After the Global Entrepreneurship Index was released in 2019, Sierra Leone ranked 131 out of 137 Countries, scoring an average of 12% on product innovation, startup skills, technology absorption, human capital development, and other entrepreneurship-related indicators.
The ecosystems unit at the Directorate Science, Technology, and Innovation was determined to reverse the downward spiral and map out a national ecosystem focusing on digital entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone. This DSTI led effort attracted several development partners who made financial and moral commitments, most notably, the United Nations Capital Development Fund and United Nations Development Fund. The latter committed almost 100% of the funds to get the initiative off the ground, and the former pledged to provide logistical support through an accelerator lab.
Unfortunately, before the initiative could formally take off, the COVID pandemic struck, and this, for obvious reasons, delayed the inception of the project. Nevertheless, the project started at the end of 2020 after receiving funds from both UN agencies and the green light from DSTI leadership to proceed.
The project commenced with discussions amongst a varied group of stakeholders to streamline the dialogue that describes experiences, constraints and opportunities in the current Sierra Leonean technology and entrepreneurial space. The Stakeholders included community leaders, local entrepreneurs and industry professionals from key sectors such as agriculture, health, and education.
The stakeholder consultations provided opportunities for learning and developing appropriate and viable approach(es) to guaranteeing that the needs of stakeholders are met by providing a conducive space to share real-life experiences and test project assumptions about the tech and entrepreneurship space in Sierra Leone.
A significant task of this project was to conduct an inclusive stakeholder consultation. The national stakeholder consultation was held from December 16 – 21, 2020, in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Port Loko and Freetown, and the diaspora consultation was held from February 15 -17 (North America, Europe/Africa, and Asia/Australia).
The talks were held to get a definitive overview of the operations currently being undertaken in the technology and entrepreneurship landscape.
This serves to furnish government and development partners with insight into existing and emerging issues within the ecosystem, as well as understanding relationships, dependencies, and critical considerations in the mapping process. The information gathered from the consultations framed the research strategy for the mapping process, particularly research targets, areas of focus, and promoting the digitalisation of sectors to leverage growth and provide inclusive platforms for human capital development.
The stakeholder consultations were instrumental in raising the issues perceived to be vital in understanding the technology and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The composition of stakeholders was wide and varied, and thus their collective voices offered an array of fresh perspectives. Their recommendations were adopted to form part of the ecosystems mapping project as the public’s viewpoints on tech and entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone.
After engagements of entrepreneurial stakeholders both home and abroad, the team embarked on a nationwide research. The purpose of the research was to investigate and produce data to support the following objectives;
- Identify gaps in the policy and regulatory frameworks of the technology ecosystem
- Provide a basis for policy action to address these gaps and support growth and sustainability of the ecosystem:
- Obtain data that informs policies and development interventions for micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Sierra Leone.
The graph shows the percentage of submission success rate from the fieldwork.
The project concluded with a soft launch led by the DSTI Ecosystem Manager to exhibit the digital tool, including a report presentation that will educate entrepreneurs and investors about the ecosystem and how to use it. The ecosystem team discussed what the project means for the future of doing business in Sierra Leone.
The participants included partners from UNCDF, SLEDP, SMEDA, and INVEST SALONE, along with Fix Solution, the company working with DSTI to develop the web application.
The keynote speaker Dr. Francis Kaikai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, in his address emphasised that “the output from the research including the business digest and the associated data analytics will certainly be of immense benefit to business development, academia [education], and other intellectual communities”.
The tool and the report are scheduled for an official launch by the end of September 2021. This launch promises many possibilities for growth, development and advancement for Sierra Leone’s tech and ecosystem Space.
.“The purpose is to curate a refined tool enabling investors and policymakers to develop a fresh perspective and guided sense of Sierra Leone’s potential for economic growth.” – Mahmoud Javombo, Ecosystems Manager, DSTI.