NEW PORTS GENERAL MANAGER SPEAKS

In line with the New Direction government aspiration to maximize revenue from national sources for enhanced economic development and societal transformation, the Sierra Leone Ports Authority has seen the appointment of a new General Manager and his deputy. They are Dr Abdulai Fofana and Yankuba Askia Bio respectively.

 Making his acceptance speech to the Chairman of the National Commission for Privatization, Napoleon Koroma, Dr Fofana said it was his honor and privilege to accept leadership of SLPA.

He said it was a significant commitment that he is prepared to support, promote and protect the interest of employees, the wider community and the country.

Dr Fofana acknowledged the contribution of his predecessor, Abu Bangura to the management of the Authority, who served the institution longest as general manager.

He underscored that he was taking over SLPA at a very challenging time when it was undergoing privatization, with the emphasis on improved port efficiency, lower cargo handling costs, and integrate port services with other components of the global distribution network.  

See Dr Fofana’s full speech below:

The structural and functional transformation of the Sierra Leone Ports Authority has seen the appointments of the new General Manager and Deputy General Manager Dr. Abdulai Fofana and Yankuba Askia Bio respectively. Both the General Manager and Deputy General Manager have on Tuesday 24th September made their acceptance speeches to the Chairman National Commission for Privatization and SLPA Board Chairman. In their acceptance speeches, they expressed their aspirations to serve as replicas of the New Direction Philosophies of President Bio and to effect change to fit into the business environment at the port. 

SLPA New General Manager’s acceptance speech

First of all, I wish to take this opportunity to profoundly thank His Excellency the President, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio for placing his trust and confidence in my abilities by appointing me as the General Manager of the Sierra Leone Ports Authority.   It is my honour and privilege to accept this position.  I know it is a significant commitment, but I am prepared to contribute to what is left of this institution to support, promote and protect the interest of employees, the wider community and our country.

I wish to acknowledge the Works of out gone General Manager, Mr. Abu Bakar Bangura. I believe Mr. Bangura provided the organization with direction and leadership over the past years. In fact, I understand that he has the accolade of being the longest serving GM of recent times.  I trust that he will remain a strong advocate as an active Past GM so that we can benefit from his/your practical and diplomatic approach to issues and to help us avoid the mistakes that were committed.  Thank you for dedicating and contributing thousands of hours of your/his time to assist SLPA in its work.

I assumed the office of General Manager in the midst of challenges  and difficult times for the Authority ; times that continue to be filled with serious challenges because the business model of the organization is changing and the business environment has changed.

The business model is changing because the SLPA is undergoing major reform from being a service port to that of a landlord port engendered by the divestiture of some of its operations to the private sector.  The business environment has changed but the port still remained the same. Most ports today are competing with one another regionally and on a global scale with the tremendous gains in productivity in ocean transport.  This has generated the drive to improve port efficiency, lower cargo handling costs, and integrate port services with other components of the global distribution network.  Because of the capital intensity of such efficiency improvements, these have also generated the drive to unbind ports from the bureaucratic control of public sectors and encourage private sector operations of a wide range of port-related activities. I have no doubts that if properly managed, the benefits of a transformed SLPA can be real and quantified as they accrue to operators, shippers consignees, businesses and the country.

At this juncture, it may be necessary to state that the ongoing  reform at our port is not in tune with the developments of ports all around the world. The WHAT of the reform that that is ongoing is not in question; the challenge lies in the HOW of the ongoing change.  This brings me to the question of HOW reform has been done.  From my limited understanding at the stage, it seems that there is little, weak, maybe no legislative backing to the current business model,  or the emerging business model is not in sync with the company Act. To put it tight, I will study this anomaly, work with the Board, NCP, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation and other stakeholders to initiate processes to ensure that we put the necessary legislative backing in place.

For us to be in tune with the emerging business model of the organization; the inertia of Business as usual or the Status Quo is not an option any longer.  There is the need to develop a stronger leadership system in the various departments of the Authority that would engender change, innovation for us to achieve key company goals. If we don’t strive to change and adopt innovation, our organizational inertia of the status quo may turn into a status woe for the Authority. Along these lines, changes within the organization and adoption of innovation must be done to ensure that the Authority is in tandem  with the emerging business environment and in tune with the New Direction philosophy of President Bio.

Most of us are aware that that port is essentially a point where goods are transferred from one mode of transport to another.  In volume terms, nearly 80% of world merchandise transits by sea.  For many developing countries, this figure surpasses 90%. Evidence suggests that the Netherlands has been able to sustain a relatively steady economic growth rate because of the Port of Rotterdam, in spite of the fierce competition from other ports in Europe.  The successes of Singapore is also associated with the Port of Singapore which has developed a transport logistic hub and has successfully been able to attract foreign investments in all sectors of the economy.  The strategic role of a port in economic development is that they do not only function as gateway to international trade but are regarded as a major driving force for local economic development and wealth creation.

However, a port can only be an active cog in the wheel of an economy if it is run efficiently.  Port efficiency has a direct impact on the ability of a country to participate in international trade. One of the key areas of efficiency that our ports require is the national single window or a one-stop shop for the clearing and forwarding of cargoes.  I am pleased to inform this body that last week I held a meeting with SLNSC as a preliminary step to realizing the dream of a national single window for the clearing and forwarding of goods.  In the coming weeks and months, I will work with SLNSC, NRA, line Ministries and other Stakeholders to actualize this dream of the seamless clearing and forwarding of cargo.

Perhaps, realizing the dream of a one-step shop or a single window for the clearing of goods will be an efficient external to the Authority.  What would allow the achievement of this external efficiency is the internal efficiency of the Authority or other stakeholders closely linked with the Authority. My definition of the internal efficiency is the effective performances of internal processes and activities within the Authority and its ability to carry out its expected roles that would lead to a smooth transfer of goods from the port to consignees.  No doubt, the driving force of the attainment of internal efficiency is the people that work for the Authority and the concession operators.

The most important assets of any organization is its people.  For us to succeed as an organization, I need the support of everyone, direct employees of the Authority and concession holders.  I will be studying the myriad of challenges of my employees (including unpaid claims to current and former staff members) and that of concession holders. I will initiate processes in consultation with the Board, NCP and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation and other stakeholders to ensure that we proffer solutions that would enhance the welfare of staff and increase the efficiency of the port.

What I will demand of my current staff and concessionaires in return is your support for us to succeed.  No one has to fear because you are red, yellow, green or brown or you are from North, East, West or South.  As long as you adequately discharge your duties as per your job descriptions you will be in good company.  In the coming weeks, I will go round the organization to talk to you individually or in groups to listen and learn in a bid to builds good working relationship and to promote team work, to ensure that the tasks that you perform is adding value to the organization and for some to provide support and/or prescribed training to ensure effective performance.  I am aware that some of you are highly trained.  From time to time I will be picking on your brains for us to generate new business ideas.

Thank you for your attention.

Dr. Abdulai Fofana

General Manager, Sierra Leone Ports Authority

on 01 October 2018