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“Colourful entrepreneur’,” “convicted drugs offender” and “The Gusher” have been some of the headlines used by the press to describe this businessman! So let’s get it out in the open, who exactly is Frank Timis and what is he up to in Sierra Leone? (Photo: Mr. Frank Timis)
Born in Baia Borsa, communist Romania, in 1964 as Vasile Frank Timis, he decided at the young age of 16 to escape from this Soviet country and walked the 900 mile journey to Italy, where with the help of the United Nations he sought asylum in Perth, Australia. For his first year he took up a night shift job sweeping floors, then he worked as a labourer working 15 hours a day for a gold and diamond explorer in the Australian bush “here as a young impressionable man, he fell in with the wrong crowd and got involved in heroin.” Timis has never denied this stage of his life, and maybe in a strange way it did him good because he came to realize that he had more to offer life than the route of self destruction. Timis openly admits he regrets that part of his life.
At the age of 27, Timis started his first mining venture and since then has built resource companies in Australia, the Balkans, West Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.
Over the last 20 years, Frank Timis has invested in and developed a series of highly successful businesses, and yes, that might have made him a billionaire, but none of his wealth has come without hard work and financial risk. Always in the headlines for his wheeling and dealing in gas, pharmaceutical, mineral and oil companies, Timis’ strategy is to invest in very early stage companies and back them not only with funds but with “his knowledge, experience and range of contacts.” He states that his strategy is simple: “Identify the right opportunity or asset and then put in place an effective and experienced team of Board members and management to manage these resources. Especially important is to identify local and national partnerships for these companies where necessary.”
As part of his strategic thinking in 2003, and using personal funds, Timis bought into the Sierra Leone Diamond company and began an extensive restructuring resulting in its flotation in 2005 on the London AIM market. Now named African Minerals, the company is going from strength to strength. With the ingenuity of Timis, the iron ore discovery in Sierra Leone is a massive discovery for the company and country, and African Minerals will inject a prospective future to thousands of jobless people. The infrastructure that African Minerals promises to put in place for this operation to come to fruition will be the stepping stone to the beginning of rebuilding the Athens of Africa! Just think of the knock on effect those thousands of jobs will have on the economy and livelihood of Sierra Leone.
Although first and foremost a ruthless and canny businessman, Timis has a social awareness about him that not many men in his position have. He remembers first hand as a young kid how living is a daily struggle for many. Timis states African Minerals invests heavily not just in its employees in Sierra Leone but in their families and the communities in which they live. Employees undergo best practice training in addition to health and education programmes. The company also pays agricultural compensation wherever its activities impact on the local communities farming activities.
African Minerals has supported the following local community initiatives:
The construction of a primary school in the Kono District, the construction of a school and church in the Bombali District, the construction of a large market facility in Nimiyama Chiefdom, opened in 2006 by the country’s Vice President, the construction of a youth centre at Tefeya and the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges servicing local communities. In addition the company supports the Kono District scholarship programme, has invested in local sports facilities and advises on sanitation and health programmes.
The district scholarship programme is an annual programme which is geared towards helping the underprivileged pupils in schools located in the Kono District. The company distributes educational materials at two schools in the Sandor chiefdom of the Kono District and contributes towards the scholarship programme fund from which 150 pupils benefited in receiving one year of tuition fees, educational literature and other school materials.
African Minerals has donated IT equipment to schools in Tonkolili District and is carrying out a substantial programme of improvements to roads and bridges in the area.
Last year Frank gave $100,000 to the Sierra Leone national football team to help meet its aspirations to compete with the best.
Whether one likes the man/his methods or not he has the capability of doing more for Sierra Leone than the ordinary man or woman can imagine. Hopefully the “pull him down syndrome” will shake up and wake up when they realize that they have someone in the midst of their country and corrupt government that is not just out for himself.
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