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Sierra Leone

The British set up a trading post in the vicinity of present-day Freetown Sierra Leone,  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.

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.

Sierra Leone GDP (purchasing power parity):
$12.89 billion (2014 est.)
$11.94 billion (2013 est.)
$9.938 billion (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2014 US dollars
country comparison to the world: 154

Sierra Leone GDP (official exchange rate):
$5.411 billion (2014 est.)

Sierra Leone GDP – real growth rate:
8% (2014 est.)
20.1% (2013 est.)
15.2% (2012 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 12

Sierra Leone GDP – per capita (PPP):
$2,100 (2014 est.)
$2,000 (2013 est.)
$1,700 (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars
country comparison to the world: 200

Sierra Leone Gross national saving:
1.2% of GDP (2014 est.)
10.3% of GDP (2013 est.)
-3.8% of GDP (2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171

Sierra Leone GDP – composition, by end use:
household consumption: 88.9%
government consumption: 7.4%
investment in fixed capital: 41.9%
investment in inventories: 0.8%
exports of goods and services: 8.8%
imports of goods and services: -47.8%
(2014 est.)

Sierra Leone GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 42.5%
industry: 26.8%
services: 30.7%
(2014 est.)

Sierra Leone Agriculture – products:
rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanuts; poultry, cattle, sheep, pigs; fish

Sierra Leone Industries:
diamond mining; iron ore, rutile and bauxite mining; small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear); petroleum refining, small commercial ship repair

Sierra Leone Industrial production growth rate:
88.5% (2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 1

Sierra Leone Labor force:
2.471 million (2014 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 115

Sierra Leone Labor force – by occupation:
agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%

Unemployment rate:

Population below poverty line:
70.2% (2004)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 33.6% (2003)

Distribution of family income – Gini index:
62.9 (1989)
country comparison to the world: 4

revenues: $730.3 million
expenditures: $908.8 million (2014 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:
13.5% of GDP (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 201

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-3.3% of GDP (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123

Public debt:
30.1% of GDP (2014 est.)
30.3% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 124

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
8.3% (2014 est.)
10.3% (2013 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
19.8% (31 December 2014 est.)
20.56% (31 December 2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 16

Stock of narrow money:
$448.3 million (31 December 2014 est.)
$370.6 million (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165

Stock of broad money:
$960.1 million (31 December 2014 est.)
$857.3 million (31 December 2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 169

Stock of domestic credit:
$652.7 million (31 December 2014 est.)
$547.1 million (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 164

Market value of publicly traded shares:

Current account balance:
-$892.3 million (2014 est.)
-$925.5 million (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 112

$2.241 billion (2014 est.)
$1.917 billion (2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 141

Exports – partners:
China 78.5%, Belgium 8.8% (2013)

Exports – commodities:
gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment

$2.069 billion (2014 est.)
$1.97 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165

Imports – commodities:
foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals

Imports – partners:
China 11.4%, India 9.8%, South Africa 8.5%, UK 8.2%, US 6.2%, Belgium 6.1%, Netherlands 4.2% (2013)

Debt – external:
$1.46 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$1.26 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154

Stock of direct foreign investment – at home:
$2.704 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$2.319 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101

Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad:
$400,000 (31 December 2014 est.)
$400,000 (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 99

Exchange rates:
leones (SLL) per US dollar –
4,376.1 (2014 est.)
4,332.5 (2013 est.)
4,344 (2012 est.)
4,336.1 (2011 est.)
3,978.1 (2010 est.)

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

Geographic coordinates:
8 30 N, 11 30 W

Map references:

total: 71,740 sq km
land: 71,620 sq km
water: 120 sq km
* country comparison to the world: 119

Area – comparative:
slightly smaller than South Carolina

Land boundaries:
total: 1,093 km
border countries (2): Guinea 794 km, Liberia 299 km

402 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm

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

coastal belt of mangrove swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau, mountains in east

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Loma Mansa (Bintimani) 1,948 m

Natural resources:
diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

Land use:
agricultural land: 56.2%
arable land 23.4%; permanent crops 2.3%; permanent pasture 30.5%
forest: 37.5%
other: 6.3% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:
293.6 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:
160 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.21 cu km/yr (52%/26%/22%)
per capita: 38.74 cu m/yr (2005)

Natural hazards:
dry, sand-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (December to February); sandstorms, dust storms

Environment – current 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

Environment – international agreements:
arty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification

Geography – note:
rainfall along the coast can reach 495 cm (195 inches) a year, making it one of the wettest places along coastal, western Africa

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