’s executive body through the First Lady, which left him inspired and convinced that they will work in the interest of their colleagues and pledged his unwavering support to their institution and their concerns.

He admonished them to follow due procedures when making arrangements or traveling to China by informing the embassy and get all required documents, as a desk will be set up with an officer to work on all concerns of SLIWA, which will ensure smooth flow of business during their stay.

He maintained that China is looking forward to having China-Africa cooperation, as Chinese local currency will soon be introduced in countries for business people traveling to china to access instead of the dollar, noting that China is committed to deepening the relationship with Sierra Leone.

H.E Ndomahina continued, that government cannot provide jobs for every citizen, but seeing the association progress in the trade industry beams light with and hope for women, as president Bio is an empowerment champion for the women of Sierra Leone, citing an example of government disbursing twenty one thousand dollars to return with the corps of one of their business colleagues who had died in a flight while travelling to China for business.

A representative from the ministry of Trade and Industry Mr. Konjor, disclosed their 50 million loan scheme with a low of 7% interest rate to Sierra Leonean business people, a venture that has never happened in the country, and 50 % of women that have businesses will benefit from it.

He reaffirmed the ministries commitment to ensuring women take their right place in the business world, while creating a fair process of reclaiming shops in the city run by foreigners, just like how they have regained those at Rawdon street and Sani Abacha Street.

He pledges their support to continue the relationship between Sierra Leone and countries like China, Turkey and Dubai.

The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Madam Fatima Maada Bio congratulates the leadership of the association for bringing together a large number of business people, especially women to fight for a course, as she believes when women are determined to get things done, a positive result is assured and the launching is a bold step in that direction.

Madam Fatima extended President Bio’s regard to the women of the association, reaffirming his commitment to ensure that under his term as president, women are prioritized and empowered in both formal and informal works of life.

Underscoring the importance of the empowerment of women in Sierra Leone, First Lady mentioned that if a country is to be developed, the women and children must be empowered and protected, which is why she is supporting the agenda of her husband to succeed in his passion to empower the women and children of the nation.

First Lady opined that as an organization they must distance themselves from any form of political affiliation if they are to succeed and work for the good of all, registering that many organizations with beautiful and brilliant ideas have been wrecked by political interference.

As a First Lady, she maintained she chose to become part of the association because of the sisterhood and not her position, as her current title is temporary, but the legacy she will leave knowing she was part of the success of the organization is everything and she is ready to work with the women and wants to feel safe around them and not be defined by her position or political party color, but by her actions.

Her Excellency used the platform to encourage everyone in the auditorium to go get the Covid-19 vaccine, as it is available in the country and a mandatory requirement to travel to other countries for business, hence must be treated with utmost seriousness and not be politicized for personal gain.

She disclosed that her campaign has included Cervical Cancer which has become a silence killer in the country and must be controlled or minimized, which she stated will involve vaccination for teenagers who hadn’t have sex before with a well-tested and proven vaccine in the United States. The HPV Vaccine she mentioned will kill the cells in the womb of the teenagers that have possibilities to turn in cervical cancer.

Fatima  Bio asked parents to take politics out of the Cervical Cancer campaign and help her save the girls in the country, while advising that women should work into health centers for screening and to do a simple procedure, if cells of such are found in the mouth of the womb.

She concluded by calling on all Sierra Leoneans to be a part of the ongoing census, as it will help government to know how to plan for its citizens and the country, while she officially launched the organization.