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Mr Chairman
Cabinet Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament
Chairman and Councillors of the Kailahun District Council
Your Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of the Board of Directors and Management of the Bank of Sierra Leone
Members of the Board of Directors of Segbwema Community Bank
Paramount Chiefs and Traditional Leaders
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is indeed a great pleasure to be with you today, in a very familiar environment and one that is very dear to my heart, Kailahun District, to perform the official opening of the Segbwema Community Bank. The Bank is the fourth in the series of six (6) Pilot Community Banks, the Bank of Sierra Leone has undertaken to promote in the country.

The Honourable Vice President, Mr Solomon E Berewa, ably performed the official opening of the previous three (3) Community Banks, the Marampa-Masimera Community Bank in Lunsar on 7th February, 2003, the Yoni Community Bank at Mile 91 on 14th February 2003, and the Mattru Community Bank at Mattru Jong on 28th January, 2005.

The Vice President and myself have endeavoured to personally grave these occasions inspite of our heavy workload, not only to underscore the significance of these vents, but also to demonstrate the importance the government attaches to the promotion of financial intermediation, in the rural areas for empowerment of rural communities, to own and drive their own development process and improve their quality of life. The government therefore fully supports the Bank of Sierra Leone in facilitating the establishment of community banks in rural communities, which will serve as a powerful instrument of community empowerment.

On behalf of my government and on my personal behalf, I want to commend the Board of Directors, Management and staff of the Bank of Sierra Leone, for taking the initiative to provide this facility for the people of Kailahun District, which has enormous economic resources and potential.

Mr Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the occasion today, marks another milestone in the continuing efforts of the government to provide financial services to the poor and under-banked sectors of our economy with a view to enhancing economic growth and fostering poverty reduction.

It may be worthwhile to direct your attention back to the early 1960s, to enable you appreciate the importance and uniqueness of Segbwema, both for commercial activities and community and financial services in the Kailahun District.

During the era of the Railway in Sierra Leone, Segbwema was the main market centre for the entire Eastern Province. The bulk of fuel supply for the whole of the Eastern Province, was transported by "goods train" to Segbwema, stored in large fuel tanks located in the township and subsequently distributed to various locations, within the Eastern Province. The diamond mining company at the time, the Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST), usually obtained fuel supply for its operations from Segbwema.

Similarly, during those years when trading in cocoa and coffee was buoyant in Kailahun District, Segbwema used to function as the main market centre in the District. This town attracted produce dealers and other business entrepreneurs, from various areas within and outside the Kailahun District. Most of the popular foreign trading firms operating in Sierra Leone at that time, such as, Messrs P.Z., U.A.C, S.C.O.A., C.F.A.O., G.B.O. etc. established branch offices at Segbwema, to transact business both in the Kailahun District and parts of the Kono District. As most of you are aware, before the advent of the war, Kailahun District used to account for a significant share of the country's export of cocoa and coffee, which constituted a high proportion of the country's export earnings. Most of the transactions in cocoa and coffee in the Kailahun District were carried out in Segbwema, for subsequent transportation via the railway, to Freetown for shipment overseas.

In the area of medical services, Segbwema again had the best hospital in the Eastern Province - the Nixon Memorial Hospital. This hospital was famous for providing quality medical services, as well as providing professional training for nurses. The Holy Ghost and Wesley Secondary Schools also located in Segbwema, have produced eminent scholars like Dr Sandy Bockarie, Pro Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone and Dr Sahr Gevao, Vice Principal of the Medical School, to name a few.

It is also significant to note that the first commercial banking service in the Kailahun District, which was provided by Standard Chartered Bank in the late 1950s, was located here in Segbwema. This bank was the sole provider of banking services in the Kailahun District, until the advent of other banking institutions in the District, much later. Segbwema has again made history, by being the proud beneficiary of the first Community Bank to be established, not only in the Kailahun District but in the entire Eastern Province.

The Segbwema Community in particular and residents in the entire Kailahun District in general, should therefore make optimum use of the facilities this bank will be providing, as this will enable you to access loans and other financial services, to effectively engage in the production and marketing of agricultural produce and other forms of economic activities, in your various localities. The existence of this Community Bank in your District will help the government actualise its policy of channelling payments of salaries and other emoluments to civil servants, teachers as well as government subvention for District Councils, through the banking system. I am informed that in those areas, where these banks are already in operation, payment of teachers' salaries and emoluments of civil servants have been facilitated tremendously. With the decentralization process already in motion, the Chairman and Councillors of the Kailahun District are hereby urged, to actively participate in sensitising the people about the utility and advantages of this bank and to make full use of its services, to enable the bank mobilize adequate funds, to finance business and other economic activities within this region.

Mr Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me conclude by re-emphasizing that the government accords high priority to the empowerment of rural communities. A key component of this empowerment process is the provision of financial intermediation at the doorstep of our people. This no doubt, will stimulate development, to achieve economic growth rates high enough to stimulate poverty reduction.

In this context, I wish to applaud the Bank of Sierra Leone once more, for putting in place an appropriate institutional framework for the delivery of rural financial services, while at the same time expressing the hope that the Bank will continue in its efforts, to extend these services to many other communities in the rest of the country. This will go a long way to assist the government in promoting its poverty reduction goals. Let me also take this opportunity, to express my gratitude to the Paramount Chiefs, Chiefdom Elders, women and youths of Kailahun District, for their fullest cooperation and support to my government and for embracing our development initiatives such as this one. Please nurture it and make it grow, for the benefit of present and future generations.

Mr Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I now have the honour and great pleasure to formally declare the Segbwema Community Bank open.

I thank you for your attention.