Sierra Leone tax breaks to boost export values

Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:10pm GMT

By Simon Akam

FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone hopes new low-tax industrial zones will boost local processing of its resources, raising the value of exports and creating jobs, the West African country's Minister of Trade and Industry said on Thursday.

Work has already begun on a 54-acre "Special Economic Zone" at Newton outside the capital Freetown, with the $5 million first phase scheduled for completion at the end of March 2011, according to the company running the site.

"The intention of the zone is to utilise our natural resources, to add value and to create employment," Minister David Carew said in an interview.

"It will brand the country. You will be able to go a supermarket in Europe and see fruit juice made in Sierra Leone," he said.

Sierra Leone's exports in 2008 were worth about $320 billion, according to the World Bank.

The country is rich in minerals including rutile, iron ore and diamonds, but eight years after the end of a devastating decade-long civil war it remains close to the bottom of the U.N.'s worldwide development index.

The Newton site will focus on processing agricultural products, but Carew hopes that eventually other local goods -- including diamonds -- will be processed inside the country. At least three other zones are planned by the government at locations to be confirmed.

"Everything we process here. There is no reason we should take it out (of the country) before we add value," he said.   Continued...

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