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Sierra Leone; Introduction

01 August 2005

Africa Review World of Information
Source: Dow Jones & Reuters

The English translation of Sierra Leone means Lion Mountains. In fact, its educated élite would jokingly refer to it as the Athens of Africa, when the country became known – in West Africa at least, as a centre of education. It was in Freetown, the settlement established by the British in 1787 to provide a home for freed slaves (later mainly captives freed from slave ships who had never left African waters) that in 1827 was established the institution that was to become Fourah Bay College. There, in the late 19th century, University education began in West Africa. Many future African leaders and politicians attended the college.

By 1876 Freetown was already well-endowed with educational establishments. But it was not until 1896 that the greater part of modern Sierra Leone, called until independence the Protectorate was added to the original British colony.

Emerging from a lengthy civil war, Sierra Leone is an extremely poor African country with a highly unequal distribution of wealth. Surviving on its substantial mineral, agricultural and fishery resources, the country’s economic and social infrastructures are gravely under-developed. The poor security situation continues to obstruct the economic outlook of the country. However, the end of conflict in January 2002 marked the beginning of reconstruction, reconciliation and consolidation of peace.

Recording the lowest life expectancy in the world at 35 years, Sierra Leone is ranked bottom on the UNDP’s Human Development Index with a literacy rate of 20 per cent, the highest maternal mortality rate in the world and one of the highest infant mortality rates as well. The war has drastically cut government revenues from mining and seen the destruction of hundreds of schools, health clinics and administrative facilities. Forced displacement has also effected more than half the population with between 20,000–75,000 people killed and thousands mutilated.

The civil war

The civil war had begun in March 1991 when a group of Sierra Leonean dissident, crossed over the border into Sierra Leone from Liberia. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by Foday Sankoh, was set up to overthrow the All People’s Congress (APC) government of President Joseph Momoh. In 1992 the APC was replaced via a coup by a military government – the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) – led by 23-year-old Valentine Strasser. Foreign and domestic pressure forced the NPRC to hold general elections in 1996. Despite the RUF’s use of terror, a new civilian government formed under Ahmed Tejan Kabbah became the first freely elected administration in 34 years.

In 1997, a group of disaffected Sierra Leone Army soldiers seized power, designating themselves as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). The Kabbah government managed to flee into exile while the AFRC invited the rebel forces to join them. Freetown was retaken in March 1998 and by April Kabbah was reinstated as president.

In January 1999, rebels took much of Freetown after rumours of an imminent attack were ignored. Caught off guard, the Ecowas Monitoring Group (Ecomog) and the Kamajors (a group of militia loyal to Kabbah) fought hard to recapture the capital. Before the rebels could be forced out of the city, much of it was destroyed.

By mid-1999, all parties agreed and signed a regionally brokered cease-fire, an agreement known as the Lomé Accord. It included an amnesty for all crimes and human rights abuses committed during the civil war and provided the framework for a programme of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of all participants in the conflict. However, UN and Ecomog forces deployed in Sierra Leone to uphold the peace process came under attack from the RUF after its leader, Sam Bokari, said they were not welcome. In mid-2000, the British government deployed paratroopers to Freetown to help stabilise the country and back up UN forces. In 2001, UN troops for the first time began to deploy peacefully in rebel-held territory. Disarmament of rebels began, and the British-trained Sierra Leone army started deploying in rebel-held areas.

This same year the government postponed presidential and parliamentary elections – set for February and March – for six months because of continuing insecurity, which it said made it impossible to conduct free and fair elections nationwide. In January 2002, the war was finally declared over and the UN mission declared the disarmament of 45,000 fighters as complete. The government and the UN agreed to set up a war crimes court and in May 2002 Kabbah won a landslide victory in elections with 70 per cent of the vote. His Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) secured a majority in parliament, winning 83 of the 112 seats.

In June 2003, the UN Security Council agreed to lift sanctions on Sierra Leone diamond exports. The sanctions had been imposed three years earlier to restrict the use of profits from diamond sales for the purchase of weapons. This indicated that Sierra Leone had finally reached a turning-point and was no longer seen as a danger to international security. Then in May 2003 the first local elections to be held in three decades passed off peacefully.

