Sierra Leone | Ibrahim Ahmad Kargbo begins Career as Public Policy Expert

Sierra Leone has a young population, with an estimated 41.7 percent under 15, and rural. Ten years ago, thirty-something Ibrahim Ahmad Kargbo found he really wanted to make a positive difference so he toured the country with a nonprofit organization focused on young people aged 0-18. Ibrahim worked in partnership with other organizations and the media on education, health, child protection, youth and human rights. His organization used a unique approach to animate people to take initiatives and form collective structures to foster self-development.

The ideas and skills Ibrahim learned have come in handy in his new career in public service. Recently, he earned a public policy graduate degree with an Australia Awards Scholarship. AusAID scholarships provide partner countries like Sierra Leone an opportunity to strengthen their human resource capacity through scholarships to individuals in key institutions, to undertake studies in areas relevant to the development needs of the country.

Sewa News: Sierra Leone is a young country, with nearly half of the population in their teenage years. What does that mean for you as a young public policy graduate pursuing a career with the government?

Ibrahim Ahmad Kargbo: As a country, we must count ourselves lucky having a vibrant youthful population, which nations like Australia are yearning for. Imagine such nations have to populate through immigration to save their economy perishing?  Personally, this is motivation for me, and it reinforces my passion to work with young people across various sections of our society―stimulating them to become sentient of the social realities standing in the way of their aspirations.

The more reason I feel motivated to provide government with the necessary policy advice in addressing major obstacles preventing successful implementation of development programs aimed at improving the living standards of vulnerable women, children and youth. These include diversion of valuable public resources for private use, irresponsible management of mineral extraction, particularly diamonds; and the controversial role of traditional leaders, the paramount chiefs.

Each of these obstacles has a direct implication on the survival of our youthful population, whereby program budgets are misappropriated by some unscrupulous public officers as shown in the 2011 Audit Service Report.

Accountability issues arising from management of mineral resources leading to Sierra Leone’s temporary suspension from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) program in February 2013 and the apparent abuse of power through corruption and mismanagement of chiefdom funds by traditional leaders are all major governance issues requiring critical policy input from youth.

I have, based on these obstacles, proposed a  sustainable participatory anti-corruption strategy through the process of “ANIMATION” on the one hand and a Sierra Leone Resources Watch program on the other, with a view to enhance integrity in government and raise the bar on social accountability. I would be very pleased to elaborate on these post-study reintegration issues with you in subsequent interviews.

Sewa News: What is it like studying half a world away? Tell us about some of your cross cultural moments.

Ibrahim Ahmad Kargbo: Well, it is usually quite tasking to migrate to a new world altogether, especially where there is marked cultural and societal difference. But I can guarantee future international students that it is a challenge worth experiencing. One major shock we all faced is the technological advancement of learning out here, whereby we undertake self-enrollment online, listen to lectures online and also sign up online to our classes.

I recall the death of a student in South Africa in early 2012, following a stampede to manually enroll in uni. At Fourah Bay College, enrollment usually takes more than a week.

Missing the food we used to eat is habitually another major challenge faced studying half a world away. Anyhow, the multicultural nature of melting-pot Australia where all nationalities boil makes it possible for me to often access a close version of my favorite dishes-cassava leaves, goat-soup, “krain-krain,” you name it.
A unique opportunity provided by my AusAID (Australian Agency for International Development) scholarship is that I get to meet people with a variety of perspectives. So far I have been able to interact and make friends with over 100 nationalities which is good for future decision-making responsibilities in our respective countries.

A piece of advice to all intending international students from Africa is that while you are in your foreign university, please endeavor to respect the values of your new society and obey the laws. Once you heed, you can have all the fun provided by society. But remember while having fun that the primary reason for being there is to study hard, get a good master's degree and go back to help mitigate the socio-economic problems plaguing Africa.

Sewa News:  Where do you see yourself in five years?

Ibrahim Ahmad Kargbo: In 2010, during my scholarship interviews in Accra, this was the last question asked. Now that I have been trained as a Policy Expert with focus on anti-corruption and governance, I see myself in the Sierra Leone public service and, as time and opportunities permit [rising to] greater heights. I am aspiring to become a published writer but my immediate wish is to continue working with government and  citizens to maximize integrity in government and value for money in all programs and projects designed to upgrade living standards.

Ibrahim Ahmad Kargbo is a coordinating officer for the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) in the Office of the Commissioner at the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). His work is geared towards enhancing the relationship between state and society, through coordinating and providing capacity to civil society and top government functionaries such as ministers, MPs, permanent secretaries, as well as junior staff of ministries, departments and agencies. Ibrahim takes the lead in documenting benchmarks and preparing civil society for third party monitoring of the NACS implementation. 

Before joining the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2009, Ibrahim worked with Community Animation and Development Organization as both advocacy and project officer, travelling the whole of Sierra Leone implementing projects from increased access of the girl child to primary education, children’s rights to inclusive and effective education, school sanitation and hygiene education, youth empowerment for HIV/AIDS, life skills for primary school students and community driven hardware programs. Ibrahim holds a master's degree in public policy from Murdoch University, Australia and earned a bachelor of arts with honors from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. 


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