February 11, 2021 – In a bid to learn and draw lessons from the Sierra Leonean experience in successfully leveraging innovations for the delivery of the National Human Capital Development (HCD) agenda, a benchmarking mission from Burkina Faso led by Professor Nicolas Meda (Former Minister of Health and current Human Capital Development Advisor to the President of Burkina Faso), embarked on a 2-day visit to Freetown.

The first day of the benchmarking mission commenced with a courtesy call to the Office of the President at the State House, where they were received by the Chief Minister on behalf of the President. Next was a stakeholders’ consultation with several partners (DSTI, Ministry of Finance, Tony Blair Institute, HCD Secretariat etc). The consultation was centred around two things:

1. Recognising President Bio’s efforts in making the HCD initiative a priority in three sectors: Education (feed the mind), health (take care of the body) and food (feed the belly); with education being the flagship program of his administration.

2. The crucial role of Data and Digitization is to make informed decisions for national development in every HCD indicator.

This session was led by Mr. Luseni Dassama (Presidential HCD Flagship Coordinator) and Dr. Yakama Manty Jones (World Bank HCP Focal Person – Sierra Leone). This presentation included an overview of the HCD Portfolio, the HCD Structure in Sierra Leone, funding and resourcing, tracking activities and funding, economic response to COVID, Initiatives, Sector-Specific targets,  monitoring mechanism and demo of QAERP (Quick Action Economic Response Programme) Dashboard.

This was later followed by the HCD coordinator meeting and an overview of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation by Ms. Michala Mackay (Director, DSTI) and Mr. PJ. Cole (Head of Projects Designs, DSTI). Ms Mackay expressed that “it was an honour to have the opportunity of hosting the mission from Burkina Faso especially at a time like this, knowledge sharing on human capital development endeavours stands to be beneficial to both countries”

Following this, the Human Capital Development Incubator (HCDI) team gave an overview of ongoing and future HCD projects as well as a comprehensive presentation on the status of the Education Innovation Challenge(EIC) and next steps.

 This was climaxed with the demonstration of the EIC baseline analytic tool.

Photo Includes (Left to Right): Donald Bambara (Tony Blair Institute), Michala Mackay (Chief Operations Officer / Director  DSTI), PJ Cole (Head of project Design and Delivery DSTI), Professor Nicholas Meda (Presidential Adviser HCD Burkina Faso), Nomtha Sithole (Tony Blair Institute), Luseni Dassama (HCD Coordinator), Mariama Anthony Williams (Tony Blair Institute), Benjamin Davies (Operations and Research Manager DSTI)

On the second day of the visit, the mission had a one on one discussion with Dr David Moinina Sengeh, the country’s Chief Innovation Officer and Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to assess the role of the HCD strategy in understanding the successes and the challenges of the education sector. 

“We’re regularly sharing our ideas and challenges. We are one of the flagship countries in ECOWAS that was studied by McKinsey for a report to inform a regional HCD strategy last year.” – Said Minister Sengeh.

Photo include: Professor Meda, Dr Sengeh (CIO, DSTI and Minister MBSSE), Donald Bambawa (Tony Blair Institute) Jesseka Davies (Education Lead, Human Capital Development Incubator)

Professor Meda in his remarks at the meeting with Dr Sengeh underscored that “with the present-day consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in Burkina Faso, all Human Capital improvement associated sectors were critically impacted, causing delays across the HCD time desk.” 

He similarly commended Sierra Leone’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goal of providing universal primary education to all, eliminating gender inequalities and boosting the allocation of resources to the education sector.

Photo Includes; Professor Meda making his presentation.

Courtesy Call At State House

The second day continued with presentations from the Education Innovation Challenge (EIC) service providers (World Vision, EducAid Sierra Leone, National Youth Awareness Forum Sierra Leone (NYAFSL), Rising Academy Network and Save the Children) on the progress they have made with their thus far.

 Among the ideas expressed during the Service Providers’ conversation with Prof Meda, EducAid Sierra Leone emphasized  that, “Through the Education Innovation Challenge, we have increased teachers’ professionalism and ownership of school and projects.”

Photo includes: EIC Service Providers 

The mission ended with reflections and discussions on charting a feasible course for the continued success of the HCD initiative. Both teams rounded up by agreeing that both nations can learn from each other and agreed that ideas should be shared starting with the signing of an MoU between both nations.  

This proved to be an intellectually stimulating session as it sought to reconcile the Sierra Leonean and Burkinabe perspectives on confronting harsh realities with innovative problem-solving strategies.

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