Travel and Tourism, a Hot Topic in Sierra Leone

Until a few days ago, if you had asked me to tell you about Sierra Leone, I would have had to think long and hard to tell you much about this West African country. I could probably have explained roughly where the country is located. I may have mentioned something about the slave trade being connected to Sierra Leone. I could certainly have told you that they had experienced a brutal civil war. I might even have admitted that I wasn’t entirely sure whether the war was 100% over. And that’s about it.Slavery and war. A pretty negative view of what is in fact an exceptionally positive country. Today, I see Sierra Leone from an entirely different perspective.It is difficult to ignore Sierra Leone’s history and focus purely on the present. Once a fertile area inhabited by dozens of tribes, it was settled by the Portuguese in the 1400′s who built a fort as a trading post for gold, spices, ivory and slaves. A British protectorate in later years, Sierra Leone had the dubious honour of becoming home to more than 40,000 freed slaves who gave Freetown its name. As a protectorate, Sierra Leone was exploited for its mineral and diamond wealth in the 1900′s and Sierra Leonean’s fought against the Germans in Cameroon in the First World War, and alongside the British in the Second World War. In 1961, Sierra Leone achieved independence from Britain and governed itself peacefully for 30 years. The peace was not to last and was followed by a decade of brutal civil war that destroyed the economy, brutalised the people and left a country that is rich in resources as one of the poorest in the world.The conflict was officially declared over in January 2002, and President Kabbah reelected in May 2002. Since then, the people of Sierra Leone have been pulling together to repair, renew and regenerate.Whilst doing research for a new website looking at travel and tourism in Sierra Leone, I came into contact with Sierra Leoneans from all manner of backgrounds living in both Sierra Leone and elsewhere. Their passion for the country was infectious: they clearly wanted to get the message across that Sierra Leone has far more to offer than a sad recent history and that reconstruction is moving ahead at a rapid pace. And indeed, proof of reconstruction is everywhere – new roads are being built, mines are being re-opened, dam projects started before the war are once again underway, markets are once again thriving and humming with life. There is also a great deal of confidence in Sierra Leone’s potential as a tourist destination: a Chinese company has recently invested a reputed US$270 million in the hotel infrastructure; enterprising companies like Kevin McPhillips Travel (based in the UK, USA and the Netherlands) offer exclusive twice weekly flights to Sierra Leone; African Tour specialists are researching viable package holidays in the region. The exciting thing about investment in Sierra Leone is that more is set to follow!They have a right to be confident. The beaches along Sierra Leone’s golden peninsula are said to be one of the world’s best kept secrets. Secluded, clean and stretching for miles on end, beach tourism is one of the top items on the government’s tourism promotion agenda. Beaches with very British names like Kent, Lumley, Sussex and York mix with more African names like Bureh Town, Tokey and Mammah beach, andAlthough many of the forests and much of the wildlife has been disturbed and in some cases, destroyed, by the war, eco-tourism is an important focus of Sierra Leoneans and natural treasures like Outamba-Kilimi National Park, populated by game animals such as elephants, chimpanzees and pigmy hippos, and Mount Bintimani, the highest point in West Africa, are just two of the worthwhile wildlife attractions on offer. Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary rescues orphaned and captured chimps and has been described as one of the most successful Sierra Leonean wildlife endeavours, whilst Tiwai Island is home to over 3000 chimps as well as other game.Lakes, rivers and dams are perfect for picnics and relaxing. The marshlands hide a myriad of colourful birds – indeed, the bird life has been less affected by the war than the animals, and everywhere you go, the air is filled with birdsong. Sierra Leone is a bird-watchers dream! Tiwai Island for one boasts over 135 different bird species!For culture vultures and those with historical interests, the remnants of the slave trade make interesting and though-provoking expeditions. Bunce Island, a slave trading fortress, is a brief boat trip up the river; Freetown is itself a monument to freed slaves and its Cotton Tree, which stands in the heart of what is thought to be an old slave market, is now an impressive national symbol. Graves, monuments and forts are all that remain of British and Portuguese power in Sierra Leone: each has a tale to tell. There are over 16 different ethnic groups in the country, including the Krio, descendents of freed slaves who speak an English-based Creole called Krio, and visiting villages and chatting to people in markets and in the streets is rewarding for all parties!Freetown is probably the most developed of the cities, offering a level of safety that is difficult to match even in Western countries. Hotels, restaurants and nightspots are sprouting like mushrooms, and eating out in Sierra Leone promises a range of traditional and international treats, and seafood that is beyond belief!One has to wonder what attraction will tip the scales in making Sierra Leone the popular destination that it once was before the civil war. Based on my experiences with Sierra Leoneans in recent weeks, I feel that it will be the people who make the difference. Without exception, every Sierra Leonean that I have met or worked with has been proud of their country, proud of its progress and excited about the future. They are unfailingly welcoming, greeting aid-workers and travellers alike with smiles that you can only find in Africa, with an optimism – no, positivity – that other countries would do well to emulate.For travellers in search of a “diamond in the rough”, Sierra Leone offers a holiday like no other – my only advice to you is to visit sooner rather than later, to avoid what is sure to be a stampede once holiday-makes and tour operators latch on to this gem of a destination.

How Good Are Free Ransomware Decryptors?

In the light of recent months, with the cases continuously climbing high during the current pandemic, many companies and their customers have been facing numerous ransomware and hijacking attempts – from robotext messages, robocalls, and virus injections. Hackers are really leaning hard on ransomware because it gives them an edge over the customers – lock their data, and if you pay the ransom, we’ll give you a solution, and you can decrypt your files! One such ransomware virus that took the world by storm was the ThiefQuest (a.k.a. EvilQuest) ransomware virus. But one company decided to break that cycle by offering a way that people can decrypt their data for free: the one and only SentinelOne.

