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Sierra Leone

SONATEL Mobile Telecom Services

$97.2 million
Environmental and Social Review Summary

This Environmental and Social Review Summary (ESRS) is prepared by MIGA staff and disclosed prior to the date on which MIGA’s Board of Directors considers the proposed issuance of a Contract of Guarantee. Its purpose is to enhance the transparency of MIGA’s activities. This document should not be construed as presuming the outcome of the decision by MIGA’s Board of Directors. Board dates are estimates only.

Any documentation that is attached to this ESRS has been prepared by the project sponsor, and authorization has been given for public release. MIGA has reviewed the attached documentation as provided by the applicant, and considers it of adequate quality to be released to the public, but does not endorse the content.

Telecom operator Airtel originally launched mobile operations in 2000 under the ownership of Celtel, a telecom company operating in several African countries. In 2005, Celtel sold its ownership in Airtel to the Zain Group of Kuwait. In 2010, India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd acquired Zain’s telecom assets in Africa, notably in Mali, Burkina Faso, Republic of the Congo, Chad, and Sierra Leone. In July 2016, SONATEL and Orange, via its Middle East & Africa subsidiary (OMEA), acquired the shares of Airtel Sierra Leone Ltd (Airtel) and renamed the company Orange Sierra Leone with the operating licenses transferred to the new entity. The company plans to scale-up telecom infrastructure and services throughout Sierra Leone, including i) modernizing existing assets, ii) expanding network coverage by deploying around 100 new tower sites by 2024 (300 sites currently operational and 30 of these sites are co-locations) notably in underserved and rural areas, iii) improving network quality and reliability, and iv) offering new services including mobile banking. Currently, Orange SL Ltd. operates 2 offices, 6 shops and 300 active network sites in Sierra Leone.

The Project sponsors, Orange S.A. and SONATEL, are both experienced and reputable telecom companies, with existing operations in more than 20 countries in Africa for Orange, and in Mali, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau, and Senegal, for SONATEL. SONATEL was founded in 1985 as a public telecom operator and is now Senegal’s largest company in revenue terms offering a wide range of fixed, mobile, internet, television and data solutions. Orange S.A., is a leading publicly listed French telecom 2 company with over 260 million customers globally whose largest shareholder is the French Government. 

Environmental and Social Categorization

The Project is a Category B under MIGA’s Policy on Environmental and Social Sustainability (2013) because the potential environmental and social (E&S) impacts are limited, generally site-specific, largely reversible, and can be readily addressed through mitigation measures. Key Environmental and Social (E&S) issues associated with this proposed investment are: i) enhancing the training, monitoring and reporting component of the corporate Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) to strengthen oversight on company contractors; ii) labor and working conditions of the employees, contractors and franchisers; iii) occupational health and safety (OHS) of contractors; iv) management and monitoring of waste and hazardous materials; and v) assessing and mitigating social risks of the company’s security arrangements vis a vis affected communities and company’s employees as the project operates in a fragile and conflict affected area.

While all Performance Standards (PSs) are applicable to this investment, current information indicates that the proposed investment project will have impacts which must be managed in a manner consistent with the following PSs:

  • PS1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts
  • PS2: Labor and Working Conditions
  • PS3: Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention
  • PS4: Community Health, Safety and Security

PS5: Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement is not relevant even through the Project will lead to economic displacement as the land transactions are being carried out voluntarily, i.e., through willing lessee-willing lessor agreements and compensation is being carried out in line with PS5 requirements. Orange has a corporate commitment to avoid sites where involuntary resettlement would be required and implements only long-term lease arrangements according to market conditions for site acquisition. Through customary law, ownership of land in the country is vested in the chiefdoms and communities and can never be owned freehold. For this Project, for existing and future sites there have been negotiated compensation settlements agreed upon by the Client, the project affected persons (PAPs) and if sites are in the provinces with the Chiefs. In Freetown, full payment is provided to the landowner.

PS6: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources, PS7: Indigenous Peoples and PS8: Cultural Heritage are not considered applicable. 3

As described under PS1 below, Orange SL Ltd. will develop an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) and guidelines will include procedures for screening and assessing proposed new tower sites, including potential impacts on biodiversity and cultural heritage. PS7 is not applicable as there are no potential for impacts on Indigenous Peoples in this project. Orange routinely disqualifies sites that might impact sensitive areas of biodiversity or cultural heritage and will implement a chance find procedure as per the requirements of PS8.

