For those of us in the diaspora, specifically USA, we know that Black Friday is coming. All over America millions of people are waiting on this day to take advantage of sales and seemingly deep discounts. But this article is not about Black Friday. Rather it is regarding the fact that Christmas Season is approaching in Sierra Leone and instead of thinking of how the government can generate revenue by capitalizing on the seasons festivities and overseas guests to stimulate the economy, instead we are hearing that carnivals are going to be banned. Unlike the diaspora, there appears to be no tracking and discussion of the festive seasons (Christmas- New Year and Easter in Sierra Leone) and what that does for the economy. Whereas in the diaspora prior to these important seasons, predictions are made as to what sales will occur and how the economy will perform. After the seasons have ended there is reporting on how the economy performed and low or high sales is analyzed and discussed.
Black Friday sales in the U.S. have proved unfortunately to be deadly for some but you don’t hear the government banning these sales that increasingly are starting earlier and earlier; most on Thanksgiving day.
That is because the U.S. government has a strong understanding of how critical these periods are for the economy. The U.S. economy is very interdependent. If these business perform poorly, the stock markets suffer and we all suffer.
Why then does Sierra Leone’s government not have a similar appreciation? Much of it is the lack of data that can be used to track and consider when making decisions. Economic data are few and scare between. Police have said that the ban is to curb lawlessness, public nuisance and robbery. We applaud these efforts and can definitely appreciate the signifance of having a safe and orderly environment but there’s a larger issue at hand which needs to be looked into and addressed. And that is the issue of poverty and a weak economy which is what leads to lawlessness, robbery, etc.
Such carnivals mean food, music, some times a fee to enter, in other words money and economic stimulation. Many from the diaspora also travel home bringing money to spend and expect to have a great time. All of this equals economic stimulation. If street carnivals are to be banned what are the alternatives for enjoyment for those that partake in street carnivals? Additionally focus also be put on doing more to capitalize on the influx of overseas residents to the country?
Seize this time as an opportunity to hold a trade show/training/conference/gathering that discusses how Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora can get involved in the business community. Organize tours of the country (yes the country) that visitors can partake in to see different parts of the country in a safe manner. These tours can be for a fee and would help individuals learn more about the history of the country and serve as a reminder that many people are in need. The government should think of incentives or ways that they can assist businesses to thrive and make money during this time; but do so in a way that many people can profit.
Some of these events could involve hiring the unemployed youth, training them and enabling them to earn during this time to curb idleness and inspire them to do better.
Sierra Leone is a beautiful country and can be a very enjoyable place to live in and visit; but only if the right mechanisms are put in place to harness and profit from all that Sierra Leone has to offer.