• Macroeconomic Context

    Sierra Leone’s economy grew by 7.8% on average during 2003-2014 but contracted by 21% in 2015 following the Ebola outbreak and a decline in the price of iron ore, the main export product. Although the country was declared Ebola free in March 2016, the economic recovery has been volatile. Growth rebounded to 6.4% in 2016 only to decelerate to 3.8% in 2017 and remaining roughly stagnant at 3.7% in 2018. Adding to the challenge of recovery, a large landslide hit Freetown in August 2017, further disrupting economic activity and slowing the pace of the recovery.

    The current growth patterns have slightly reversed the gains in poverty reduction: per capita income, estimated at US$506 in 2018, remains below its pre-Ebola level ($660) compounded by a population growth of about 2%. The 2018 Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey provisionally puts the overall poverty headcount at 56.7% compared to 53.8 in 2011. The poverty rate remains higher in rural areas (72.2%) than urban towns (18.4% in Freetown).

    Broad macroeconomic stability is yet to be assured. Inflationary pressure has persisted due to the depreciation of the exchange rate, food supply constraints early in 2018 and the adverse impact of the liberalization of fuel prices in July 2018. The Bank of Sierra Leone increased the policy rate (MPR) by 200 basis points to 16.5% in December 2018 in a bid to reduce the high inflation. The Leone depreciated by 12.0% year-on-year, underpinned by the widening of the current account deficit to 14.0% of GDP (from 11.7% in 2017), following the sharp drop in exports earnings.

    The overall fiscal deficit is estimated at 6.6% of GDP in 2018, a considerable reduction from the 8.6% of GDP in 2017. Total domestic revenue increased to 17.2% of GDP in 2018 (from 14.9% in the previous year) due mainly to elimination of fuel subsidies, reduction of excessive duty and tax waivers and introduction of a treasury single account (TSA).

    Total public debt reached 66.3% of GDP in 2018 (from 64.6% of GDP a year earlier), reflecting depreciation of the exchange rate as well as the increase in domestic debt. The recent World Bank and IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis assessed the country to be at a “high risk” of debt distress for both external public debt and overall public debt.

    Growth is expected to improve to 5.4% in 2019 and stabilize at 5.2% by 2021, largely reflecting the recovery in mining sector but also improvements in agriculture and services.

    Political Context

    Sierra Leone held general elections on March 7, 2018 to elect a new president, members of Parliament and local councils in the fourth cycle of elections since the civil war in 2002. Opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio won in a run-off after the first round failed to produce an outright winner. The losing All People’s Congress (APC) won majority in Parliament with 68 seats to the SLPP’s 49. Two new parties – the Coalition for Change (C4C) and the National Grand Coalition (NGC) – won eight and four seats respectively. Three independent candidates were elected. This is the first time a winning party has failed to have majority in Parliament.

    The new administration on January 29, 2019 launched three Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) to probe into the governance activities of the past administration covering 2007 to 2018. Persons of Interest include former president, vice presidents, ministers, deputies, and other civil and public servants. The judge-led Commissions are expected to hold proceedings for six months though there is provision for an extension should the need arise. The main opposition party filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking clarifications on some constitutional provisions, which they allege had been breached by the government in setting up the Commissions.

    The Sierra Leone Parliament on February 22, 2019 ratified a State of Public Emergency proclamation made by the President on rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls, but the main opposition insists the debate was inconclusive and that “a Public State of Emergency does not exist.”

    Political tension between the ruling party and the opposition came to a head following a local council by-election in the Kambia District, which was won by the ruling party candidate. The two opposition parties (APC and NCG), which contested in the election, rejected the results.

    Development Challenges

    Until the outbreak of Ebola in May 2014, Sierra Leone was seeking to attain middle-income status by 2035, but the country still carries its post-conflict attributes of high youth unemployment, corruption and weak governance. The country continues to face the daunting challenge of enhancing transparency in managing its natural resources and creating fiscal space for development. Problems of poor infrastructure and widespread rural and urban impoverishment persist despite remarkable strides and reforms.

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019

  • The last Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) covered FY10 – FY13 done jointly with IFC and AfDB. The CAS Progress Report was completed in June 2012. The three pillars combined from both documents are: (i) Strengthening the regulatory and institutional capacity in the extractives sector; (ii) Economic diversification through private sector development and establishment of “growth poles”; and (iii) Infrastructure for the extractives sector.

