By Alfred Fornah
The Office of Diaspora Affairs (ODA) senior management team on Tuesday 22nd May 2018 paid a courtesy call on the newly appointed Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Hon. Foday Yumkella at Youyi Building Freetown.

Leading the team from ODA was it’s Director Dr Kallay Musa Conteh , who was accompanied by five other senior staff members.

In his statement, the Director of Diaspora Affairs, Dr Kallay Musa Conteh explained about the mandate of the ODA. He said since it’s establishment by the former President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma in 2008, the institution has been doing a lot in engaging the diaspora towards national development. He outlined some of the projects that have been implemented by the ODA. These projects he said include the UNDP funded project in 2011 which they attracted 25 Sierra Leone Diaspora Experts who were brought home to fill some of the critical gaps that existed in the public sector during that time. He also mentioned the capacity building project that was sponsored by the World Bank.

“Together with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), we have also rolled out a pilot phase of the Japanese funded Migration and Development in Africa (MIDA) Project in order to strengthen the health system in Koinadugu and Falaba Districts” he said. He added that a second phase of the MIDA project is now in progress in Kailahun District. ” this particular project aimed at attracting diasporans to deliver free health care services in that part of the country. He said the project has other components like Agriculture and Disaster Management and Prevention. Dr Conteh went further to talk about another diaspora project dubbed as Connecting Diaspora for Development (CD4D) which they are also implementing with the IOM.

Dr Abdulai Dumbuya, ODA’s Information Technology , Communication & Database Manager said another important function the ODA is performing is to collect data of Sierra Leone Diasporans, adding that recently they presented a copy of the data to H E President Julius Maada Bio at State House. “The database simply provide information about the expertise of diasporans, their areas of interest to invest in Sierra Leone among others.

Joseph Lansana, Private Sector Manager of ODA explained their role in ensuring that Diasporans have the enabling environment to invest in the private sector in the country. He also noted that they are working in tandem with the Bank of Sierra Leone and the ACPEU to formalize remittances.

ODA’s Office/Admin Manager highlighted some of the challenges the institution is faced with, including the allocation of funds. He pointed out lack of required funds and the late disbursement of Government allocation to the institution. He hoped that with the help of the new minister, some of those problems would be surmounted and the ODA will be able to carry out it’s operations accordingly.

In his response, the Hon. Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Hon. Foday Yumkella stated that the Diaspora Office is an institution he believed can achieve quite a lot. He quoted the section in President Bio’s State Opening of Parliament speech that talks about how the Government intends to mobilize the diaspora towards national development and further urged the ODA team to work towards such ambition.
“I consider myself as a captain that want to learn very fast from you, and we need to work together to achieve our expected goal” the Hon. Minister said.