We hear it time and again, business dealings, investment or development deals which ends up negatively impacting the people who should benefit from them. These deals negatively impact people through environmental, economical, social and many other ways. And sometimes when we hear about these deals we can’t help but wonder how could the decision makers enter into such a bad deal?
In June 2018, Sierra Leone and China signed a memorandum of understanding “MOU” that will increase China’s fleet of fishing vessels in Sierra Leone’s waters. Given that illegal fishing is a problem one might first think that this deal is good. But one can’t also help but to immediately wonder about what this deal entails and how it could possibly negatively impact the livelihood among other things of Sierra Leone’s fishermen. Another consideration is whether this deal will negatively impact our fishing ecosystem. One can only hope that a thorough analysis of this deal was done before it was signed.
As Sierra Leone develops we (government and private citizens alike that are engaged in business/trade) have to be careful that the deals we enter into are in the best interest of our people and country. In this article, while we are not commenting on this deal specifically we would like to explore how decision makers should be making business deals that are socially conscious and sustainable.
The first step would be to have a thorough understanding of the deal or MOU, what it entails, the stakeholders and how/why this MOU will affect stakeholders. Given the lack of trust in the decision making of our government due to past incidents, MOUs such as this one should be released to the public and vetted by stakeholders. Those that have issues or concerns should be allowed to voice their opinions and their opinions must be addressed.
To address issues and concerns it’s important to note that it’s difficult to make a perfect decision or a decision that is void of impacts to all stakeholders. But some impacts are more egregious and have more dire implications compared to others. Therefore decision makers should have limits and guidelines which they will make their decision by. For example, one limit would be any MOU that will negatively impact our natural ecosystem is not a deal we would enter into. Issues and concerns by stakeholders should be considered and addressed as part of the deal making process. Clauses or terms that addresses concerns “I.e. no fishing methods that pose a threat to our waters” could be a clause with “threat” clearly defined. This way decision makers will have to think of alternatives to addressing an issue or problem which was raised by stakeholders.
Consequences for every alternative should be explored. Trade offs should also be considered. All of this vetting and decision making should be done in a transparent manner. For example in the diaspora if a potentially controversial project or deal will be undertaken, the project is announced and stakeholders are given the time and opportunity to voice their opinion/concerns.
Some might say illegal fishing has long been a problem for Sierra Leone and that it is certainly better to get paid for our resources. But hopefully as this article demonstrates other considerations besides money should also be made for the good of our people.