UN Resident Coordinator (RC) Babatunde Ahonsi, at a meeting on recently with the Sierra Leone’s Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Ms Memunatu Pratt, underscored the importance of tourism in achieving Sierra Leone’s development priorities. The two met at her Off- Kingharman Road office in Freetown.
The RC said the UN is here to support national priorities, and these are reflected in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework. According to him, you cannot begin to talk about the four areas of the Cooperation Framework — sustainable agriculture, food and nutrition security and climate resilience; transformational governance; access to basic services and protection of the most vulnerable — without linkages to culture and tourism.
Sierra Leone has rich cultural endowments that need to be harnessed and promoted
Mr Ahonsi expressed concern over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry. Notwithstanding, he commended Minister Pratt for the emphasis she has placed on domestic tourism and on women and young people, observing that “Sierra Leone has rich cultural endowments that need to be harnessed and promoted.”
The Minister agreed and explained that she has spent most of her time working on tourism, “but in terms of moving the divide, we have to also zero in on arts and culture”. She mentioned the need, through civic education on culture, to popularize the UNESCO Conventions for the protection of cultural and natural heritage. The Minister informed the RC that she will be taking these Conventions to cabinet for ratification.
She also briefed the RC on priorities related to tourism and welcomed UN collaboration for training, including for hospitality workers, security sector personnel in relation to tourism safety and security, and for creative artists and entrepreneurs.
Pratt mentioned the need to support beach cleaning exercises for all beaches in the country through the ‘Food for Work’ Programme, and the possibility of constructing recording studios in all four regions of Sierra Leone that would be available to musical artists.
In the near term, she was enthusiastic about getting the RC and the UNCT actively involved in joint celebrations marking World Tourism Day on September 27. The theme this year is ‘Tourism and Inclusive growth: Achieving the SDGs and Agenda 2030 in the Post-Pandemic Era.’