Sierra Leone Economy

(Republic of Sierra Leone). West African state (71,740 km²). Capital: Freetown. Administrative division: provinces (4). Population: 5,550,000 residents (2008 estimate). Language: English (official), krio. Religion: Sunni Muslims 60%, Animists / Traditional Beliefs 30%, Christians 10%. Monetary unit: lion (100 cents). Human Development Index: 0.329 (179th place). Borders: Guinea (N and E), Liberia (SE), Atlantic Ocean (S and W). Member of: ECOWAS, Commonwealth, OCI, UN, AU and WTO, EU associate.


Although it does not lack various resources, especially minerals (diamonds, iron ores, bauxite, etc.), Sierra Leone remains one of the poorest countries on the African continent (GDP of US $ 1955 million and GDP per capita of US $ 332). Its economy has always been conditioned by powerful foreign companies that exploit its mineral deposits, paying royalties to the government.certainly not sufficient to promote investments or build significant infrastructures, or in any case that are not directly correlated with their specific interests. A situation of substantial imbalance characterizes the economic life of the country where, alongside a mining sector technically and financially dominated by foreign capital, the other main productive sector, the agricultural one, is subjected to an excessive human load and has completely insufficient returns. In fact, there has been no lack of government initiatives aimed at seeking new outlets and giving new impulses to the national economy. As early as 1973 Sierra Leone and Liberia had signed the so-called Mano River Agreement (agreement of the river Mano), aimed inter alia at establishing a common market between the two countries; in 1980 Guinea also joined it and the following year the customs union between the three states became operative. In the nineties of the twentieth century. however, the outbreak of the civil war thwarted the development and restructuring plans of the national economy of the 1980s (relaunch of the mining sector, achievement of food self-sufficiency, consolidation of fishing activities) and caused the destruction of social, economic and transport infrastructures. In 2001, with the end of the conflict, the development phase began again thanks to the intervention of international organizations such as the IMF.


Agricultural work occupies approx. two thirds of the active population; they are mostly peasants dedicated to subsistence agriculture, carried out on small plots with backward techniques and rather low yields, also given the strong depletion of the soils. The main agricultural production is rice, a basic food of the population and whose cultivation is placed under the control of a specific government body; other crops are millet, cassava and corn. Industrial crops are generally practiced in large plantations: the oil palm is grown throughout the flat belt; other oilseeds present are sesame and peanuts. For export purposes, however, the Robusta quality coffee and cocoa, grown in hilly areas, are of particular importance. The country can also count on fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and tomatoes, textile (piassava) and aromatic (ginger) plants. § The exploitation of forests, which cover almost a third of the national territory, is controlled by a government institute and produces discreet results although not comparable to other countries in the same region. § The breeding of livestock is not very widespread, especially the Fulbe in inland regions, where the climate is less humid; however, it is an activity of little economic value. § The fishing sector, given the fish richness of coastal waters, thanks to the improvement of the fishing fleet is constantly growing and supplies a fair amount of fish that is also exported (molluscs and crustaceans).


According to allcountrylist, there is virtually no modern manufacturing industry and Sierra Leone’s industrial sector is one of the most backward in the entire African continent. It is generally represented by small artisan complexes, hampered in operation by poor maintenance and inefficiency of the electricity supply. Among the most important industries, with the exception of mining and oil processing (Kissy refinery near the capital), the sector includes some processing plants for agricultural and forestry products, including oil mills, rice mills, breweries, tobacco factories, sawmills, furniture factories etc. § Mineral resources are huge, but their exploitation does not bring substantial benefits to the country;DIamond MINing COmpany) even if it is always foreign companies that manage the extraction. The main diamond deposits, which supply between 650,000 and 1 million approx. of carats per year, are located in the districts of Kenema, Kono and Bo. The deposits of iron, bauxite and rutile are also fairly rich, a mineral widely requested by the space industry of which Sierra Leone is one of the few world suppliers. Energy minerals are missing; imported oil feeds thermoelectric power plants.


Domestic trade is of little importance; as regards the foreign one, the substantial increases in the prices of various goods that the country needs – such as oil, industrial products, etc. – and the government’s difficulty in managing the clandestine trade have heavy repercussions on the trade balance. However, despite being in deficit, it is recovering (-7.3% in 2003 and -4.9% in 2006). Exports are represented by diamonds, coffee, cocoa, bauxite, etc.; in imports, machinery, fuels, various industrial products and foodstuffs prevail. § The ways of communication are very lacking; the railways, progressively deactivated, are now represented only by the Marampa Mineral Railway, which connects the mines of Marampa with the port of Pepel. The road system is more developed, with 11,300 km of roads in 2002. A considerable amount of traffic takes place by river; the inland waterways total approx. 800 km, although the high courses of the rivers are generally usable only during the rainy season. The main port is that of Freetown, used for import trade; active mining ports are Pepel and Port Loko. The domestic and international air services are fairly represented; the main airport is Lungi, near Freetown.

Sierra Leone Economy

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