In addition, the following World Bank Group Environmental, Health, and Safety (WBG EHS) Guidelines are applicable to the Project:

  •  WBG General EHS Guidelines; and
  •  WBG EHS Guidelines for Telecommunications

MIGA environmental and social due diligence (ESDD) of this project consisted of reviewing the documents:

During ESDD, MIGA conducted site visits in February 2018 to selected sites in Kombrabrai in Lungi province (new installation), and Congo Cross (under construction) and Murray Town (rehabilitation) in Freetown. During the site visit, MIGA held meetings at the headquarters of Orange SL Ltd., reviewed the E&S management at the corporate level and its implementation in Sierra Leone and held meetings with a range of local community members and key local stakeholders.

Key environmental and social (E&S) issues associated with the Project business activities are summarized in the paragraphs that follow.

PS1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts 

Identification of Risks and Impacts

Key risks and impacts identified in the ESIA for the construction phase of the Project included health and safety (H&S) risks intrinsic to construction activities such as physical hazards related to the installation of communication towers and electrical components including exposure to live electrical current. Community land will be required for the establishment of new operational areas, resulting in a permanent loss of access to these areas. Pollution of water resources may arise at construction sites due to accidental spillage or leakage of polluting materials (fuel, paints, chemicals), with potential impacts on ecology.

During operations, key potential environmental and social risks include: impacts on water quality from spillages, waste management, generator noise, site security and access control.

The ESIA contains a detailed Environmental and Social Management Plan that includes various management plans. The following subject specific management plans and procedures will be prepared:

  • Environmental Health and Safety;
  • Waste Management;
  • Emergency Response;
  • Community Development Action Plan;
  • Public Consultation and Disclosure Plan;
  • Closure;
  • Management, Mitigation, Monitoring and Implementation Measures. 

Environmental and Social Assessment and Management System

An Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) will be prepared for construction and operation phases to manage risks and impacts to the extent possible ensuring safe working conditions for the workers and communities. Orange SL Ltd. has assessed risks and impacts relating to issues such as rights-of-way alignment and the safety of both its own employees and contractor employees. All tower sites planned by the company are all designed to support co-location of equipment by multiple operators. The company will commission independent consultants to perform environmental and social impact assessments in case of new sensitive site. Permits obtained are available for viewing at the company’s offices, according to the information provided by the Sierra Leonean EPA. At all sites, the company always avoids physical or economic displacement of local community members. 

Organizational Capacity

According to Orange SL Ltd. organizational structure there are separate functions for Quality Control, Quality Assurance, and Safety and Occupational Health. All report to the CEO. The Safety and Occupational Health team is under the responsibility of the Human Resources Director with a logistics person from the Purchasing Department given the scope of their job. The unit is supported by Orange SA and SONATEL through the corporate group policies. A Health and Safety Committee has been put in place, this is a mandatory requirement per corporate directive from the headquarters in France. Therefore, two (2) people from HR have been trained on the requirements to carry out the tasks and on monitoring health and safety. As part of the ESMS development and implementation, the Project is committed to increasing resources to ensure adequate implementation of the ESMS. Orange SL Ltd. also agreed to revise the training needs and build organizational capacity on ESMS policy and procedures, MIGA’s PSs and WBG EHS guidelines. 

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Fire extinguishers are strategically positioned at the company’s offices/shop/network sites. Data and server rooms are fitted with smoke detectors, fire alarms and sprinkler systems. The Data Centre is installed with a fire fighting (hydrant) system. Fire drills are conducted bi-annually for all staff with the National Fire Force. Jonay Associates are contracted to manage the Company’s fire security system. Orange SL agreed to review the procedures to include process for identifying emergency situations, such as potential threats to the surrounding communities, and include risk mitigation procedures in the Emergency Response Plan (ERP).

Monitoring and Review

Monitoring plans for resource use, noise and waste emissions will be included in the operations ESMS. This will include monitoring procedures for key parameters and indicators to evaluate potential adverse social and environmental impacts. The ESMS will also identify responsible parties, timing and reporting requirements. As part of this Project, MIGA will also require annual monitoring reports throughout the guarantee period, specifying E&S risks and impacts, management responsibilities, training, and monitoring. 

Stakeholder engagement

Orange SL Ltd. agreed to develop a stakeholder engagement plan, given its importance to meet the requirements of PS1 on disclosure and stakeholder engagement, particularly on new sites chosen by Orange SL Ltd. Orange shall establish a grievance mechanism system supported by procedures to address concerns raised by local community members. 

PS 2: Labor and Working Conditions

As of March 2018, the company employs 180, of which 53 are female and 127 are male, with the number expected to grow to 193. 20% of managers and 36% of senior managers are female. 

Human Resources Policies and Procedures

A Human Resources (HR) Handbook, January 2018, contains the HR policies and procedures which reflect terms and conditions of service per Sierra Leonean regulations. Orange SL Ltd. agreed to review HR policies and procedures to comply with PS2 requirements.

