“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
A few weeks after returning to Sierra Leone, someone casually mentioned that a new hotel was being built in Makeni. I made a mental note that I should check it out when I could fit it in. This person neglected to mention that this isn't just a hotel, Makeni was about to benefit from probably the best hotel in Sierra Leone!
Wusum Hotel, located along Teko Road has 51 rooms and 5 chalets (each with 2 rooms). The chalets are fully equipped with a kitchen, dinning area, the living rooms with 50inch plasma TV set and modern Italian furniture. Each chalet is equipped with a 19inch wireless broadband laptop.
The also has a conference centre, wine bar/bar/night club (APEX), 3 swimming pools, business centre (with good Internet speeds) and are planning to do car rentals from within the compound. It will also house Eco-Bank in Makeni. Every room is air-conditioned, comes with a double bed, fridge and safe. It's a beautiful hotel. It isn't officially open until later in the year, but some areas are open for business.
As even more people told me about it and I came to learn that this was the work of Vincent Kanu, former Managing Director of NP. Another Sierra Leonean contributing positively to the tourism industry.
I eventually paid a visit to the hotel a few weeks ago and it lived up to all the hype. The hotel is fantastic, but more than that I was comforted that maybe Sierra Leonean entrepreneurship is not dead. This hotel could comfortably sit in Freetown, that would have been the safe choice but being born and schooled (St. Francis Secondary school) in Makeni, Vincent Kanu thought he'd give back. Make no mistake, he's a businessman who prior to the Wusum Hotel project spent all his career in the oil industry (over 40 years). He also worked for Agip Spa, Italy, BP, before retiring in 2005 as Managing Director of Sierra Leone National Petroleum Company. He is a private sector man through and through. When asked what his inspiration was he replied:
"Several factors - foremost being the moral obligation to pay back. I was one of the few and lucky students who benefited from three scholarships from the district and it is only fair that 'I GIVE BACK TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESARS'
During construction and for two years 94 people were employed and currently we have a hotel staff strength of 32. The second one is Nationalism. Nobody will develop our country if we don't do it ourselves. Donor countries,will encourage us to wake up, but it is left with us to decide our own future. By such ventures we are enhancing the capacity of the tourist industry, without which real economic growth will not be achieved."
When asked why Makeni, he went on:
"Makeni is a hub with a massive tourist potential which had to be unlocked. With no modern hospitality facilities, this potential is unachievable."
Damn, I like this guy! He's on to something here. The North has enormous potential for Eco-Tourism which as yet is largely unexplored. If the Lungi-Rogberi road is constructed (oh no! he's on about the road again!), this would mean that you could go straight to Makeni and comfortably spend the night before heading off on Eco-Tourism adventures. Makeni's a hub alright. It's easily accessible from attractions like Bumbuna Falls, Wara-Wara Mountains, Loma Mountains, Lake Sonfon and Outamba Kilimi National Park. In theory, you could have an eco-tourist holiday without even coming to Freetown. If you do decide to come to Freetown from Makeni, the road is perfect all the way and should take you just over a couple of hours.
Besides tourists (who are still in short supply here), I can see this hotel being very popular with NGOs and travelling business people who cry out for some good quality accommodation in the provinces. It doesn't get much better than this. The hotel has already started taking bookings for the conference centre - and it isn't even complete yet.
Personally, I'd love to be able to just drive out of Freetown and spend a comfortable weekend in some other part of the country. This is now possible with Makeni, I also hear the night club (which started out as a bar) is rocking. "There's nothing to do here" is a complaint I often hear from some folks. Well, jump in a car and go spend a couple of nights in Makeni. Makeni town itself is not exactly rocking like the centre of Bo, but I tip it to be a transformed town in the next few years. Now all the district needs are other individuals to exhibit the same sort of vision and belief displayed by Vincent Kanu - and invest in other activities in the region.
Good luck to Mr. Kanu, as they say - Fortune favours the brave!
You can make your reservations for Wusum Hotel here