Dr. Mrs. Yakama Manty Jones (Nee Mara) studied Economics and Finance MSc (2010) and is the youngest female Director in the Government of Sierra Leone’s Civil Service in which she currently leads the Research and Delivery Division in the Ministry of Finance.
Dr. Jones has a proven track record of civil and public service having started her career as Budget Analyst at the Budget Bureau, Ministry of Finance Sierra Leone at just 19 years old being the youngest University graduate at the time. Dr. Jones is an expert in Development Economics, Finance, International Business, Economic Policy, Econometrics, Data Analysis, Delivery Systems and Project Management.
She holds a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Economics from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone; a Postgraduate Diploma in Finance and Economics from the University of Manchester, a Master of Science in Finance and Economics from Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, a Masters of Research in International Business and Economic Development from Birkbeck College, University of London , PhD in Finance and Economics from Birkbeck College, University of London, a Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Oxford and is an Alumnus of the Harvard University’s , Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Education Programme ( Economic Development Pathway).
During my visits to Sierra Leone for field work during my PhD studies, I noticed that less and less children can read, have access to books or are just interested the reading. The evidence showed that the majority of children cannot read at their level. Therefore, I started the Yak Jones Foundation to bring back the reading culture to Sierra Leone and complement the Government’s efforts in the education sector.
Dr. Yakama Jones is also the Team Leader for the Policy Pathway initiative, which is part of the Masters of Research in Public Policy, a collaborative Master’s Program between the University of Sierra Leone and the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research. She also doubles as a part-time lecturer in the Department of Economics at Fourah Bay College delivering lectures in Econometrics and Statistics.
As an entrepreneur Dr. Jones is the Chief Executive Officer of Peninsular Innovative Group, an indigenous company operating in the shipping and manufacturing industries in Sierra Leone. The company is also one of the leading manufacturers of consumables under the brand 'Crystal Clear’ where they currently produce products such as water, detergent powder, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices.
Dr. Jones, combined her love for learning and education and founded the Yak
Jones Foundation. The Yak Jones Foundation promotes literacy by bringing back the culture of reading among children in Sierra Leone. The foundation organises reading, comprehension and quiz competitions for school going children, forms book clubs across the country, and donates mobile libraries and book chests to schools in remote areas of Sierra Leone.
As a leader and community activist, Dr. Jones is a member of the 2021 Cohort of Amujae Leaders at Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development and serves on the board several non-profit organisations such as the Asmaa James Foundation, Grirls + and Children’s Education Foundation SL and offers support to others like STEM Women SL, Project Pikin and Girls Taking the Lead.
Dr. Jones is a wife and a mother to 2 loving daughters.
Why did you choose to study Economics and Finance?
Firstly, I am a numbers person. Hated English Literature. Additionally, growing up in a country categorized as least developing, the conversations are mostly around the economy, poverty and money issues. I was therefore motivated to study Economics and Finance so that I would be equipped to contribute my part in ‘fixing’ this problematic economy and national development.
Why did you choose to do your MSc at Queen Mary and Westfield?
It was among the few top rated universities that had a very diverse student population in London that offered the combination of Economics and Finance I was looking for.
What motivated you to start Peninsular Innovative Group?
I co-founded Peninsular Innovative Group with my husband. Even though we were both in full time employment when we started the business we have always believed that the private sector is the engine of growth in any economy. With a growing family and investment interests we decided to supplement our financial needs with a business sooner rather than later. With my husband’s expertise in the shipping and logistics industry, we first established Peninsular Innovative Services and providing customs brokerage, freight forwarding and logistics services. After a terrible outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone in 2012, we decided to expand into the production of safe but affordable drinking water. Today PIG has now further diversified into production of non-alcoholic beverages and detergent powder with plans to expand to other consumer consumables.
What inspired you to start the Yak Jones Foundation?
I have always been an avid reader and love teaching. However during my visits to Sierra Leone for field work during my PhD studies, I noticed that less and less children can read, have access to books or are just interested the reading. I searched for some statistics just to make sure I was not imagining things. The evidence showed that the majority of children cannot read at their level. Therefore, I started the Yak Jones Foundation to bring back the reading culture to Sierra Leone and complement the Government’s efforts in the education sector.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of Queen Mary?
I loved the architecture and atmosphere at the Mile End campus especially the canal during summer.
What gets you through the tough times?
Prayer, reading, listening to music and an innate determination to not fail. I believe I was not created to do the bare minimum and that better is always possible.