flag Sierra Leone Sierra Leone: Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

Sierra Leone's economic development has been hampered by its susceptibility to external shocks, which are frequently compounded by weak macroeconomic management. Over the last decade, growth has averaged 4%, a decline from the 8% seen in the previous decade. This period has been marked by high volatility, characterized by episodes of both boom and bust. The country's economic structure, heavily reliant on low-value-added agriculture, mining, and a sizable informal services sector, contributes to this volatility. In 2023, economic activity decelerated due to subdued aggregate demand and socio-political instability, with GDP growth estimated at 3.1% by the World Bank, marking the second consecutive year of a slowdown. High and persistent inflation, compounded by a recent coup attempt, has diminished households’ purchasing power, constraining private consumption and investment. Despite these challenges, the mining sector performed well, supported by robust iron ore production and exports, alongside promising agricultural output. Growth is anticipated to gradually recover to 3.5% in 2024 amidst high inflation and ongoing fiscal consolidation, before converging to its medium-term average of 4-4.5%.

Concerning public finances, in 2023, the fiscal position showed a marginal improvement but fell short of the year's targets. The fiscal deficit narrowed to 8%, down by 1.3 percentage points from 2022 but 2.2pp higher than the budgeted target. Expenditures were reduced by 2.6pp compared to 2022, attributed to cuts in wages and salaries (1pp), subsidies (1pp), and capital expenditure (0.6pp). Although domestic revenue performance was 1pp below target, it improved by 0.4pp due to the partial implementation of policy measures introduced in 2023 and enhanced tax compliance. Public debt decreased to 87% of GDP from 93% in 2022, yet liquidity and solvency risks to debt sustainability remain high. External debt, primarily owed to multilateral organizations, constitutes two-thirds of the total, with the remainder in short-term domestic debt. Upholding fiscal and monetary policy tightening is crucial for maintaining macroeconomic stability. The fiscal outlook hinges on revenue measures identified in the Medium-Term Revenue Strategy and immediate expenditure consolidation, particularly on wages and subsidies. Inflationary pressures intensified throughout 2023, with some tentative signs of moderation in the last quarter. Headline inflation averaged 47.6% during the year, the second highest in Africa after Sudan. This surge was driven by a combination of supply-side factors such as high food and fuel inflation, a depreciated currency, and continued fiscal dominance. Food inflation averaged 57%. In response, the central bank raised rates by a cumulative 525 basis points in 2023, reaching 22.25% by year-end. However, the effectiveness of monetary policy is constrained by shallow financial markets and fiscal dominance. Although inflation peaked at 54.6% year-on-year in October, it moderated to 47% by January 2024 (data World Bank). In April 2024, an IMF delegation visited Sierra Leone to engage in discussions with the country's authorities regarding their request for financial assistance under a new arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). This request follows the conclusion of the previous arrangement on November 20, 2023.

Unemployment (3.2% of the workforce in 2023 according to the World Bank, modeled ILO estimate), high poverty levels (especially in rural areas) and lack of infrastructure, corruption as well as social unrest continue to hamper the country’s economic development. The pace of poverty reduction decelerated in 2023. The extreme poverty rate, defined as living on PPP USD 2.15 per day, was estimated at 25.3% in 2023, a slight decrease from 25.7% in the previous year. The pace of poverty reduction is projected to accelerate as inflation subsides in the medium term. The international poverty rate is expected to decrease to 22.7% by 2026. This decline will be supported by recovering growth and moderating inflation (World Bank). The same institution estimated the GDP per capita (PPP) at USD 1,931 in 2022.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 4.103.914.564.594.69
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 3.53.44.04.54.5
GDP per Capita (USD) 493461527520520
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 94.180.069.767.866.2
Inflation Rate (%) 27.247.739.121.715.2
Current Account (billions USD) -0.45-0.16-0.13-0.17-0.19
Current Account (in % of GDP) -11.0-4.0-2.8-3.7-4.0

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database - October 2021.

Note: (e) Estimated Data


 
Monetary Indicators 20152016201820192020
Leone (SLL) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 7,762.258,373.0910,582.1211,262.7512,601.29

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

Main Sectors of Industry

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 42.7 11.9 45.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 57.4 5.9 32.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) 2.5 17.4 2.9

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

The Active Population in Figures

201820192020
Labour Force 2,615,2352,681,0782,717,263

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

 
201720182019
Total activity rate 58.95%58.90%58.80%
Men activity rate 58.93%58.71%58.39%
Women activity rate 58.97%59.09%59.22%

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
51,7/100
World Rank:
150
Regional Rank:
34

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Partly Free
Political Freedom:
3/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
75/180

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Sources of General Economic Information

Main Online Newspapers and Portals
Allafrica, Sierra-Leone News
Sierra-Leone Newspapers online
BBC profile
Concord Times
The Sierra Leone Telegraph
Useful Resources
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Agriculture
National Minerals Agency
Central Bank of Sierra Leone
 
 

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Latest Update: May 2024

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