We are proud to announce that Bimbola Carrol, founder and manager of Visit Sierra Leone, received the Eminence Africa For Excellence award in the category of Entrepreneurship – Tourism. Receiving this award is a great honour, of course, as it shows appreciation of the efforts Bimbola has made to advance his company, as well as the tourism industry of Sierra Leone. But most importantly, it also allows us to pause and reflect on what this means exactly, what has been done, and by whom? As Bimbola announced on his social media, “It feels great to be recognised by your peers, but I also have to acknowledge that I didn’t get it on my own.”

As a writer who does travel pieces for Visit Sierra Leone, I know I can be biased. I have traveled extensively, by myself, through countries whose tourism industry ranged from development to non-existent. One of the main reasons why I write for VSL is because I see how difficult it is to manage and organise trips here. The hassle, the wahala, the thousands of phone calls, trying to arrange people to move in a way novel to them, in order to receive and interact with tourists. Therefore I respect the hard work and determination. ‘E nor easy o’, as they would say here.

Tourism is one Sierra Leone’s most promising sectors, yet the structures are not yet in place to create a thriving sector. People like Bimbola with his amazing staff are at the forefront of turning this potential into reality. And I respect the way this is being done, because the focus lies on ecotourism, on explaining and experiencing Sierra Leonean culture, of recognising the rich history. But it doesn’t stop with recognition; Bimbola invests in highlighting these aspects and marketing the country. By sending writers and photographers to all parts of the country so that they can document the beautiful aspects of Sierra Leonean life. With so much negative media attention Sierra Leone receives, it is refreshing to read alternative stories. VSL as a platform doesn’t just introduce visitors to our remarkable country through providing services, it also serves as a space through which stories can be read, created and experienced.

This piece is subjective, there is no way to pretend otherwise. Thus, I use this opportunity to give thanks to VSL and his team. Thank you all for helping the tourism sector of Sierra Leone blossoms, and with that helping our beloved Sierra Leone.

By Esther Aminata Kamara