August 2, 2016
Sierra Leone is one of the countries in the African continent Islamic Republic of Iran has an embassy or a diplomatic mission. The relationship between the two countries is getting stronger as there have been many Iranian manufactured products on display in a trade fair and exhibition event in Freetown.
The trade fair was aimed at demonstrating Iranian products, mostly household items, to the people of Sierra Leone, in addition to promoting cooperation. It was also about strengthening commercial relationship between the people of the two countries.
This year’s event was tagged ‘Arian Expo 2016’ which was held at the Miatta Conference Hall in Brookfields western Freetown. It lasted two months, commencing at the start of June and ended at the end of July.
The Arian group is a large company which has participated in some exhibitions; not just in Sierra Leone. The company comprises many private Iranian companies aiming at doing business in many Latin American countries and about twenty African countries, including Liberia, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic and Benin.
With Iran targeting West Africa with economic development projects to strengthen relationships with the countries in the region such a venture could suit Iranian government’s plans.
Although organisers of the Freetown trade fair say the Iranian government was not directly involving in organising the commercial event, but there is no doubt the existing bilateral multiple cooperation agreements covering trade and political relations between Islamic Republic of Iran and Sierra Leone have paved the way for the trade fair.
Officials of both the Sierra Leone ministry of Trade and Industry and the Iranian Embassy in Freetown have always made their present felt at the opening ceremonies of the trade fair. In fact the Sierra Leone’s Trade minister and Iranian ambassador were most of the times present to give keynote statements.
It has now been almost two decades since Arian Group Limited started trading and exhibiting their products in Sierra Leone. The west African country has been one of the group’s targets because it is viewed as a good and safe place to trade Iranian manufactured products.
One of the managers of the exhibition, Alie Mazloom, confirms that many products on sale at the exhibition were mostly manufactured by Iranian companies which, according to him, find this exhibition as an opportunity to invest in Sierra Leone.
He added that only a few products on display were manufactured in other places including Dubai. The products on sale were furniture, electrical appliances, decorative and kitchen accessories, sanitary wares and carpets. Others are glass Jr-Handicrafts, sporting goods, chandeliers, silver jewelleries, cosmetic items, drawings, and many more.
Mazloom noted that they had quality items on sale. He said the sales were not bad, as it started “big” but later reduced, forcing them to extend the sales period to the last day of July.
He indicated that Sierra Leone is a good place to do business because “the people are friendly and like our products.”
“We started our Trade Fair in Sierra Leone in 1998 and we’ll continue to come to Freetown to exhibit our products and do business with the people of Sierra Leone,” Mazloom continued.
He said the trade Fair also created temporal jobs for Sierra Leonean local youths who were among others employed like sales agents, security personnel, drivers, cleaners and labourers.
“Providing temporal employment for the youths is also part of plans to strengthening commercial trade relationship with the people of Sierra Leone,” Mazloom further concluded.
It also created indirect employment for petty traders who bought wholesales at reasonable prices and retail on the local market for profitable prices.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has also involved in other areas in Sierra Leon; such as agriculture, health and education sectors, which is a good news for the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma to achieve its promises to provide free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five years.
A team of Iranian medics have been providing healthcare service delivery to thousands of Sierra Leoneans, mostly for the categorised groups in a hospital in the east part of Freetown. Also an Iranian cost recovery hospital in the west end of the capital city has been treating different categories of Sierra Leoneans with different illnesses.
In the area of agriculture, the Iranian government, through its embassy in Freetown, provided the Sierra Leonean government with quantities of power tillers and tractors to help the west African country improve the farming sector.
Iran also has cultural centre in Freetown which has library and free computer classes; in addition to a college in the west of the city that teaches Iran’s own version of Shi’i Islam.
The Freetown central mosque which is one of the biggest in the country, in terms of size, is influenced by Iran; as it strictly practises the Iranian version of Shi’i Islam.