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Life on the Edge: Back in Business?
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Life on the Edge: Back in Business?
Sierra Leone was torn apart by years of civil war. Now that the country is beginning to rebound, two men see a vast potential for sustainable and ecological tourism. But will they be able to ensure that the impending development boom will benefit the people of Sierra Leone and not just foreign investors?
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Segment 1

TITLE
Back in Business?
VOICEOVER
Bimbola Carrol is Sierra Leonean but lives in England. He left his home during the war. He’s now determined to change the perceptions of his homeland. He set up a website focusing on travel, tourism and investment opportunities to do just that. Last year alone it had 40 million hits. Bimbola is traveling back to Sierra Leone with Derek Moore, founder of the international travel company Explore. Their agenda? To investigate Sierra Leone’s potential for tourism, and the barriers stopping the industry getting back on its feet.
BIMBOLA CARROL [Creator, Visit Sierra Leone website]
The website was set up to show people another side of Sierra Leone, a more positive side which is not often seen in the media. It also highlights the tourism potential in Sierra Leone. But the initial mission is actually to change people’s perceptions to stimulate investment to Sierra Leone as a whole. It’s not just about diamonds. It depends what you’re looking for.
DEREK MOORE [Explore Worldwide Ltd]
I’m going to Sierra Leone because I don’t really know what I’m going to find there. I’ve read that it’s got wonderful beaches, it’s got wildlife reserves, it’s got mountains, and there's trekking there. But I don’t know anything about it, and I feel that it’s a bit of an open book for a tour operator. With some strategic planning, and looking at what can be developed, I think it could be the start of a great adventure.
VOICEOVER
Derek and Bimbola’s first stop: the beaches on the Freetown peninsula.
DEREK MOORE
Wow! This is phenomenal! This is so far away from the popular image of Sierra Leone, and that’s the good news. For me, the potential bad news is who owns the waterfront land, because depending on who owns that land we could end up here with a beautifully managed tourist area, or in ten years time they could end up with a series of beachfront hotels that would completely ruin it. There is a fantastic chance here to get it right. I mean, the good thing about Sierra Leone emerging into the tourist world a little bit later than many other parts of Africa could be that they can learn from what the others did wrong, and I’d like to feel that if the government controls things properly this beautiful beach could be just as good as this, but earning a living and an economic income for the country in years to come.
DR. KADI SESAY [Minister of Trade and Industry]
I think there is a need for us to create an environment that will attract investment in areas that will provide a lot of jobs for young people. And this is going to create the required stability for this country to move forward. There is a need for us to give the assurance to the private sector, to address the concerns of the private sector, and this is why as a government we're willing to provide the necessary support to any investors that may want to come to this country.
VOICEOVER
Derek and Bimbola meet Cecil Williams from the Sierra Leone National Tourist Board.
BIMBOLA CARROL
This is Derek Moore.
DEREK MOORE
I’m Derek, good to meet you, Cecil.
CECIL WILLIAMS [General Manager, Sierra Leone National Tourist Board]
I’ve been looking forward to seeing you.
DEREK MOORE
Is this being driven, are you actively looking for entrepreneurs and investors and going out and trying to find them, or are they just falling into your lap?
CECIL WILLIAMS
These are people who are actually falling into our lap.
DEREK MOORE
At the moment.
CECIL WILLIAMS
We have not been able to go out and source the type of investors who will fulfill some of our aspirations. They are people who have come here, who have seen the potential that we have available. So it is going to be very difficult to control an investor coming here, doing some work, and stopping them from taking most of their capital out.
DEREK MOORE
Okay, another point though, if the eco lodges are going to be in places such as Kilimi, which I assume is --
VOICEOVER
Cecil Williams is only too aware that Sierra Leone’s legislation on tourism needs urgent updating.
CECIL WILLIAMS
Our last policy was done some fifteen years ago and quite a lot of things have happened, there have been a lot of changes. We’d like to see how we could get assistance to review the legislation, because there is a legislation that governs the tourism industry, referred to as the Tourism Development Act of 1990. And you will appreciate that from that time to now quite a lot of changes have taken place.
