More Questions Than Answers for the Beginner's Mind
"While it is possible to find a place to rent in Sierra Leone, what makes sense price-wise doesn't come with the amenities," writes Vickie Remoe in a recent checklist she published for Millennials and Gen Z planning to live and work in Sierra Leone.
Rental properties that include amenities are priced for expatriates, Vickie cautioned. Additionally, renting in Sierra Leone comes with the financial burden of paying rent a year or two in advance.
"You may be able to afford it the first time around, but depending on the kind of salary or income, continuing to do so after a year might stretch you," she said.
Reading Vickie's tips left me with more questions than answers:
1. What does she consider as amenities? Do they include, say, running water, a rain garden, a well pump in the backyard, and a solar-powered electric generator?
2. What does Vickie mean by rentals are priced for ex-pats?
3. What are the comparative rent prices across Sierra Leone? Is she talking about Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, or comparing rents in big cities such as Bo, Kenema, Moyama, Port Loko, Makeni, etc? Does Vickie have a 'national average rent price analysis' for Sierra Leone?
4. What did Vickie pay as rent for a year or two if she did have to come up with a huge deposit at the beginning of a tenancy? If she had access to rent-free accommodation on relocation, can she provide examples of what other people paid?
Vickie also provides insights and perspectives on acclimating to what by all indication she sees as the culture of post-war Sierra Leone:
"Supportive family members are those who understand the system and can help you maneuver by taking you by the hand to see who needs to be seen to get what needs to be got," she states.
In other words, I thought, Sierra Leone is corrupt.
5. Do you ignore the graft and pay bribes?
"Look for inspiration from the Indians, Lebanese, and Fulas (they have mastered small-scale manufacturing and imports)," Vickie continued. "They know what is in demand."
6. Why do immigrants from neighboring Guinea, the Indian subcontinent, and western Asia do better at business? Who has access to capital?
7. How many legacy businesses (established for 20 years or more) are there and why have their business models succeeded?
"PhD-holders on any subject from any institution are in high demand in SL," Vickie writes.
What she doesn't tell us is how Ph.D. graduates in Sierra Leone are using their skills and expertise. Sierra Leone remains among the world's poorest countries, ranking consistently at the bottom of 187 countries in the Human Development Index in 2011.
8. What do PhDs produce in Sierra Leone?
On healthcare, Vickie writes: "There is one facility in SL that elites trust, and when I say elites, I mean those who can afford to spend several hundred dollars or thousands for care."
9. What happens to the poor?
"SL (the capital city specifically) is toxic," Vickie observes. "Because most of its inhabitants are in a state of survival, decisions being made are short-term."10. How do you thrive long-term?
Writing for Reuters in 2004, Katrina Manson interviewed Kofie Macauley, founding CEO of CamServ Salone, Keith Aki-Sawyerr, one of five Sierra Leoneans at the time planning a $500 million luxury golf resort, and she gave honorable mention to the hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans abroad who sent an estimated $25 million through official channels alone in 2004.
“Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora are eager and willing to return and help to rebuild their country,” Aki-Sawyerr told Manson. “Most of us grew up in post-independence Sierra Leone, or just before independence. We saw the country’s potential and cannot believe how it has failed to develop.”