Human rights abuses

The armed conflict in Sierra Leone was characterised by abuses not only by government soldiers, but also rebel forces, Ecomog forces, Kamajor militia and other splinter groups. Unarmed civilians were captured and held hostage, ill-treated, tortured and killed arbitrarily. The mutilation of civilians included the amputation of hands and feet, which became a hallmark of Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war. The abuses committed by all parties violated virtually every human rights legal instrument to which Sierra Leone has signed as well as standard laws of war as represented by the Geneva Convention.

The UN established a Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate human rights violations committed by all parties during the war. In March 2003, RUF leader Foday Sankoh was brought before the SCSL, but he died in July, before a verdict could be delivered. War crimes trials of senior militia leaders from both sides of the civil war began in June 2004.

The economy

Sierra Leone’s economic infrastructure has been seriously degraded as a result of poor internal policies, inappropriate responses to external factors and inefficient implementation of aid. Sierra Leone remains dependent upon the continued support the IMF and other sources of foreign assistance. The government is in fact dependent upon foreign donors for at least 65 per cent of its budget, funded mainly by the EU, the British government with other bilateral sources, such as the US, Italy, and Germany.

A major producer of diamonds, Sierra Leone’s annual production estimates range between US$70–250 million, although before the UN sanctions were lifted in June 2003, only a fraction passed through formal export channels (estimated at US$25 million in 2001).

The Sierra Leone government published its national recovery strategy, which was aimed at international financial donors, in October 2002. The strategy won plaudits from multilateral and bilateral donors, who pledged around US$250 million in aid to facilitate recovery. Although donor support has resumed, delays in disbursing aid have undermined the government’s fiscal targets, which made it impossible for the government to fulfil many of its poverty- alleviation and rehabilitation programmes.

Following the end of the civil war in January 2002, the economy has seen growth. In 2003, GDP grew to 6.5 per cent and is expected to increase to 6.8 per cent in 2004, this however is largely due to donor aid rather than a strengthening economy. It is likely to be a long time before the very low social indicators improve and the rising Aids prevalence rate will put strain on the country’s economy in the following years.


Sierra Leone’s stability will remain fragile unless a number of issues are resolved. These include, but are not limited to, an influx of refugees, high unemployment, poor education, severe poverty, widespread corruption and a ‘culture of impunity’. In an attempt to face this enormous challenge, the government has made partnerships both nationally and internationally with the purpose of driving the country towards recovery. The HIV/Aids epidemic must also be acknowledged and dealt with, something that will have to be attended to once the authority, influence and financial power of government throughout the country is established and secured. Although the country is endowed with mineral wealth, the economy will continue to rely heavily on substantial international aid with little hope for recovery or sustainability in the near future.

Risk assessment
Economic Improving
Political Improving
Regional stability Improving

Sierra Leone; Key Facts
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information
Official name: Republic of Sierra Leone

Head of State: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (SLPP) (elected 1996; re-elected 14 May 2002)

Head of government: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

Ruling party: Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) (elected 14 May 2002)

Area: 72,325 square km

Population: 4.85 million (2004)

Capital: Freetown

Official language: English

Currency: Leone (Le) = 100 cents

Exchange rate: Le2,455.00 per US$ (Jul 2004)

GDP per capita: US$169 (2003)

GDP real growth: 6.50% (2003)

Labour force: 1.37 million (2003)

Inflation: 7.40% (2003)

Balance of trade: -US$155.00 million (2003)

Foreign debt: US$1.50 billion (2003)

Factiva (R) Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Key Indicators Sierra Leone
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information