DEREK MOORE
Right, let’s sort out where we set off from this morning and where we are going.
BIMBOLA CARROL
We set out from the south, not far from the Liberian border.
DEREK MOORE
So it’s a real border to border trip -- the Liberian border in the south straight through the middle of Sierra Leone.
VOICEOVER
After the years of civil war, Sierra Leone's infrastructure is in tatters. Many rivers have no bridges. The roads are appalling. It takes several hours to travel south to their second destination, Tiwai Island. After travelling for nine hours, Derek and Bimbola get close to Tiwai. They finally arrive at the boat that will take them to the island where they will camp for the night.
DEREK MOORE
Do we see the boat? Yes, we do see a boat. Is that a crocodile? It’s a log or a crocodile; I'm not sure which.
VOICEOVER
Tiwai is a designated nature reserve, famous for its rare birds and monkeys, and jungle walks.
BIMBOLA CARROL
I haven’t been here before. I do carry the information on the site. But it’s quite an experience, walking through the jungle; it’s unlike anything I’ve done before. I understand that there is quite a lot of wildlife out here to be seen. We understand in the dry season we can spot some pygmy hippos as well. But now is not the ideal time.
KENNETH [Guide]
Well, not really. They may be difficult to see now.
BIMBOLA CARROL
So we are hoping to spot some Diana monkeys and --
KENNETH
Colobus monkeys. Red Colobus.
VOICEOVER
The Tacugama Chimpanzee sanctuary is just 40 minutes outside the capital Freetown. It’s currently the most popular tourist destination in the country. Bala Amarasekaran set it up ten years ago. It’s home to about a hundred chimps. Bala is trying hard to tackle poaching.
BALA AMARASEKARAN [Founder, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary]
There are people who are actually going for chimps. There are poachers going looking for chimps. Sometimes it can be only for bush meat, but there may be some people trying to get a tiny chimp so they can come into one of the major towns and sell it as a pet.
VOICEOVER
The average income in Sierra Leone is 150 dollars a year. One chimp can earn a poacher up to 300 dollars.
BALA AMARASEKARAN
Education is the key. It’s very easy to give up, so I think we have to stay focused. We spend a lot of time educating, not just tourists but Sierra Leoneans themselves. We get over 50 to 60 kids visiting here every month.
VOICEOVER
This sanctuary demonstrates that well-managed sites can educate and generate interest and income. The government estimates that a booming tourist industry could earn the country up to 150 million dollars per year. Derek and Bimbola’s final destination is Sierra Leone’s only national park, Outamba-Kilimi, in the north of the country. Before the war, the park was well maintained. Today there’s little left -- a couple of canoes and three accommodation huts.
DEREK MOORE
So if you could just show me the facilities here -- what’s inside this?
DAYO METZGER [Senior Ranger, Outamba-Kilimi National Park]
This is the modest facility I can offer. I am going to show you now. I don’t know whether it will suit your convenience.
DEREK MOORE
Okay, so, double bed, mosquito netting on the window.
DAYO METZGER
The mosquito netting on the window is made with local materials.
DEREK MOORE
Oh, that's good. So it’s simple, but it’s clean, it’s -- bed comfortable?
BIMBOLA CARROL
The bed seems fine.
VOICEOVER
The Park’s Senior Ranger knows there has to be improvements for the facilities he offers.
DAYO METZGER
The war tends to vandalize all our equipment. Radio sets and all other equipment that was vital for our operation here was all taken away. So tourism promotion in this part of the country is below the standard.
BIMBOLA CARROL
I can see whey people would be attracted to the place, because it is quite a nice and peaceful place. But if we were looking to target a market, it would need some work done.
DEREK MOORE
To visit this place is to see a place that’s about to boom, it’s about to burst forth and do what it wants to do. The one thing I’ve no doubt about is that tourism will return in a big way. And I think Explore will be here.
BIMBOLA CARROL
I will be back, I can tell you that for a fact, that I will be back and hopefully contributing to the development of Sierra Leone, one way or another.
TITLE
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