Sierra Leone - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview
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Sierra Leone is a low-income country, located on the west coast of Africa, with considerable mineral, fishery, and agricultural resources. The country presents significant opportunities for investment and development. It is located on the west coast of Africa with a population of 8.2 million and a land area of 71,740 square kilometers. Sierra Leone is an agrarian economy with rich soil and plentiful rainfall, with a wide continental shelf on an extensive stretch of coastline, making agriculture, fisheries, and forestry critical to its economy. However, the country is not self-sufficient in food production.

President Julius Maada Bio entered office in April 2018 and vowed to transform the economic situation of the country. His administration has made efforts at domestic revenue mobilization, progress in expenditure management and control, stabilized budget arrears and public debt, and prioritized public investments. The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) re-engaged with the IMF, which approved a new 43-month ECF arrangement in November 2018. At the second review in April 2020, the IMF commended the government for making progress at meeting program benchmarks and addressing the country’s vast economic needs, indicating a promising medium-term outlook.  The Medium-Term National Development Plan 2019–2023 (MTNDP) was launched in 2019 focusing on education, governance, and infrastructure, and supported by economic diversification in agriculture, fisheries, and tourism with four goals aligned with global and regional agendas.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the economy by disrupting domestic activities, widening fiscal gaps, and disturbing stability, with the GDP contracting by -2.2 percent by the end of 2020 (https://www.imf.org/external/datamapper/NGDP_RPCH@WEO/SLE?year=2020). The government introduced measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and initiated a Quick Action Economic Response Plan (QAERP) to maintain macroeconomic and financial stability and mitigate the impact of the crisis on businesses and households. However, the country remained heavily dependent on foreign assistance from international development partners including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, the World Bank, the IMF, UN agencies, and China.

Real GDP growth is projected at 3.2 percent in 2021 led by an increased demand for mineral exports and growth in the non-mining sectors. However, the containment measures will have a prolonged economic and social effect on the economy with shrinking income, rising poverty, and food insecurity. The economic costs will include challenges to the government’s revenue drive and impair the fiscal financing situation and a distressed debt position, as the authorities continue to prioritize Covid-19 related spending within a tight budget envelope.

Basic Economic Statistics estimates:

Population:                               8.2 million in 2021 (https://worldpopulationreview.com/)

Real GDP:                               $4.128 billion in 2019 (https://data.worldbank.org/country/SL)

GDP per capita:                      $484.5 in 2020 (World Bank Data)

GDP growth:                          -2.2 percent in 2020 (World Bank Data)

Inflation:                                 13.5 percent in 2020 (World Bank Data)

Total Exports:                         $697 million in 2019 (https://oec.world/en/profile/country/sle)

Total Imports:                         $1,160 million in 2019 (https://oec.world/en/profile/country/sle)

Exports to U.S.:                     $30 million in 2019 (USTR Data)

Imports from U.S.:                $78 million in 2019 (USTR Data)

Exchange rate:                     $1: Le9,746 (July 2021 Bank of Sierra Leone Mid-rate)

Political & Economic Environment:  State Department’s website for background on the country’s political environment.