Competent, realistic, with a clear vision of the future, an informal and friendly style and an engaging smile.
This is Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the new mayor of Freetown.
Graduated at the London School of Economics, she is currently manager of IDEA, an investment and infrastructure company in the tourism sector in Sierra Leone.
She is well known for her commitment to supporting the civil population with initiatives and associations during the years of the civil war and during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Member of the APC she is the third woman to hold the office of mayor of Freetown: the first, Eustace Cummings, was appointed in 1966.
Since 2016, Yvonne has been responsible for the President’s Recovery Priorities program: an ambitious development plan promoted to relaunch the country in the aftermath of the post-ebola crisis.
Alongside initiatives focused on the local development of the most isolated regions, facilitating access to clean water, energy, the health system and education, the “Clean Freetown” program has experimented an innovative method of door-to-door collection.
Sawyerr has personally directed the operation, gaining lot of direct experience on the field and now she proposes a new way for the waste management system for the city.
During the public debate between the candidates for mayor Yvonne has displaced everyone by showing concreteness, realism and an ambitious and clear vision on many strategic aspects for urban development, she has even asked the citizens of Freetown for a change of attitude on environmental issues and a greater civic sense.
The matter of slums in Freetown is the most insidious: do not openly stand up for a drastic demolition solution means therefore lend the side to accusations of connivance with the illegality and lack of political will, that’s why three out of six candidates during the debate promised the moon: the complete and definitive removal of all shanty towns in the city.
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people cannot be moved in few days, and that the physical space to build low-cost buildings for so many people is not enough.
She proposed, finally, a balanced point of view: incremental approach, recognition and improvement of some settlements, progressive removal of those with greater environmental or hydrogeological risks; all together with strategies to increase employment for youths and poorest residents.
A conscious, complex and articulated approach, which in Freetown sounds tremendously and wonderfully new; a breath of fresh air in an institution like Freetown City Council, characterized in past years by the poor visioning and the inability to cope with the new challenges put forward by the reform of local authorities.
We wrote few weeks ago about the extraordinary role of women in the slums, today in Freetown it is always a woman who makes the difference, exploring new roads of inclusion and a more sustainable future for the city.
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TaxiBrousse is a design and consultancy studio for international development, we works in the fields of engineering, architecture, urban planning and environmental protection.