Working Conditions, Management of Worker Relationship and Terms of Employment

The terms and conditions of service constitute a contract of employment between Orange SL Ltd. and the employees. Each employee is expected to sign acceptance of these conditions when starting work. Each employee is provided with a copy of the conditions. All employees are on a full-time basis, with contracts that specify the rights and responsibilities, compensation and benefits. The conditions include a 37.5-hour work week, agreed salary scales as a function of technical competence and level of work, the provision of a safe and productive work environment, and limits on overtime work. All hired employees undergo a probation period of six (6) months. The Project confirmed that contract conditions are aligned with the national Sierra Leonean labor law. Amendments to the terms and conditions will be made from time to time. All employees shall be duly notified of any changes to the terms and conditions of employment. The company has given a firm undertaking to retain all local staff based on performance and adherence to its code of ethics. 

Grievance Mechanism

Detailed disciplinary and grievance guidelines are available in the HR Handbook. If an employee is alleged to have carried out an act of misconduct, the departmental Head shall follow specific procedures before any disciplinary action is taken against the employee. A 2017, Disciplinary and Grievance procedure is available. The objective of the policy is to provide a guideline on the procedure of handling disciplinary issues at Orange SL Limited; to provide employees an opportunity to be heard in cases of discipline; to ensure Orange treats employees in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness; and to guide the employee with reference to what will be deemed as irregular conduct and the consequences of such acts of misconduct. 

Workers’ Organization

There are currently no unions at Orange SL Ltd. As per ESAP item #8, Orange SL Ltd. will inform its staff on recognition and respect of employees’ rights to join a lawful organization of their own choosing and commit to comply with the national laws pertaining to freedom of association and collective bargaining across all its locations, in accordance with the labor regulation of Sierra Leone, whether there is a representation or not. Orange SL Ltd. has put in place a Welfare Committee comprising of staff representatives who can be the voice of the company and receive suggestions from staff. The company has also put in place a structured internal communication with at least 3 all staff meetings per year and an open-door policy in the HR department. 

Non-discrimination and Equal Opportunity, Protecting the Work Force

The Projects confirmed that their policies comply with national requirements and that both are equal opportunity employers. Orange SL Ltd. recognizes its common law duties to provide a safe and healthy working place for all employee and lawful visitors. 

Child and Forced Labor

Orange SL does not employ forced labor or children as, consistent with national law. The nature of the work generally precludes unskilled workers, and so the risk of child or forced labor is negligible. All employees are above the age of 18. Age verification is done via birth certificate/national ID. 

Workers Engaged by Third Parties

The company expects to have significant numbers of jobs created at 25,000 retail sales points and 1000 SIM card sales agentsOrange SL Ltd. outsources construction of new tower sites to third party companies with E&S management systems. Orange SL Ltd provides precise specifications to contractors for durable construction of towers. The Company includes terms in its agreements with contractors requiring E&S management by the contractors, health and safety measures of workers and monitors compliance with those terms. Contract terms provide for termination of contracts in the event of non-compliance with environmental and social requirements. All suppliers are required to comply with Orange Supplier Code of Conduct. 

Occupational Health and Safety

Key issues for telecommunications technicians include higher risk of exposure to electromagnetic fields, due to their proximity while working on cellular antennae or related equipment, and electrostatic discharge. OHS management is practiced with provision of personal protection equipment (PPE) and use of warning signage. 

PS3: Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention

The ESIA has identified potential impacts during daily operations that relate principally to air quality and noise. During the construction of new facilities, typical construction-related impacts are likely to include impacts on soil and water quality. Mitigation measures to limit the extent of all impacts have been highlighted and will be implemented. 

Pollution prevention

The main pollution risks of company operations are related to the use of generators for back up electricity supply. As the electricity infrastructure in Sierra Leone is unreliable, company operations heavily rely on diesel generators. Orange SL Ltd. is deploying generators with secured in-built fuel tanks to reduce the risk of fuel leakage. Presently, 213 out of the 300 sites are already equipped with this type of fuel tank. Replacement is ongoing and is expected to be completed by 2020. In addition, all sites are visited on a monthly basis by passive network operation and maintenance contractors and any environmental, health and safety issues identified are reported to Orange SL Ltd. to implement corrective measures. All sites with more than 5000 liters of fuel are equipped with a secondary containment.  

Emissions from construction activities may cause adverse impacts on air quality worker/ community health and air quality. Dust generated from construction machinery can cause considerable nuisance to communities close to construction sites and will be required to be minimized through measures including watering of the construction areas and effective preventative maintenance established to ensure all construction equipment is maintained in good working order. Construction noise is not expected to be significant and construction activities will be limited to daylight operations only. 