Recommended article: SentinelOne is #1 at Crushing Viruses and Keeping You Safe

Mac Users Are the Targets
Unlike the other numerous viruses that target Windows users, the specific EvilQuest ransomware targets Mac operators. However, the downside to this is that many businesses are the primary users of Mac computers, laptops, and products. As a matter of fact, there are more iPhone users in the world that use the MacOS on their mobile platforms and office computers than Windows users. Either way, the virus is meant to decrypt files, and it does not tell infected users how to contact the company. It does provide a Bitcoin wallet and where to deposit your ransom to. And they only give you 72 hours to get your ransom to them.

The Free Decryptor
There are many other ransomware programs out there, and SentinelOne is one of those companies who have been able to say they’re coming to the call. Most users who get infected with ransomware don’t get their files restored with this virus, and they are permanently locked out of them. The decryption process that SentinelOne provides is that their researchers basically recreated the virus and then reverse-engineered it. They were able to analyze the code pattern and decipher the malicious code that’s injected into the files so they can remove it. Fortunately, it’s because the ransomware itself is rather new (meaning that it was very recently created – so it has some bugs). Other ransomware viruses are a bit harder to crack. But does it work?

Recommended article: How Quickly a Ransomware Attack Can Happen In 2020

According to SentinelOne, it does. And so, do many others. Of course, they do have disclaimers in case they can’t decrypt literally every single file. That’s because there is no guarantee that every virus is different. One virus, though, that’s being used a lot is the WannaCry ransomware on PC’s ranging from small businesses all the way up to government officials (and one of the most common during these times). Having a good product such as SentinelOne, or even getting the Trend Micro tool can help. There is a good chance that you may not actually need to pay the fee to get your files unlocked. However, some of the more advanced viruses may have numerous variants in code, so it may not be easy to pinpoint which one it is and the code (which may sometimes be randomly inserted into a file) itself. Therefore, you need to have a good protection plan in place.

What Should I Do?
If you get ahold of your local IT support team, they’ll be able to help you get some of the best security tools and can even provide local and cloud-based backups of your precious data in case of a ransomware attack. Many companies have been able to say that their ransomware hiccups have cost them, but most of them are paying their hackers not to leak their customers’ data. Don’t be that person, and keep your data safe, and you’ll be much better off in the long run!

Business Loans In Canada: Financing Solutions Via Alternative Finance & Traditional Funding

Business loans and finance for a business just may have gotten good again? The pursuit of credit and funding of cash flow solutions for your business often seems like an eternal challenge, even in the best of times, let alone any industry or economic crisis. Let’s dig in.

Since the 2008 financial crisis there’s been a lot of change in finance options from lenders for corporate loans. Canadian business owners and financial managers have excess from everything from peer-to-peer company loans, varied alternative finance solutions, as well of course as the traditional financing offered by Canadian chartered banks.

Those online business loans referenced above are popular and arose out of the merchant cash advance programs in the United States. Loans are based on a percentage of your annual sales, typically in the 15-20% range. The loans are certainly expensive but are viewed as easy to obtain by many small businesses, including retailers who sell on a cash or credit card basis.

Depending on your firm’s circumstances and your ability to truly understand the different choices available to firms searching for SME COMMERCIAL FINANCE options. Those small to medium sized companies ( the definition of ‘ small business ‘ certainly varies as to what is small – often defined as businesses with less than 500 employees! )

How then do we create our road map for external financing techniques and solutions? A simpler way to look at it is to categorize these different financing options under:

Debt / Loans

Asset Based Financing

Alternative Hybrid type solutions

Many top experts maintain that the alternative financing solutions currently available to your firm, in fact are on par with Canadian chartered bank financing when it comes to a full spectrum of funding. The alternative lender is typically a private commercial finance company with a niche in one of the various asset finance areas

If there is one significant trend that’s ‘ sticking ‘it’s Asset Based Finance. The ability of firms to obtain funding via assets such as accounts receivable, inventory and fixed assets with no major emphasis on balance sheet structure and profits and cash flow ( those three elements drive bank financing approval in no small measure ) is the key to success in ABL ( Asset Based Lending ).

Factoring, aka ‘ Receivable Finance ‘ is the other huge driver in trade finance in Canada. In some cases, it’s the only way for firms to be able to sell and finance clients in other geographies/countries.

The rise of ‘ online finance ‘ also can’t be diminished. Whether it’s accessing ‘ crowdfunding’ or sourcing working capital term loans, the technological pace continues at what seems a feverish pace. One only has to read a business daily such as the Globe & Mail or Financial Post to understand the challenge of small business accessing business capital.

Business owners/financial mgrs often find their company at a ‘ turning point ‘ in their history – that time when financing is needed or opportunities and risks can’t be taken. While putting or getting new equity in the business is often impossible, the reality is that the majority of businesses with SME commercial finance needs aren’t, shall we say, ‘ suited’ to this type of funding and capital raising. Business loan interest rates vary with non-traditional financing but offer more flexibility and ease of access to capital.

We’re also the first to remind clients that they should not forget govt solutions in business capital. Two of the best programs are the GovernmentSmall Business Loan Canada (maximum availability = $ 1,000,000.00) as well as the SR&ED program which allows business owners to recapture R&D capital costs. Sred credits can also be financed once they are filed.

Those latter two finance alternatives are often very well suited to business start up loans. We should not forget that asset finance, often called ‘ ABL ‘ by those Bay Street guys, can even be used as a loan to buy a business.

If you’re looking to get the right balance of liquidity and risk coupled with the flexibility to grow your business seek out and speak to a trusted, credible and experienced Canadian business financing advisor with a track record of business finance success who can assist you with your funding needs.