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Visionaries - April 24, 2022

Meet Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Sierre Leone’s Revolutionary Mayor

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr is the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, a position she assumed in 2018 on a mandate to transform Freetown and better the lives of its inhabitants.

Yvonne, a finance professional with over 25 years of experience, walks her talk and her work is a testament to this.

Her transformation strategy focuses on human development, healthy city features, and urban mobility, with innovation as an underlying concept. 

She’s a Chartered Accountant with a master’s degree in world economic politics from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Fourah Bay College. She was listed on the BBC’s 100 Women 2020.

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr’s involvement with the public sector began with her work during the 2014-2015 Ebola crisis, and her subsequent role as delivery Team Lead for the second phase of a multi-stakeholder program to advance Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola socioeconomic recovery. 


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The early days

Yvonne Denise Aki-Sawyerr was born on January 7, 1968, in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s British Dominion, which is present-day Sierra Leone. 

She is a member of the Creole ethnic group of Sierra Leone. She was the head girl and Loreto House Captain at St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Freetown.

In 1988, Aki-Sawyerr received her bachelor’s degree in Economics with honours from Fourah Bay College.

She was involved with AIESEC (the International Association of Students in Economics and Management) while in the university. And in 1988, she became the first African to serve on AIESEC’s International Exchange Committee in Brussels.

She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science with a master’s degree in International Relations and World Economy Politics.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales awarded her certification in 1993.

Aki-Sawyerr Career

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is a Chartered Accountant with over 25 years of private sector expertise delivering strategic planning, project management, risk management, corporate governance, and regulatory consulting services to high-profile clients in the UK financial services sector. 

In 1990, she started working at Arthur Andersen, a professional services firm. 

In 2009, she was appointed Investment Director of IDEA (Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award), where she was responsible for raising international funding for projects and managing local stakeholder groups.

In 1999, Aki-Sawyerr co-founded the Sierra Leone War Trust (SLWT), a charity dedicated to improving the humanitarian, social, and welfare situations of children and youths in Sierra Leone.

She led a campaign in the UK during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014 to raise international awareness about the disease. 

Aki-Sawyerr took a break from IDEA and became the Director of Planning at Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre (NERC). She moved to Sierra Leone and began recruiting volunteers for the Ebola Treatment Centers.

From January 2016 until October 2017, she served as the delivery Team Lead for the President’s Recovery Priorities (PRP). She was a key member of the programme before vying for the top position at Freetown City Council. 

After the Ebola epidemic, PRP was the second phase of a multi-stakeholder program to generate long-term socioeconomic reform in Sierra Leone. 

Aki-Sawyerr was instrumental in developing and implementing “Operation Clean Freetown,” a PRP initiative aimed at establishing a sustainable domestic waste collection system in the city of Freetown.

Since entering office on May 11, 2018, Aki-Sawyerr has been the Mayor of Freetown, having received 309,000 votes, or 59.92 percent of the total votes cast in the mayoral election.

Awards and honours 

In December 2015, then-President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma awarded Aki-Sawyerr an Ebola Gold Medal for her work during the Ebola epidemic in the country.

Queen Elizabeth II appointed her an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in January 2016.

On November 23, 2020, Aki-Sawyerr was named to the BBC’s 100 Women (BBC) list.

She was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Next” honorees in February 2021.


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