    Sierra Leone’s new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) currently under preparation will cover the period FY20-FY25. It presents a unique opportunity to support the government’s vision. The preliminary structure of the CPF is around three focus areas: (i) Human Capital Acceleration, (ii) Economic Diversification and Competitiveness, and (iii) Governance, Institutions and Resilience. This is consistent with the government’s new National Development Plan (NDP) launched on February 28, 2019. Several consultations with various stakeholders including CSOs, private sector, central and local government, development partners have been undertaken in different parts of the country.

    The current International Development Association portfolio in Sierra Leone stands at $467 million (credits and grants) covering 12 national and three regional operations with an undisbursed balance of $275 million (59%). Health, nutrition and population projects account for 36% of the portfolio, followed by energy and extractives 26%; and agriculture and budget support 8% each.

    The IDA18 resource envelope for Sierra Leone is approximately $320 million, all of which is expected to be delivered to the World Bank Board of Directors by the end of FY19. 

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019

  • Revitalizing Education Development in Sierra Leone Project (ReDISL) – $31.37 million: Through this project, detailed data on school profile (students, teachers, facilities) and geo-coordinates is now available for decision making; Performance-Based Financing (PBF) yields improvement in teacher attendance between 2016 and 2018. Nationally, teacher attendance increased by 5 percentage points between September 2016 and February 2018. The 2018 ASC results show that, on comparable indicators, PBF schools are performing better than non-PBF schools. The PBF design is set up to stimulate good practices in schools thereby improving the learning environment. There are fewer makeshift classrooms in PBF schools compared to non-PBF schools; PBF schools have greater engagement with mothers’ clubs compared to non-PBF schools; and the PBF schools support school management committees (SMCs) in training more than non-PBF schools.

    Social Safety Net Program – $17 million: The Bank supports the Government’s flagship Social Safety Net Program (SSNP) with $17m. The program currently benefits 30,453 extremely poor households with quarterly cash transfers, including beneficiaries temporarily covered under the Ebola immediate recovery period. 94% of the beneficiaries are women drawn from 12 out of the 16 districts in the country.

    Energy Sector Utility Reform Project (ESURP) – $40 million: has made a lot of progress in laying the foundation for improving the performance of the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA)-both technical and financial. During the last two years, the total technical and commercial losses have been reduced to around 36% from about 40% and the overall collection rate has increased from about 78% to about 85%. But the aggregate technical, commercial, and collection losses are still over 45% and are much higher than the average losses of 20–25% in many Sub-Saharan Africa countries. A data and information system that can provide a more reliable tool for monitoring and assessing the technical and financial performance of EDSA has largely been put in place. The reliability of the distribution network has improved in terms of average duration of outages per month and average interruption frequency per year. This is achieved through frequent diagnose and analysis of the system and timely and preventive maintenance measures.

    Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADEP): This is a $40 million project that seeks to promote smallholder commercialization by fostering productive business linkages between smallholder farmers and selected agribusiness firms and other commodity off-takers in Sierra Leone. Project performance has been satisfactory. With the support to nine agribusinesses, the project is reaching 38,000 smallholders who are being supported to cultivate 46,982ha with improved planting materials. The first harvests of some 7,707 ha farms of some of the beneficiary smallholders are expected in the next couple of months. And in improving access to markets, the project has so far completed the rehabilitation and maintenance of 166.5 km of feeder roads for the 77 communities located along the corridor of the roads in 9 districts. As a result, average travel time has seen significant reduction from over 20min/km to about 2min/km, and the communities that were hitherto cut-off during the rains are having year-round road access to farms, markets, schools, health centers, etc.

    Moreover, the project has completed the identification, prioritization and design with bidding documents prepared for 516.32km roads to be rehabilitated and maintained. So far, the total number of direct project beneficiaries reached stands at 8,837 smallholders of which 3,093 are women.

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019

  • The Bank continues to engage with its partners in different sectors at both policy level and technical level dialogue with the aim of promoting development in the country. Key areas of engagement include governance, education, health, agriculture, private sector, and extractives. Under the Multi-Donor Budget Support (MDBS) Framework involving the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), International Development Association (IDA), European Union (EU), and Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), coordination among members and with the government has improved over the past few years. The Bank also enjoys close collaboration with United Nations institutions and other development partners.

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019



Sierra Leone : Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments


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Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Main Office Contact
17 Spur Road
Freetown, Sierra Leone
For general information and inquiries
Moses Alex Kargbo
Communications Associate
+232 78 874600
For project-related issues and complaints