FAQ

Company Background

Who are Sherbro Alliance Partners?

Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP), is a UK registered company co-founded by sons of the soil Idris Elba and Siaka Stevens. It is dedicated to facilitating world-class investment and innovation on Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone.  They have assembled an experienced legal team and group of expert consultants to help bring this vision to fruition.

Who is behind the Sherbro Island City Vision?

The Sherbro Alliance Partnership development programme is an African-led project founded by Idris Elba and Siaka Stevens to foster long-term sustainable socio-economic growth in their homeland.​

Idris Elba was named an Ambassador for Sierra Leone by President Bio for his role in supporting Sierra Leone’s development agenda, while Sherbro Island’s Paramount Chiefs appointed Mr. Elba as Chief.

Mr. Elba has also worked with and supported international organisations such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (UN IFAD), Conservation International (CI), Global Citizen, the British Film Institute (BFI), and the Prince’s Trust (PT), among others.

Siaka Stevens is a Sierra Leonean entrepreneur and grandson of the late President of Sierra Leone, Siaka Probyn Stevens. He has worked on projects across Sierra Leone including supporting businesses, investing in the country as well as charitable work. Siaka is also active in the events and entertainment industry in Sierra Leone and the U.K.

What is the arrangement between Sherbro Alliance Partners and the Government of Sierra Leone?

Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP) in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) have crafted an innovative Public-Private Partnership (PPP) structure to bring long-term economic growth to Sherbro Island. 

Sherbro Island will be developed into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to support Sierra Leone in achieving maximum growth and to empower Sierra Leoneans in realising their own potential.

The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will all be established under Sierra Leone legislation adopted by Parliament in accordance with the Constitution. The legislation will constitute Sherbro Island as a separate municipality, create a Development Authority (the SDA) to coordinate economic development activities on the Island and establish a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to attract international and domestic investment on the Island. 

Does Sherbro Alliance Partners have the capability to carry out this project?

Yes. 

This project is the product of the commitment of Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP), world class consultants, partners, experts and government officials who have recognised the potential of Sherbro Island. 

The development and operation of Sherbro Island will be vested in the Sherbro Development Authority (SDA), a development authority and municipal governing body organised as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The majority of the Authority’s Board of Directors will be respected, accomplished individuals drawn from international and African private sectors, as a group with demonstrated abilities to lead large scale investment programs, mobilse global equity and debt capital, oversee effective governance programs and intelligently deploy technology, among numerous other skills. 

Will there be any financial obligation on the people of Sierra Leone or the Government of Sierra Leone?

No. 

Although the government will participate in the project, it will not involve issuing sovereign debt or guarantees, nor will it undertake any obligation to repay funds borrowed in relation to the Sherbro project. 

The project is entirely privately funded. It is crucial to ensure that there is no financial burden on the government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), allowing them to allocate their resources towards important purposes such as healthcare and education. This will help to improve the standard of living for individuals and families, and potentially stimulate economic growth.

The Project was announced in September 2019 what has caused the delay and why have there been no further updates until now?

Following the signing of the MOU in September 2019, negotiations for the large-scale project faced significant delays due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the extensive duration of the project, which will span many years and different governments, there was a need to establish a solid foundation that could ensure the protection of both investors and citizens, while preserving the project’s integrity. 

As such, the government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP) engaged in careful negotiations to craft a legal regime that would meet these objectives. This was not an easy task, given that the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between SAP and the GoSL is a unique arrangement and possibly one of the first of its kind globally.

The Project

What are the overall objectives of the Sherbro Island City project ?

The overall objective of the project is to bring sustained long term economic growth that will not only benefit the residents of Sherbro Island and all the people of Sierra Leone but the West Africa region and the wider African diaspora.

Organised as a municipality, Sherbro Island will benefit from world-class city planning, technology and strategy, municipal finance, services, and the coordinated development of municipal infrastructure and land-use policies.

Municipal organisation, combined with the economic enabling environment created by the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Development Authority are intended to deliver a world-class model for sustainable, long-term economic growth and community development.

The Island’s economic development will be facilitated by the SEZ and the Development Authority which will create an enabling environment that supports:

  • a competitive “green” and “blue” economy
  • a trusted investment destination for local and international investors that can serve as a regional commercial hub
  • elevated employment opportunities for local residents and Sierra Leoneans
  • sustainable and compatible infrastructural investment
  • world-class environmental standards that protect and preserve Sherbro Island’s delicate ecosystem
What is an afro-dynamic eco-city?

