The people of Sierra Leone lack fundamental liberty. According to the “Index of Economic Freedom,” an annual guide published by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, the country ranks 142nd out of 178 measured countries. Sierra Leone’s 10 year civil war in 1990s had devastating effects on the country’s economy, and the 2014 ebola outbreak led to rampant unemployment and extreme poverty. After the World Health Organization declared the country ebola-free, the Institute for Liberty & Policy Innovation (ILAPI-GHANA), based in Tema, took a bold step to help Sierra Leone nurture a new generation of entrepreneurial youth.
ILAPI-GHANA partnered with the Sierra Leone Liberty Group (SLLG) to host the Free Market and Entrepreneurship Conference in November. This two-day immersive conference, held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, drew 72 people to participate in a program that focused on advancing economic freedom and individual responsibility, as well as fostering a grassroots approach to spreading the ideas of liberty.
“Government should open and promote a free-market economy, and create an entrepreneurial environment for youths and students to start ventures, because the government alone cannot provide jobs,” said Peter Bismark Kwofie, president of ILAPI-GHANA. “Entrepreneurs are the driving force of the economy.”
During the conference, Kwofie encouraged the participants to use entrepreneurship to identify problems around them, help other people by solving them, and make money in the process.
“Entrepreneurship goes beyond buying and selling,” Kwofie said. “It is about being industrious and being a risk taker with passion and a driving force.”
Conference presentations also included such varied topics as empowering women and using the digital currency bitcoin. In her lecture on women’s empowerment, ILAPI-GHANA Programs Manager Akosua Fosua Offei encouraged the women attendees to form organizations that would champion free trade.
“Women should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and properties for others but be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders,” Offei said.
Mr. Kamara, a conference participant who is currently unemployed, said, “I have really learned new things from these Ghanaians. Until today, I never knew that the free market creates wealth better than any other intervention.”
Another participant named Aminata said, “We really need freedom to work. We have been conditioned to think that government would solve our problems, so we often cry to them. Now I know better and will help spread free-market ideas here in Sierra Leone.”
Kwofie, who has participated in Atlas Leadership Academy’s Africa Intermediate Think Tank Training, has ambitious plans to spread economic freedom in many African countries. The Free Market and Entrepreneurship Conference in Sierra Leone is only one component of ILAPI-GHANA’s goal to expand its message of entrepreneurial freedom throughout Africa, and plans are in place to conduct similar conferences next year in Uganda, Liberia, and Mauritania.