▶ Top Resources/Site Map

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

The British set up a trading post in the vicinity of present-day Freetown in the 17th century. Originally the trade involved timber and ivory, but later it expanded into slaves. Following the American Revolution, a colony was established in 1787 and Sierra Leone became a destination for resettling black loyalists who had originally been resettled in Nova Scotia. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, British crews delivered thousands of Africans liberated from illegal slave ships to Sierra Leone, particularly Freetown. The colony gradually expanded inland during the course of the 19th century; independence was attained in 1961. 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 and 2012 national elections, and deployed over 850 peacekeepers to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). As of January 2014, Sierra Leone also fielded 122 staff for five UN peacekeeping missions. In March 2014, the closure of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) marked the end of more than 15 years of peacekeeping and political operations in Sierra Leone. The government's stated priorities include furthering development - including recovering from the Ebola epidemic - creating jobs, and stamping out endemic corruption.

 

Government

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

Capital:

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

Independence:

  • 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); election last held on 17 November 2012 (next to be held in 2017)
  • election results: Ernest Bai Koroma reelected president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral Parliament

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; Appeals Court; High Court

  ​

People & Society

Population:

  • 5,743,725 (global rank: 112)
  • growth rate: 2.33% (global rank: 37)

Nationality:

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

Major Cities:

  • Freetown (capital): 986,000

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)

Religions:

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

Languages:

  • 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: 57.39 years (global rank: 202)
  • male: 54.85 years
  • female: 60 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 73.29 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 11)
  • male: 81.84 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 64.49 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS:

  • adult prevalence rate: 1.55% (2013 est.) (global rank: 31)
  • people living with AIDS: 57,100 (2013 est.) (global rank: 53)

Literacy:

  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 44.5%
  • male: 55.5%
  • female: 33.7%

  ​

Economy

Overview: Sierra Leone is extremely poor and nearly half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. The country possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, but it is still recovering from a civil war that destroyed most institutions before ending in the early 2000s. In recent years economic growth has been driven by mining - particularly iron ore. The country’s principal exports are iron ore, diamonds, and rutile, and the economy is vulnerable to fluctuations in international prices. In 2014, rapid spread of Ebolavirus caused a contraction of economic activity in several areas, including transportation, health, and industrial production. Iron ore production dropped, due to low global prices and high costs, driven by the epidemic. A long-term shutdown of the industry would badly hurt the economy because it supports thousands of jobs and creates about 20% of GDP. Until 2014, the government had relied on external assistance to support its budget, but it was gradually becoming more independent. The epidemic has disrupted economic activity, deterred private investment, and forced the government to increase expenditures on health care, straining the budget and restricting other public investment projects. A rise in international donor support will partially offset these fiscal constraints.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $12.89 billion (global rank: 154)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $2,800 (global rank: 200)
  • real growth rate: 8% (global rank: 12)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 42.5%, industry: 26.8%, services: 30.7%

Currency:

  • currency: Leones (SLL)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 4,376.1

Poverty:

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

Agricultural Products:

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

Industries:

  • diamond mining; iron ore, rutile and bauxite 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

 

Geography

Location:

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

Area:

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

Climate:

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

Land Use:

  • arable land: 24%
  • permanent crops: 2.29%
  • other: 73.72%

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: Sierra Leone opposes Guinean troops' continued occupation of Yenga, a small village on the Makona River that serves as a border with Guinea; Guinea's forces came to Yenga in the mid-1990s to help the Sierra Leonean military to suppress rebels and to secure their common border but have remained there even after both countries signed a 2005 agreement acknowledging that Yenga belonged to Sierra Leone; in 2012, the two sides signed a declaration to demilitarize the area


Published: Friday, April 24, 2015