The long-term vision of Sherbro Island is to create an afro-dynamic eco-city which is our concept for a sustainable urban development model, specifically designed for the African continent.

The concept of afro-dynamic eco-cities combines three key elements:

Afrocentricity: The development of cities that are based on African cultural values and principles, which prioritise community, collaboration, and respect for nature.

Dynamic Urbanism: The design and development of flexible, adaptable, and resilient cities that can respond to changing social, economic and environmental conditions.

Eco-City Principles: The incorporation of sustainable design principles and technologies to create cities that are environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and resilient to climate change.

The goal of afro-dynamic eco-cities is to create liveable, sustainable, and equitable urban spaces that promote economic growth, social well-being, and environmental sustainability. Eco-cities are being promoted by various organisations and initiatives across Africa, including the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

How will the project benefit the people of Sierra Leone?

This project will create a legacy for the people of Sherbro and Sierra Leone. There are numerous benefits in the short, medium and long term. The prosperity generated by the Sherbro Island Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will have a knock-on economic and reputational benefits for all of Sierra Leone and all Sierra Leoneans.

  • High environmental and social living standards on Sherbro will attract young professionals, tourists, retirees and members of the diaspora in an increasingly competitive environment
  • Local and national businesses will significantly benefit from access to new capital and markets
  •  Communities will benefit from greater investment in healthcare, education, and infrastructure to provide elevated and more equitable employment opportunities
  •  Increased investor interest and attention on Sherbro Island and Sierra Leone
  • Protection of Sherbro’s natural environment and culture
Will the residents of Sherbro be consulted?

Yes. 

This process has been underway for a number of years and Mr Elba has already been crowned a Paramount Chief of the Island. Both sponsors have visited the island on numerous occasions, including meetings with the Bonthe Mayor and Sherbro Island Paramount Chiefs and various other stakeholders.

The Negotiating Committee – who will be involved in the planning – includes representatives from Sherbro Island. The Committee have also agreed they will undertake broad based consulting. 

What is the project timeline?

The project is currently in its embryonic stages and involves a long-term partnership between Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP) and government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) to mobilise investment into Sherbro Island.

The next phase of the project would be to begin in-depth feasibility studies to plan for every aspect of the city development with the aim of breaking ground within a year. This is also a huge infrastructure project that will last for decades.

Will local experts and engineers be involved in the project?

Yes. 

We will seek input and work with local experts and engineers throughout duration of the project. We will also work with international partners who have expertise in projects of this nature.  

What will Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP) & Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL) do to make sure the environment and local ancestral lands are protected?

SAP & GoSL place a high priority on conservation including preserving Sherbro’s legacy. Rehabilitating and preservation of the island’s significant historic assets is a key part of this process.

How will the project create an environmentally friendly island?

Preserving the natural environment and sustainability is at the heart of this project.

We will carry out a comprehensive, environmental, and social impact study of the island and surrounding waters and work with leading international experts and local environmental agencies to design sustainable strategies for Sherbro.

How will the project ensure historic preservation?

Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP) places a high priority on conservation including preserving Sherbro’s legacy. Rehabilitating and preservation of the island’s significant historic assets is a key part of this process.

Special Economic Zones (SEZs)

What is a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and what are its benefits?

A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a geographically delineated region within a country that is subject to different economic regulations for the purpose of attracting increased levels of foreign and domestic direct investment.  They are common in both developed and developing economies. Investments thrive on certainty, and SEZs consistently rank highly on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index as they provide long-term consistency through clear and transparent governance.

Designed to incentivise and attract long-term public and private investment through a specially designed fiscal and trade regime. In Kenya, for example, the Special Economic Zones Act (2015) removes all barriers to trade, and provides for tax shields that have the effect of encouraging international investment and allowing local investors to have access to international markets.

How does the Sherbro Special Economic Zone (SEZ) alter the environment on Sherbro Island ?

The Sherbro Island Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will be modelled on similar economic zones employed around the world, including in African countries, to facilitate investment and development, in order to make Sherbro Island more attractive to investment.  

Legal and financial experts working together with Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP) and the government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) have carefully designed the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in order to ensure that it is competitive with other investment destinations.  The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for Sherbro Island is designed to meet the needs of the residents of Sherbro Island, the requirements of investors, and the need to preserve the island’s ecosystems. 

How will Sherbro Island attract investment through the Special Economic Zone (SEZ)?

