The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Government of Sierra Leone, and the European Union (EU), has on Thursday 21st March 2024 at the Sierra Palm Resort at Lumley Beach Road in Freetown, launched the ‘Salone Access to Finance’ Project.
The ‘Salone Access to Finance’ Project is a five-year initiative under the European Development Fund (EDF) and Jobs and Growth Programme, aligned with the EU priorities and strategies, both at the country and global levels. It targets women, youths, and entrepreneurs, scaling up digital financial solutions and piloting insurance to 500,000 low-income farmers.
The project is in line with the strategic objective of the Government of Sierra Leone to prioritize private sector-led growth as a key means of job creation, poverty reduction, and economic diversification. The project will also leverage the “Boosting Agriculture and Food Security Project (BAFS)”, a flagship action of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and funded by the European Union.
Salone Access to Finance focuses on four critical components for improving the country’s investment climate and business environment in the agriculture sector. These components are Investment, Insurance, Digital, and Business Environment.

Delivering his keynote address, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Hon. Henry Musa Kpaka, underlined that the project will bolster Sierra Leone’s agriculture, while commending its potential to drive innovation and productivity in the industry. He noted that the launch of the Project marks a significant stride in realizing the government’s flagship Feed Salone Strategy, which initiative aligns directly with the goals of enhancing financial access for the farmers. He further explained that the move is a powerful one geared towards a more productive agricultural sector and enabling farming as a profitable business.

He underscored that the Salone Access to Finance and the Feed Salone are related as they both align directly with their goals of enhancing financial access for small and medium enterprises and smallholder farmers. “It enables farming to become a profitable business by fostering sustainable economic growth, job creation and drives innovation and productivity in the agricultural sector”, the Minister stated. He highlighted that under this project, small and medium enterprises in the sector can access up to USD$100,000 at affordable interest rates, much less than the current interest rates in the banks or the microfinance institutions. He also highlighted the second pillar of the project which is Insurance, adding that it represents a crucial step towards securing the future of the agricultural sector.

In his presentation, Dr. Mohammad Albatayneh, Country Lead of UNCDF emphasized the organization’s commitment to unlocking impact capital for sustainable development in Sierra Leone.
“UNCDF is proud to collaborate with the EU on the ‘Salone Access to Finance’ Project, which represents a significant step towards unlocking the economic potential of the country’s agriculture sector. By facilitating access to finance and support Micro, Small, Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in critical sectors, we aim to create lasting benefits for the country’s economy and its people,” said Albatayneh, adding that the EU-funded project will leverage the collective expertise, resources, and networks to maximize its impact and reach in Sierra Leone.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Seraphine Wakana stated that the project’s launch marks a significant milestone in the journey towards economic empowerment and financial inclusion in the country. She said that the initiative aims to transform Sierra Leone’s financial landscape by fostering inclusive growth and sustainable development through enhanced access to financial services. She said that the initiative will transform the country’s economic landscape over the next five years by providing appropriate digital financial solutions and insurance to low-income customers. She hammered that the United Nations is equipped to drive meaningful change and financial inclusion in Sierra Leone.

Manuel Müller, the EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone underscored that the project launch is a demonstration that the EU is committed to pursuing its efforts to support Sierra Leone. He said that the EU is happy that under the initiative, the government of Sierra Leone will pioneer the first insurance scheme to de-risk investment in agriculture. He explained that only 1% of total banking lending goes into agricultural investment in Sierra Leone, which is unfortunately one of the lowest rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural transformation is a priority in the policy agenda of the government to meet the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity, climate change, youth unemployment, and overall economic growth.
“ ‘Salone Access to Finance’ will specifically support an improved investment climate and business environment to leverage private sector investment in the agriculture sector”, Ambassador Muller stated.

Dr Ibrahim Stevens, Governor, the Bank of Sierra Leone, also highlighted “I am confident that the project will increase financial access in the agriculture sector as a significant step towards financial inclusion and empowerment for a group of people with the highest contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, yet, they are mostly with the poorest population.