Sierra Leone facts on every entity in the world

The British set up a trading post near 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 (1991-2002) that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about one 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. 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 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.



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

Geographic coordinates

8.30° N, 11.30° W

Area 119/257

total: 71,740 sq km

land: 71,620 sq km

water: 120 sq km

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


mean elevation:

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

party 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

People and Society


noun: Sierra Leonean(s)

adjective: Sierra Leonean

Ethnic groups

Temne 35%, Mende 31%, Limba 8%, Kono 5%, Kriole 2% (descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area in the late-18th century; also known as Krio), Mandingo 2%, Loko 2%, other 15% (includes refugees from Liberia's recent civil war, and small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians) (2008 census)


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%)


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

Population 112/238

5,879,098 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 41.93% (male 1,228,380/female 1,236,475)

15-24 years: 18.67% (male 532,738/female 564,828)

25-54 years: 31.85% (male 898,538/female 973,908)

55-64 years: 3.82% (male 102,915/female 121,864)

65 years and over: 3.73% (male 92,777/female 126,675) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 81.9%

youth dependency ratio: 77.1%

elderly dependency ratio: 4.9%

potential support ratio: 20.6% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 19 years

male: 18.4 years

female: 19.6 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 32/233

2.35% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 14/224

37.03 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 35/225

10.81 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 178/222

-2.77 migrant(s)/1,000 population

note: refugees currently in surrounding countries are slowly returning (2015 est.)


urban population: 39.9% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 2.75% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

FREETOWN (capital) 1.007 million (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.92 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.85 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female

total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth


note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2013 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 5/184

1,360 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 11/224

total: 71.68 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 80.14 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 62.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 204/224

total population: 57.79 years

male: 55.23 years

female: 60.42 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 19/224

4.8 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

16.6% (2013)

Health expenditures 5/191

11.8% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.02 physicians/1,000 population (2010)

Hospital bed density

0.4 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking water source


urban: 84.9% of population

rural: 47.8% of population

total: 62.6% of population


urban: 15.1% of population

rural: 52.2% of population

total: 37.4% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 22.8% of population

rural: 6.9% of population

total: 13.3% of population


urban: 77.2% of population

rural: 93.1% of population

total: 86.7% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

1.4% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

54,000 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

2,700 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 144/191

6.6% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 34/138

18.1% (2013)

Education expenditures 141/173

2.9% of GDP (2012)


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

Government type

constitutional democracy


name: Freetown

geographic coordinates: 8.29° N, 13.14° W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

3 provinces and 1 area*; Eastern, Northern, Southern, Western*


27 April 1961 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 27 April (1961)


several previous; latest in effect 1 October 1991; amended several times, last in 2013 (2015)

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent or grandparent must be a citizen of Sierra Leone

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Ernest Bai KOROMA (since 17 September 2007); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Ernest Bai KOROMA (since 17 September 2007)

cabinet: Ministers of State appointed by the president, approved by Parliament; the cabinet is responsible to the president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-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; percent of vote - Ernest Bai KOROMA (APC) 58.7%, Julius Maada BIO (SLPP) 37.4%, other 3.9%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament (124 seats; 112 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 12 seats filled in separate elections by non-partisan members of Parliament called "paramount chiefs;" members serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 17 November 2012 (next to be held in 2017)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - APC 69, SLPP 43

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Superior Court of Judicature (consists of the Supreme Court - at the apex - with the chief justice and 4 other judges, the Court of Appeal with the chief justice and 7 other judges, and the High Court of Justice with the chief justice and 9 other judges; note – the Judicature has jurisdiction in all civil, criminal, and constitutional matters

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice and other judges of the Judicature appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (a 7-member independent body of judges, presidential appointees, and the Commission chairman) and subject to the approval of Parliament; all Judicature judges appointed until retirement at age 65

subordinate courts: magistrates' courts; District Appeals Court; local courts

Political parties and leaders

All People's Congress or APC [Ernest Bai KOROMA]

Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP [Somano KAPEN]

numerous other parties

Political pressure groups and leaders

other: student unions; trade unions

International organization participation


Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and blue; green symbolizes agriculture, mountains, and natural resources, white represents unity and justice, and blue the sea and the natural harbor in Freetown

National symbol(s)

lion; national colors: green, white, blue

National anthem

name: "High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free"

lyrics/music: Clifford Nelson FYLE/John Joseph AKA

note: adopted 1961


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. Since 2014, the rapid spread of Ebolavirus has caused a contraction of economic activity in several areas, including transportation, health, and industrial production. Iron ore production has 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. While the World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone free of Ebolavirus in November 2015, the epidemic has disrupted economic activity, deterred private investment, and strained the budget and restricted public investment projects. A rise in international donor support will partially offset these fiscal constraints.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 158/230

$9.833 billion (2015 est.)

