SEATTLE, Washington — Sierra Leone holds a special place in the heart of humanitarian and world-renowned actor Idris Elba. Sierra Leone is the birth country of Elba’s late father and home to both of his parents. Elba is also a writer, producer, rapper, singer, songwriter, DJ and now an investor, passionate about revitalizing Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s Struggles
Sierra Leone is a small West African country, about the same geographical size as Maine but more densely populated; the population of Maine is 1.3 million while Sierra Leone has approximately 6.1 million people. Furthermore, 53% of people in Sierra Leone are living below the poverty line, at the equivalent of $1.25 a day. According to the September 2018 Food Security Monitoring System report that is roughly 3.2 million people without enough food for a healthy lifestyle.
In addition to an 11-year war that destroyed Sierra Leone’s national infrastructure, the country often encounters flooding and deforestation which makes food production difficult. Only 4% of farmers are able to produce enough food for their own families. Also, the country battled an Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016. The tragedies caused by the outbreak motivated Elba to use his celebrity status to raise awareness and policy changes for Sierra Leone.
How did Idris Elba Mobilize Officials to Attack Ebola?
Elba met with non-governmental organizations for two weeks to implore leaders from around the world to provide long-term prevention and treatment strategies to combat Ebola. His three areas of focus were:
Keeping Ebola at the forefront so that governmental agencies stayed focused on containing the virus.
Supporting and protecting healthcare workers that were on the front lines, and in some cases, being assaulted for fear they were spreading the virus.
Building up the economies and healthcare systems of Sierra Leone and other countries affected by Ebola.
As a result of such programs and policy implementations, the World Health Organization declared the end of Ebola transmission in 2016, after 4,000 people had died of the virus. Now Elba envisions revitalizing Sierra Leone again.
Making Sierra Leone Self-sustaining Begins at the Top
In 2018, Sierra Leone’s newly appointed President Julius Maada Bio created the Presidential Infrastructural Initiative (PII). The initiative aims to create and implement strategic and life-changing infrastructure projects. John Tambi, Head of the PII, stated they are in the advanced stages of implementation for construction.
Tambi also says the project is aimed at boosting the country’s exports, the government will keep at least 25% to go to the public sector and people of Sierra Leone. Attracting international investors is another goal. To achieve this West Africa will be paying $0 for developments as 100% of the costs will fall on private shareholders, one of which is Elba.
Idris Elba’s Goals to Revitalizing Sierra Leone
In June 2019, Elba discussed his investment ideas with President Bio and visited Sierra Leone. During Elba’s visit in December 2019, he expressed an interest in helping the economy grow and become sustainable to benefit the country. He is going to invest through a company he co-owns, Sherbro Alliance Partners, with Siaka Stevens and promote eco and adventure tourism.
Elba is interested in developing part of Bonthe, a coastal town on Sherbro Island, and opening a luxury eco-resort that includes hotels, restaurants and private beaches. He further believes the entertainment commerce could give Sierra Leoneans an outlet to share their stories with the rest of the world.
Sierra Leone Has Had Dark Days, But The Future is Looking Bright
Sierra Leone has been devastated by wars, environmental disasters, epidemics and pandemics. All these factors contribute to the country’s struggle with poverty and hunger. However, with a new seaport, industrial zone and tourism efforts valued at $1.4 billion, there is hope. Investors like Elba, are revitalizing Sierra Leone into being a self-sustaining country.
– Heather Babka
Photo: Wikimedia Commons