A legacy of youth empowerment.


Orman Bangura's life journey has been a remarkable one. The death of his father when he was a toddler devastated the family's finances. At the time, his widowed mother thought her son's best shot at a good life was becoming a tailor or a baker. At just 11 years old, Mr. Bangura enlisted as an apprentice in a tailoring shop.

Fast-forward to 2019, and the 33-year-old Bangura is Sierra Leone's minister of youth affairs, the youngest minister in the cabinet.

He credits his mother for ensuring his focus on education. 'She made all the sacrifices for me,' he says. After his secondary school education, Mr. Bangura received a government grant to attend Fourah Bay College, the University of Sierra Leone, where he graduated in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in accounting.

His professional career includes finance and accounting positions with different institutions in his country. These were the Standard Chartered Bank, the London Mining Company and the Total Global Steel Company. Before his ministerial appointment, he was the chief accountant at the Sierra Leone branch of eHealth Africa, an organization with headquarters in Washington, D.C., that supports health systems in poor communities.

By appointing Mr. Bangura as minister, Sierra Leone's current president, Julius Maada Bio, in part fulfils his promise to appoint young people to top positions in government. Other key appointees in Mr. Bio's administration include Francis Ben Kaifala, 34, head of the Anti-Corruption Commission; David Moinina Sengeh, 32, a technological whiz kid from MIT and Harvard, the country's chief innovation officer; and Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, 32, Presidential Spokesperson and Press Secretary.

Mr. Bio himself was a military head of state in March 1996 at just 31 years of age before handing power over to a civilian government that same year.

Mr. Bangura's popularity in Sierra Leone comes in part from his youth and his unconventional personal style, but also from the policies he is developing.

He sometimes goes to cabinet meetings in khaki trousers, sneakers and rolled up long-sleeved shirts. As well, he regularly visits popular cafes known locally as 'ataya bases' to engage young people in lively, sometimes heated discussions about political, economic and social issues. The minister also finds time to go to simple restaurants in the impoverished neighborhoods of the capital, Freetown, where he mixes freely with the people. On weekends he is usually seen running or playing...

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