Mohamed Gento Kamara is CEO and Country Director of Gento Group, an indigenous Sierra Leonean company that has developed an impressive reputation in the country’s construction industry. Here, he provides Leading Edge with his experienced views about current and future developments in Sierra Leone’s infrastructure sector.
Leading Edge (LE): Gento Group has become one of the most influential indigenously owned Sierra Leonean businesses. Tell us about how it became one of the country’s leading construction companies.
Mohamed Gento Kamara (MGK): When we first started the business, we focused mostly on road construction. We went on to partner with local and foreign companies in implementing several projects. Today we operate with three subsidiaries offering services in the construction and rehabilitation of transport infrastructure, as well as in the development of residential housing projects. Some of our key partners over the years include a local company called Beton-Villa Construction, which is now one of our subsidiaries, and an Italian company called Factory Italian Motor Electric Turin (FIMET). The expertise of FIMET and their support has been very valuable for our success. Gento Group has become a key player in the construction sector, undertaking the building of multiple roads and bridges across the country. As an entrepreneur and CEO, I am happy to contribute to our country’s development — we employ about 1,000 people at Gento Group, and are currently implementing multiple projects worth USD 18 million in various parts of Sierra Leone. We also work closely with communities across the country, providing support to our people where needed.
LE: A big number of international players are entering the Sierra Leone market seeking investment opportunities. How are you coping with competition?
MGK: I believe that competition is very important as the arrival of more companies translates to rising job opportunities for our people. Increased competition also ensures higher operational standards as every player attempts to raise the bar. This, of course, has a positive impact on the development of the country, be it in construction, finance, agriculture or any other sector. We are a company that believes very strongly in ethics, discipline and dedication. I consider myself a very dedicated person and I believe this is a critical quality to have in business. As a team, we have maintained a high sense of commitment from our first day of business. Our efforts have obviously produced great results and I believe we will continue to thrive, even as the market becomes more competitive.
LE: What are your predictions for Sierra Leone’s construction and infrastructure sectors? Do you see growth opportunities for your business?
MGK: I am very optimistic about the future and I see many business opportunities. Sierra Leone still needs to make huge investments in developing new roads, bridges and rail infrastructure. This presents opportunities for players in the construction industry. We currently face many transportation problems in Sierra Leone, partly due to a weak infrastructural network. Our cities rely on produce and materials coming from all parts of the country, so it is important to have efficient transport links. Sierra Leone also benefits from vast minerals resources, which are mostly located in remote parts of the country. To export these minerals we need good roads and efficient logistics. Any country that wants to develop must have good transport infrastructure and I think there are many further opportunities to develop Sierra Leone’s.
Sierra Leone still needs to make huge investments in developing new roads, bridges and rail infrastructure.”
LE: According to the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), there is an opportunity for construction companies to participate in the development of over 3,700km of roads as part of a USD 800 million mediumterm road construction project. How would you assess the efforts of President Koroma in improving the country’s infrastructure?
MGK: I believe President Koroma and his government have done, and are still doing, a great job in improving the country’s transport network. We have seen big changes in the last few years. As I have already stated, construction of transport links is very important for any country’s development. We expect to see multiple projects implemented in Sierra Leone in the near future to improve connectivity across various business centres. Currently, there is work going on in parts of the country where gold and diamond mines are located. The government has also recently started road construction in cocoa-growing regions of the country. I believe President Koroma is doing a great job. It is of course not easy to change everything overnight. However, having a good infrastructure construction plan, as our country does now, will ensure we attain our development objectives.
LE: Sierra Leone will hold elections in March 2018. What message would you send to the future governing class about infrastructure investment and partnership with Gento Group?
MGK: I will reiterate that good infrastructure is essential for the country’s continued development. We are a resource-rich country with ambitious plans for development over the next 15 years. It is important that we invest in infrastructure to facilitate the transportation of raw materials and open business opportunities across the country. Sierra Leone needs companies willing to invest and work towards building new infrastructure and Gento Group makes a great partner for this. Our expertise and reputation make us a reliable partner for the government and other private sector players in the pursuit of achieving the country’s ambitious infrastructure development goals.
The construction of transport links is very important for any country’s development. We expect to see multiple projects implemented in Sierra Leone in the near future to improve connectivity […] It is of course not easy to change everything overnight. However, having a good infrastructure construction plan, as our country does now, will ensure we attain our development objectives.”
LE: Your company’s logo bears the flag of Sierra Leone and you personally provided support to the country during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Please tell us more about your corporate social responsibility contribution.
MGK: Well, we are driven by a deep sense of patriotism. I lived in the UK for several years and I consider myself fortunate to have spent a small part of my life there. In the UK, I learnt generosity and the importance of serving communities. When I returned to Sierra Leone, I continued helping others and even spread this mentality to the people around me. Of course, unlike in the UK, there are many more people here who need help. Whenever there is a need to assist local communities or help the country during a natural disaster, I always bring my small contribution. I believe that if we are to change the social and economic situation in our country, we have to begin by changing the lives of individuals and then, collectively, we will become a better country.
LE: Lastly, what would you tell international investors about Sierra Leone?
MGK: I would tell them Sierra Leone is an attractive investment market with many opportunities. Sierra Leone borders the Atlantic Ocean, which means we can be a strategic connection between the Western world and parts of Africa. Sierra Leone also has a rich supply of mineral resources. We are currently investing heavily in agriculture with plans of doubling our agricultural production by 2025. To extract the mineral resources, and attain our goals in agricultural production, we need investors and I believe investors from all sectors are welcome here. We have a conducive business environment that enables companies to thrive and make good returns. I would therefore urge international companies to think about investing in Sierra Leone.