                                         Unit      1999      2000      2001      2002      2003
 Population                        m      4.29      4.41      4.57      4.76      4.80
 Gross domestic product 
  (GDP)                        US$bn      0.67      0.64      0.68      0.79      0.81
 GDP per capita                  US$       142       133       133       151       169
 GDP real growth                   %      -8.1       3.8       5.4       6.6       6.5
 Inflation                         %      34.1      -0.9       2.1      -2.2       7.4
 Exports (fob) (goods)          US$m      61.0      75.0      78.0     103.0      35.0
 Imports (fob) (goods)          US$m      78.0     161.0     303.0     290.0     190.0
 Balance of trade               US$m     -17.0     -86.0    -225.0    -187.0    -155.0
 Current account                US$m     -42.0    -100.0    -117.0    -173.0         –
 Foreign debt                  US$bn       1.3       1.3       1.2         –         –
 Total reserves 
   minus gold                   US$m      39.5      50.9      51.6      84.7         –
 Foreign exchange               US$m      18.6      45.6      51.2      60.6         –
 Exchange rate               per US$  1,804.20  2,092.13  1,986.15  2,099.03  2,230.00

Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Social Profile
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information

4.85 million (2004)

Ethnic make-up

African groups: Temne (30 per cent), Mende (30 per cent), others (20 per cent)); Creole (Krio) (descendants of freed Jamaican slaves settled in the Freetown area in the late-18th century) (10 per cent); refugees from Liberia’s civil war and small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis and Indians.


Islam (60 per cent), indigenous beliefs (30 per cent), Christian (10 per cent).


Government plans to increase primary school enrolment and to reduce the gender gap in education has only been under way since 2001 and while enrolment levels are rising the gender gap has also widened. The civil conflict has left about 50 per cent of primary schools functioning in inadequate accommodation. Unicef is assisting in the provision of teaching and learning materials and teacher training, it is also funding the Complementary Rapid Education for Primary Schools (CREPS) programme, designed to enable over-aged children to complete the primary school programme.

Primary education begins at aged six and lasts for six years. Junior secondary school lasts for three years. Students who are successfully may progress to the senior secondary school for a further three years and then onto university.

The University of Sierra Leone is the only institute of higher learning.

Compulsory years: Six to 12.

Enrolment rate: 39 per cent, boys; 34 per cent, girls; primary enrolment (Unicef).


Since the civil conflict in Sierra Leone ended in January 2002, UN plans to aid the country’s health programmes has begun with the knowledge that this is the country with the world’s lowest ranking in the Human Development Index. Technical aid, rehabilitation and funding will be provided through a four-year programme (2004–07), including measures to improve water sources and sanitation and HIV/Aids education and prevention.


Aids has killed between two to three times more people in Sierra Leone than its bloody civil war, yet has received relatively little attention. Around 68,000 people are infected with HIV/Aids, 3,300 of them are under 15-years-old. The adult infection rate is estimated at around 7 per cent (2001). Since the beginning of the epidemic, over 56,000 children have lost their mother or both parents to the disease (1999). There were an estimated 8,200 Aids deaths in 1999. The spread of the disease is due to a low prevelance of condom use – only 4 per cent of the population uses any form of contraception.

Life expectancy: Male 40 years; female 45 years (2003).

Fertility rate/Maternal mortality rate: Six births per woman (2003). Maternal mortality, 1,800 per 100,000 live births (Unicef 2004).

Birth rate/Death rate: 44 births per 1,000 population; 20.7 deaths per 1,000 population (2003).

Infant mortality rate: 147 per 1,000 live births (2003)

Main cities

Freetown (capital, estimated population 1.1 million in 2004), Koidu (113,700), Makeni (110,700), Bo (82,400).

Languages spoken

English is the main medium for business. Mende is spoken principally in the south, Temne in the north and Krio (English- based Creole) is spoken by 10 per cent of the population and understood by 95 per cent.

Official language/s




Dailies: Main daily newspapers are The Pool Newspaper, Concord Times, Awoko, Independent Observer, Standard Times and Daily Mail.

Weeklies: Weeklies include New Sierra Leonean, Vision and Weekend Spark.

Business: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting publishes the quarterly Sierra Leone Trade Journal.


Two commercial radio and one commercial TV stations (mainly received in Freetown area). Broadcasts in English, French and local languages.


Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Historical profile
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information
1787 The state was founded by the British as a homeland for freed slaves.

1808 Freetown became a British colony. Over the following 60 years around 70,000 ex-slaves arrived in the country, mainly in the Freetown area. The colonial authorities appointed non-indigenous Africans to the civil service and senior administrative positions, thus laying the foundation for future civil strife.

