People wait to cast their vote during Sierra Leone's presidential election in Freetown. Picture: Olivia Acland/Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - As Sierre Leone faces a run-off vote following last week’s presidential elections, which saw opposition challenger Julius Maada Bio from the Sierre Leone People’s Party and Samura Kamara from the ruling All People’s Party (APC), both score less than the requisite 55 percent to secure the presidency, what are the challenges the future incumbent will face?

The United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) said that given the incidence and depth of poverty in Sierra Leone, the challenge to reduce extreme poverty was enormous and mainly centres around the need to accelerate economic growth at a rate that should exceed the population growth rate by several percentage points.

“The country needs to achieve an annual growth rate of 10 percent or more per annum because even at a steady growth rate of 6.5 percent per annum it is predicted that the country’s GDP per capita would stand at $350 this year, implying that the majority of Sierra Leoneans would be struggling to survive on less than $1 per day,” according to the WHO report.

Increasing employment rates, including those for women and young people, is also essential.

This hinges on accelerating growth and investment in areas such as agriculture, promoting rural employment and industry and strengthening the capacity for monitoring and evaluation of the country’s employment situation.

“In the long term, however, policies should focus on developing required human capacities and infrastructure for adjusting the economy towards industrialisation, given that manufacturing is the backbone of sustainable economic development,” said the WHO.

Full employment also rests on the West African country achieving universal primary education, at the very least accompanied by an improvement in the quality of education, teacher training and the full enrollment of children.

Gender equity is another issue that needs to be addressed by Freetown, “with a deep cultural discrimination by traditional customs and laws which must be overcome in order to enhance parity on the gender landscape,” said WHO.

Environmental sustainability is contingent on strengthening the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at both national and local levels to ensure effective implementation of the Environmental Protection Act (2008), as well as linking EPA with other legal instruments to make environmental protection and management effective in pursuit of sustainable national development.

Addressing the political landscape, the new president will need to open up the political space to include the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, according to Amnesty International’s 2017/2018 report on Sierre Leone.

The rights group further pointed out that prison conditions fell far below international standards, pregnant school girls were excluded from school, while arbitrary arrests and detention of political opponents and a continued crackdown on the media continued unabated.

- African News Agency (ANA)