$12.92 billion (2014 est.)

$12.07 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$4.266 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 224/225

-23.9% (2015 est.)

7.1% (2014 est.)

20.1% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 214/230

$1,600 (2015 est.)

$2,100 (2014 est.)

$1,900 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 171/179

1.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

1.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

2.3% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 87.5%

government consumption: 10.6%

investment in fixed capital: 15.6%

investment in inventories: 0.5%

exports of goods and services: 7.6%

imports of goods and services: -21.8%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 66.8%

industry: 3.4%

services: 29.8% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

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


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

Industrial production growth rate 201/202

-51% (2015 est.)

Labor force 114/233

2.53 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: NA%

industry: NA%

services: NA%

Unemployment rate


Population below poverty line

70.2% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.6%

highest 10%: 33.6% (2003)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 3/144

62.9 (1989)


revenues: $544.1 million

expenditures: $737.3 million (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 206/219

12.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 160/220

-4.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 86/176

48.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

39.3% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 195/226

7.8% (2015 est.)

7.3% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate


Commercial bank prime lending rate 15/184

19% (31 December 2015 est.)

19.41% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 164/192

$509.6 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$431.9 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 171/193

$960.1 million (31 December 2014 est.)

$857.3 million (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 165/191

$574 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$516 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

Current account balance 96/197

-$487 million (2015 est.)

-$466 million (2014 est.)

Exports 171/224

$533.3 million (2015 est.)

$2.086 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish

Exports - partners

China 80%, Belgium 8.8% (2014)

Imports 182/223

$929.3 million (2015 est.)

$1.829 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals

Imports - partners

China 13.2%, US 7.1%, India 6.8%, UK 6.6%, Belgium 6.1%, Netherlands 4.7%, South Africa 4.6% (2014)

Debt - external 156/206

$1.368 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$1.395 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 111/120

$1.064 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$1.012 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 103/105

$9.7 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$6.7 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

leones (SLL) per US dollar -

4,923.8 (2015 est.)

4,524.2 (2014 est.)

4,524.2 (2013 est.)

4,344 (2012 est.)

4,336.1 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 194/220

145 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 195/219

134.9 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 195/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 201/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 178/214

81,000 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 175/214

33.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 180/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 29/214

66.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 127/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 190/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 189/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 125/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 190/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 131/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 175/212

4,400 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 132/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 166/213

4,428 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 127/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 193/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 180/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 133/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 194/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 163/212

1.311 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 192/219

total subscriptions: 16,500

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 120/217

total: 4.8 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 83 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: marginal telephone service with poor infrastructure

domestic: the national microwave radio relay trunk system connects Freetown to Bo and Kenema; while mobile-cellular service is growing rapidly from a small base, service area coverage remains limited

international: country code - 232; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2009)

Broadcast media

1 government-owned TV station; 1 private TV station began operating in 2005; a pay-TV service began operations in late 2007; 1 government-owned national radio station; about two dozen private radio stations primarily clustered in major cities; transmissions of several international broadcasters are available (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 9, shortwave 1 (2001)

Television broadcast stations

2 (1999)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 191/232

282 (2012)

Internet users 173/217

total: 85,600

percent of population: 1.5% (2014 est.)


Airports 164/236

8 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

over 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 7

914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2013)


2 (2013)

Roadways 131/223

total: 11,300 km

paved: 904 km

unpaved: 10,396 km (2002)

Waterways 71/107

800 km (600 km navigable year round) (2011)

Merchant marine 34/156

total: 215

by type: bulk carrier 22, cargo 120, carrier 2, chemical tanker 19, container 6, liquefied gas 3, passenger/cargo 2, petroleum tanker 28, refrigerated cargo 7, roll on/roll off 4, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 1

foreign-owned: 98 (Bangladesh 1, China 19, Cyprus 2, Egypt 3, Estonia 2, Hong Kong 7, Japan 4, Lebanon 2, North Korea 2, Romania 2, Russia 7, Singapore 9, Syria 13, Taiwan 7, Turkey 9, UAE 1, UK 1, Ukraine 5, Yemen 2) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Freetown, Pepel, Sherbro Islands

Military and Security

Military branches

Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF): Army (includes Maritime Wing and Air Wing) (2013)

Military service age and obligation

18 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service (younger with parental consent); women are eligible to serve; no conscription; candidates must be HIV negative (2012)

Military expenditures 118/132

0.72% of GDP (2012)

0.8% of GDP (2011)

0.72% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

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