Overview

  • Macroeconomic Context

    After slowing to 3.5% in 2018 from 3.8% in the previous year, economic growth in Sierra Leone is projected to rebound to 4.8% in 2019 driven by increased activities in agriculture and construction as well as the resumption of iron ore production and exports. Growth in these labor-intensive sectors could make a dent on poverty which remains widespread in the country (more than half of the population lives in poverty, according to the latest Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey (SLIHS)). The SLIHS 2018 will inform in the next few months the evolution of poverty in the country since 2011. Agriculture will continue to drive the non-iron ore gross domestic product (GDP) growth, with the sector expected to grow by 4.2% in 2019, spurred by increased investments and expansion in the crops, livestock and fisheries sub-sectors. The growth in services is expected to slow due to weaker performance in tourism, transportation and communication.

    The macroeconomic situation remained challenging during the first half of 2019 (2019H1) as inflationary pressure and exchange rate depreciation increased. Inflation, which moderated from 18.2 to 16.8% in 2018, increased to 17.2% in 2019H1 reflecting a sharp depreciation of exchange rate and elevated nonfood prices due mainly to the increase in fuel prices. The Leone came under intense pressure in 2019H1, depreciating by 4.8% and 6.5% (YoY) at the official and parallel markets, respectively, reflecting lower-than-expected export receipts and donor inflows as well as increased demand for foreign exchange to finance imports.

    The fiscal deficit will continue to improve as the government strengthens its fiscal consolidation measures. The overall fiscal deficit will narrow from 5.7% of GDP to 3.4% due mainly to increased revenue mobilization and expenditure management. Total revenue is expected to increase from 14.9% of GDP to 15.7% in 2019 as the government continues to implement its medium-term revenue mobilization strategy, which includes automation of customs documentation and tax processes and improving the operations of the treasury single account. Tax revenues are therefore expected to increase to 14.0% of GDP from 13.7% in the previous year.

    Total public debt is estimated to increase from 60.9% of GDP in 2018 to 62.3% of GDP in 2019, reflecting depreciation of the exchange rate as well as increased domestic debt on account of the conversion of stock of arrears into debt. The country remains at a “high risk” of debt distress for both external public debt and overall public debt. The current account deficit of the balance of payments is expected to narrow to 11.4% of GDP in 2019 helped by the slowdown in imports, which will more than offset the continued sluggish exports. Gross external reserves increased slightly to US$500m (3.4 months of import) in 2019H1 from $483m in 2018 (3.3 months of import).

    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. The opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio won by 0.6 percentage points and for the first time a winning party failed to have majority in Parliament. The losing All People’s Congress (APC) had 68 seats (52%) and the SLPP had 49 seats (37%). Two new parties – the Coalition for Change (C4C) and the National Grand Coalition (NGC) – won eight and four seats respectively.

    However, the ruling party petitioned the election of 16 opposition MPs and the High Court ruled in its favor, nullifying the election of 10 – the seats of eight were awarded to the ruling party while two were to be re-run. The ruling party won the re-run in Constituency 040 held on September 14, while the opposition won a by-election in Constituency 043. The ruling party now has a majority with 59 seats and the main opposition has 58 seats. One re-run by-election is pending, the outcome of which may produce an equal number of representatives (59-59 should the opposition win) or add to the ruling party’s majority (60 if it wins).

    The government early this year launched three Commissions of Inquiry to probe into the governance activities of the past administration: 2007-2018. Persons of Interest include former president, vice presidents, ministers, deputies, and other civil and public servants. The Commissions are expected to conclude hearings by end of October with recommendations presented to government by end of 2019.

    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: Oct 13, 2019

  • The last Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) covered FY10 – FY13 done jointly with the International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank. 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) will cover the period FY20-FY25. It presents a unique opportunity to support the government’s vision. The 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. Consultations with various stakeholders including CSOs, private sector, central and local government, Parliament, development partners, media had been undertaken in different parts of the country.

    The current International Development Assocation portfolio in Sierra Leone stands at $597 million (credits and grants) covering 13 national and three regional operations with an undisbursed balance of $305 million (51%). Energy and Extractives account for 28% of the portfolio; Health, nutrition and population 27%; followed by transport and social protection and jobs at 8% each.

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

    Last Updated: Oct 13, 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 five percentage points between September 2016 and February 2018. The 2018 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 7,707ha 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 166.5km of feeder roads for the 77 communities located along the corridor of the roads in nine 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: Oct 13, 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: Oct 13, 2019

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LENDING

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
Wilberforce
Freetown, Sierra Leone
+232-78-874600
For general information and inquiries
Moses Alex Kargbo
Communications Associate
+232 78 874600
mkargbo@worldbank.org
For project-related issues and complaints
sierraleonealert@worldbank.org