Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea in the northeast, Liberia in the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest.

Background History

Democracy is slowly being reestablished after the civil war from 1991 to 2002 that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about a third of the population). The military, which took over full responsibility for security following the departure of UN peacekeepers at the end of 2005, is increasingly developing as a guarantor of the country's stability. The armed forces remained on the sideline during the 2007 presidential election, but still look to the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) - a civilian UN mission - to support efforts to consolidate peace. The new government's priorities include furthering development, creating jobs, and stamping out endemic corruption.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Sierra Leone
  • conventional short form: Sierra Leone
  • local long form: Republic of Sierra Leone
  • local short form: Sierra Leone


  • name: Freetown
  • population: 875,000
  • geographic coordinates: 8 30 N, 13 15 W
  • time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 2 October 1958 (from France)

Government Type:

  • Constitutional Democracy

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Ernest Bai Koroma (since 17 September 2007)
  • head of government: President Ernest Bai Koroma (since 17 September 2007)
  • cabinet: Ministers of State appointed by the president with the approval of the House of Representatives; the cabinet is responsible to the president
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral Parliament

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; Appeals Court; High Court

People & Society


  • 5,485,998 (global rank: 112)
  • growth rate: 2.277% (global rank: 37)


  • noun: Sierra Leonean(s)
  • adjective: Sierra Leonean

Major Cities:

  • Freetown (capital): 875,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Temne 35%, Mende 31%, Limba 8%, Kono 5%, Kriole 2%, Mandingo 2%, Loko 2%, other 15% (includes refugees from Liberia's recent civil war, and small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians)


  • Muslim 60%, Christian 10%, indigenous beliefs 30%


  • English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 56.55 years (global rank: 196)
  • male: 54.08 years
  • female: 59.11 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 76.64 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 12)
  • male: 85.37 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 67.66 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 1.6% (2009 est.) (global rank: 34)
  • people living with AIDS: 49,000 (2009 est.) (global rank: 58)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 35.1%
  • male: 46.9%
  • female: 24.4%


Overview: Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its physical and social infrastructure has yet to recover from the civil war, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. Nearly half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. Alluvial diamond mining remains the major source of hard currency earnings, accounting for nearly half of Sierra Leone's exports. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad, which is essential to offset the severe trade imbalance and supplement government revenues. The IMF completed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program that helped stabilize economic growth and reduce inflation and in 2010 approved a new program worth $45 million over three years. Political stability has led to a revival of economic activity such as the rehabilitation of bauxite and rutile mining, which are set to benefit from planned tax incentives. A number of offshore oil discoveries were announced in 2009 and 2010. The development on these reserves, which could be significant, is still several years away.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $5.1 billion (global rank: 163)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $800 (global rank: 218)
  • real growth rate: 5.1% (global rank: 70)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 51%, industry: 21.7%, services: 27.3%


  • currency: Leones (SLL)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 4,400


  • population below poverty line: 70.2%
  • unemployment rate: NA

Agricultural Products:

  • rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanuts; poultry, cattle, sheep, pigs; fish


  • diamond mining; small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear); petroleum refining, small commercial ship repair

Exports Commodities:

  • diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish

Imports Commodities:

  • foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals



  • Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia


  • total: 71,740 sq km (global rank: 119)
  • land: 71,620 sq km
  • water: 120 sq km
  • comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolin


  • tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 7.95%
  • permanent crops: 1.05%
  • other: 91%

Natural Resources:

  • diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

Current Environmental Issues:

  • rapid population growth pressuring the environment; overharvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture have resulted in deforestation and soil exhaustion; civil war depleted natural resources; overfishing

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: as domestic fighting among disparate ethnic groups, rebel groups, warlords, and youth gangs in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone gradually abates, the number of refugees in border areas has begun to slowly dwindle; Sierra Leone considers excessive Guinea's definition of the flood plain limits to define the left bank boundary of the Makona and Moa rivers and protests Guinea's continued occupation of these lands including the hamlet of Yenga occupied since 1998
  • refugees (country of origin): 27,311 (Liberia)

Published: Monday, September 08, 2008