1954 Sierra Leone was allowed some degree of self-rule through a new local administration. Sir Milton Margai of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) was appointed the head of the newly-established administration.

1961 Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain in April, but remained part of the Commonwealth. Sir Milton Margai became the country’s first prime minister.

1964 Following Sir Milton’s death, his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, was appointed as prime minister.

1967 After the All Peoples Congress (APC) won the parliamentary election and its leader, Siaka Stevens, was appointed as prime minister, Sierra Leonean military officers staged a coup.

1968 After an army revolt, Stevens and the APC returned to government.

1971 Sierra Leone became a republic. Stevens was appointed as the country’s first president.

1978 A new constitution was introduced, which established one-party rule in the country.

1985 The APC appointed Major General Joseph Momoh as president.

1991 Fighting from the civil war in neighbouring Liberia spilled across into Sierra Leone. Taking advantage of this, rebel groups opposed to the government of Major General Joseph Momoh – principally the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh – launched a series of attacks, which took much of the eastern part of the country.

1992 A coup brought Captain Valentine Strasser to power. He presided over a military government, the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), which suspended the constitution and ruled by decree.

1996 Strasser was deposed by his colleague Brigadier Julius Bio. Multi-party elections ended four years of military rule. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP became president.

1997 Major Johnny-Paul Koroma led a coup and ousted President Kabbah, who went into exile in Guinea. The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (ARFC) was installed in government, backed by the RUF. The international community condemned the coup and imposed economic sanctions. The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) dispatched a peace-keeping force, the Ecowas Monitoring Group (Ecomog), to Sierra Leone in order to reinstate the government of President Kabbah. A peace accord was reached in October in which Koroma pledged to step down in 1998.

1998 Ecomog launched a military offensive against the AFRC after Koroma showed no sign of implementing the 1997 agreement. Ecomog ejected the AFRC from Freetown and President Kabbah returned to Sierra Leone. The RUF remained in control of large areas outside the capital.

1999 The government and the RUF signed a peace agreement, allowing for the deployment of UN peace-keeping forces. A Cabinet of National Unity was sworn in by President Kabbah.

2000 British forces were deployed in Sierra Leone to provide emergency logistical and tactical support for the mainly third-world UN force. Foday Sankoh was arrested after peace with the RUF broke down.

2001 Legislative and presidential elections were postponed because of the unstable security situation in the country.

2002 The state of emergency was lifted. President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (SLPP) was re-elected. The SLPP won the parliamentary elections.

2003 According to a survey of food production by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food production had recovered as many people who had moved away during the 10-year civil war returned and resumed planting their fields.

2004 By February, the disarmament and rehabilitation of more than 70,000 civil war combatants had been officially completed.

The first local elections in more than three decades were held in May. War crimes trials of senior militia leaders from both sides of the civil war began in June.

Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Political Structure
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information

A multi-party democratic constitution, based on the US system, was adopted in October 1991, following a referendum. On 25 January 2002, an amendment to the constitution was promulgated which introduced the District Block System (DBS) for voting.

Form of state

Multiparty republic

The executive

Executive power is vested in the president, who is directly elected for a five-year term. Fifty-five per cent of the vote must be won for victory in the first round of the presidential election. The cabinet is composed of ministers of state who are appointed by and answerable to the president.

National legislature

The national legislature is the 112-member House of Representatives. Under the District Block System (DBS), eight representatives from each of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts are elected by proportional representation. In addition, 12 paramount chiefs, each representing a district, also sit in parliament.

Legal system

The legal system is based on English law and is composed of a Supreme Court, Appeals Court and a High Court. In April 2002, the UN announced the establishment of a Special Court operating under Sierra Leonean law, to try Sierra Leonean war criminals.

Last elections

14 May 2002 (presidential and parliamentary)

Results: Presidential: Ahmad Tejan Kabbah won 70.6 per cent of the vote, Ernest Koroma 22.4 per cent.