Waste Management and Disposal

Waste/used oil from the repair of machinery and vehicles is collected and disposed of by the engineering contractors in charge of servicing and maintenance. Sewage is directed into underground cesspits and emptied by the Freetown City Council as often as necessary. Waste management in the provincial sites is less structured with most sites opting to dispose of their wastes in nearby informal waste dumps in the community that are prone to dispersal or open burning of wastes. A waste management plan will be developed covering generation, collection, storage, transportation and disposal of all wastes generated during construction and operation. Waste streams have been identified with proposed handling, storage and disposal methods for each stream. 

Solid waste, fuel waste and wastewater

Diesel back-up generators are used when grid power or batteries fail in offices, shops, and network sites. Where battery power has been depleted, the generator runs until the battery bank is fully charged at which point the generator is turned off and the battery bank takes over. The HQ Office has two (2) generators – a 250 kilo-volt-ampere (KVA) and a 275KVA generator used alternatively. The Data Centre also has two (2) generators, each 300KVA generators which are most often used and two (2) 1,500KVA generators which are rarely used. Network sites have 12.5 to 60KVA generators. Diesel consumption at network sites varies between 600 and 2000 liters (L) monthly (2000L capacity tanks are installed at all sites), with the average consumption figure being roughly 1,200L. 

Hazardous materials

Hazardous wastes that may be generated include batteries; aerosol cans; paints and solvents. Orange SL will ensure handling of hazardous waste, storage and disposal will reflect good international industry practice (GIIP). Hazardous waste will be required to be securely stored in designated areas. 


PS4: Community Health, Safety and Security 

Community health and safety risks

Community health and safety issues identified during the construction phase include construction vehicles and transport, exposure to dust, noise and vibration caused by construction activities. During operations, hazards associated with telecommunications projects will include; structural and site access issues. Cell tower structures and components will be designed and installed according to GIIP, considering the potential frequency and magnitude of natural hazards. Site fencing will be installed to prevent unauthorized access and equipping masts or towers with anti-climbing devices. 

Security Plan /Security Personnel

Site security risk will be assessed and management plans developed to be consistent with the requirements of PS4. The risk assessment and management plan will ensure that safeguarding of personnel and property is carried out in accordance with relevant human rights principles and in a way to avoid or minimize risks to the affected communities. Unarmed security guards may be deployed at some network sites.

The Project will be assessed in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency Act of Sierra Leone (2010). Orange SL Ltd. will be required to undertake periodic environmental audits of its facilities and submit these to the EPA for review and approval (quarterly and annual reports will be produced to EPA). Each report will contain a review of the implementation of the ESMS. With respect to complementary initiatives the company is exploring possible options in energy efficiency for tower sites.

Before completion of the ESIA and submission to EPA-SL, Orange SL Ltd. has held public hearing meetings in both Freetown and selected areas to ensure public participation in the decision-making process.

Consultations during MIGA’s due diligence revealed support for the project given the compensation for the land, need for employment and the general economic boost to the area.

MIGA supports its clients (as defined in MIGA Policy on Environmental and Social Sustainability) in addressing environmental and social issues arising from their business activities by requiring them to set up and administer appropriate grievance mechanisms and/or procedures to address complaints from Affected Communities.

In addition, Affected Communities have unrestricted access to the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO), the independent accountability mechanism for MIGA. The CAO is mandated to address complaints from people affected by MIGA-guaranteed business activities in a manner that is fair, objective, and constructive, with the goal of improving environmental and social project outcomes and fostering greater public accountability of MIGA.


Independent of MIGA management and reporting directly to the World Bank Group President, the CAO works to resolve complaints using a flexible, problem-solving approach through its dispute resolution arm and oversees project-level audits of MIGA’s environmental and social performance through its compliance arm.

Complaints may relate to any aspect of MIGA-guaranteed business activities that is within the mandate of the CAO. They can be made by any individual, group, community, entity, or other party affected or likely to be affected by the environmental or social impacts of a MIGA-guaranteed business activity. Complaints can be submitted to the CAO in writing to the address below:


Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman


International Finance Corporation

2121 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Room F11K-232

Washington, DC 20433 USA

Tel: 1 202 458 1973

Fax: 1 202 522 7400


The following documentation is available electronically as PDF attachments to this ESRS at

The ESIA is available for viewing at the following location upon request:

Mr. Barry Honnah
Corporate Affairs Director
Orange SL Ltd
25 Regent Road (Hill Station)
Freetown, Sierra Leone