There are two critical features that characterise a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) – first, the rules for investment in the zone, and second, the institutional arrangements for administering those rules.

Unique to this project, the government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) has opted to administer the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) through a Development Authority that will be a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) led by the private sector. While some SEZs have been successfully administered exclusively by private companies (such as export processing zones), the GoSL has opted to create a partnership with the private sector to benefit from private sector resources, expertise, and credibility. The Sherbro Development Authority will carefully curate the fiscal and regulatory regimes on the Island in order to mobilise financial and human capital.

SEZs have proven successful in West Africa and globally. Including SEZs in Nigeria (Lekki Free Zone and the Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone), in China (Shenzhen Special Economic Zone), and the multiple SEZs within Dubai.

Where have Special Economic Zones (SEZs) successfully transformed economies?

There were 204 Special Economic Zones operating across Africa in 2021, and the number of worldwide SEZs are expected to exceed 7,000 by 2025.

There are over 10 SEZs in Nigeria. Earlier this year, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, said cumulative investments in the country’s Free Economic Zones (FEZs) had totaled nearly $20 billion over their 30 years of operations. The government’s support for these projects has been cited as one of the most significant factors in their success. In 2018, in Ghana, four SEZs attracted FDI worth $90 million, and the 144 companies in the zones generated about 66% of the total exports in the country.

Sherbro Development Authority (SDA)

What is the Sherbro Development Authority (SDA)?

The administrative, fiscal, and operational authority for the economic development of Sherbro Island will be delegated to the Sherbro Development Authority (SDA), a semi-autonomous, Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The SDA will be led by the private sector, it will administer a special economic zone (SEZ) and the planning, construction and administration of the new city on the Island with the objective of attracting investment, human capital, and a diverse range of enterprises to the Island.

This (SEZ) will have the best-in-class business enabling environment with the legal, institutional, and technology features designed to attract human and financial capital, protect and improve the livelihoods of the locals and position the Island as an attractive destination for investment while protecting the Island’s unique natural biodiversity as a legacy for current and future generations.

Who will be in charge of the Sherbro Development Authority (SDA)?

The majority of the Authority’s Board of Directors will be respected, accomplished individuals drawn from international and African private sectors, as a group with demonstrated abilities to lead large scale investment programs, mobilise global equity and debt capital, oversee effective governance programs and intelligently deploy technology, among numerous other skills.

These private sector board members will be joined on the Board by members of the Government and Sherbro Island representatives. An advisory committee of stakeholders and experts will also be formed to provide consultation and guidance to the SDA’s Board. However, at the heart of this project, the Government, the people of Sherbro, and the Sponsor have committed to a Board of Directors led by private sector members chosen for their integrity, commitment, ingenuity, and successful business track records, qualities that will inspire trust both in private capital seeking to invest and business owners, executives, entrepreneurs, and managers seeking to build a new or relocate an existing business to Sherbro Island City.

This structure is underpinned by the fact that investors and business owners will need to see a Board with a clear majority of individuals focused on Sherbro Island City’s success and adherence to its agreed vision and mission. Private sector dynamism will be at the heart of Sherbro City’s success in creating a vibrant economy on the island and contributing to growth elsewhere in Sierra Leone.

How will the Sherbro Development Authority (SDA) finance itself?

The Development Authority will finance its operations through a range of avenues, including through attracting investments, user fees, international capital and loan markets, revenue sharing, applying for credit guarantees and moneys received through levies. We are confident in our ability to attract the required investment. 

Does the Sherbro Development Authority (SDA) own the Island?

No, ownership of the Island remains with the residents of Sherbro.

The Sherbro Project does not entail the sale of the Island to SAP or a change in the status of land ownership.  Ownership of all land remains in the hands of its original owners.  Only if a plot of land is designated for development by the Development Authority (not SAP) would a proposal to purchase the land ensue with the owners and then an owner would be compensated in accordance with the laws of Sierra Leone.  It is also contemplated that the owner could also retain an ownership interest in an enterprise established on the land.  

How will Sherbro Island City be governed?

Sherbro Island remains a part of Sierra Leone, in the same fashion as would any municipality, such as Freetown.  The residents on Sherbro Island will continue to be governed by the Constitution and laws of Sierra Leone and their local representatives.  

What happens if I own land on Sherbro?

Ownership of the Island remains with the residents of Sherbro Island and its original owners. 

If the Development Authority designated an area of land to be developed they would offer to purchase the land from the owners, and the owner would be compensated in accordance with Sierra Leone law.