Parliamentary: the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won 83 of 112 seats, the All People’s Congress (APC) 27 and the Peace and Liberation Party two. The former rebels, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), failed to win a single seat.

Next elections

2006 (legislative); 2007 (presidential).

Political parties

Ruling party

Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) (elected 14 May 2002)

Main opposition party

All People’s Congress (APC)

Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Agriculture
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information\
The civil war seriously disrupted agricultural activity. The agricultural sector contributes 25 per cent to GDP and employs 65 per cent of labour force.

Area under cultivation is approximately 25 per cent of the total land area. It is limited by a traditional land tenure system and is mostly in the hands of smallholders engaged in subsistence farming.

Major cash export crops are cocoa, coffee, palm kernels and ginger.

Rice is the country’s staple foodstuff, but despite government efforts towards self-sufficiency, imports have risen. Other food crops include maize, cassava, sweet potatoes and sorghum.

Production has been hampered by a lack of incentives and a poor marketing/distribution system. However, producer prices have been substantially increased.

The fishing sector offers considerable potential and has been expanded with oyster and shrimp farming.

The estimated crop production for 2003 included: 282,600 metric tonnes (mt) cereals in total, wheat, 9,800mt maize, 377,248mt cassava, 25,446mt sweet potatoes, 9,500mt sorghum, 250,000mt rice, 30,000mt plantains, 56,400mt pulses, 405,294mt roots and tubers, 2,600mt coconuts, 180,000mt oil palm fruit, 80,000mt citrus fruit, 13,500mt tomatoes, 52,305mt oilcrops, 11,000mt cocoa beans, 17,000mt green coffee, 24,000mt sugar cane, 6,500mt mangoes, 2,600mt taro, 10,000mt millet, 173,500mt fruit in total, 218,500mt vegetables in total. Estimated livestock production included: 22,449mt meat in total, 5,400mt beef, 2,320mt pig-meat, 1,715mt lamb and goat meat, 10,524mt poultry, 8,290mt eggs, 21,250mt milk, 500mt honey, 1,290mt cattle hides, 220mt sheepskins.

Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Industry and Commerce
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information
The industrial sector accounts for 12 per cent of GDP and employs 5 per cent of the workforce.

The sector is mainly limited to light manufacturing of consumer goods such as cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, plastic footwear, nails, paint and confectionery. Emphasis is placed on import substitution industries, but attempts to establish heavy industry have met with only limited success and have been undermined by political instability.

Expansion is limited by weak local demand, power shortages, foreign exchange shortages and low investment.


Tourist arrivals increased by 66.67 per cent in 2000. Statistics are unavailable for 2001 onwards.


The mining sector contributes around 35 per cent to GDP and employs 10 per cent of the workforce.

Foreign companies suspended mining operations due to the civil war and all mining permissions were suspended in January 2000. As a result, the mining sector was increasingly dominated by smuggling and 'conflict diamonds’, which were sold to fund the rebel’s war effort. In June 2003, Sierra Leone regained handling control of its diamonds after UN sanctions were lifted.

Bauxite mining is also an important sector with large reserves at Sieromco and Port Loko. However, the war stopped production and with local infrastructure now in a state of disrepair, a resumption of mining activities is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Before the war, Sierra Leone’s rutile production was the largest in the world. The Gbangbatok mine in the south-west used to produce 25 per cent of the world’s rutile. The owners of the country’s sole producer, Sierra Rutile, are Nord Resources of the US and Consolidated Rutile of Australia. In April 2003, the government said that the rehabilitation of the rutile mine had been delayed, but said that rutile production would begin once Sierra Rutile had secured financing.


Sierra Leone imports all its oil requirements. Several companies have carried out exploratory surveys for domestic supplies. In August 2000, the government announced a project to prospect for potential reserves in the Liberian basin within the country’s territorial waters. It disclosed substantial oil reserves in May 2001, following an offshore survey by US-based TGC.

Downstream, a refinery with a capacity of 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) exists at Freetown, but has been mothballed since 1982.

Sierra Leone does not produce or import natural gas or coal.


Installed generating capacity is approximately 100MW (mostly oil-fired thermal power stations). The Sierra Leone Electricity Company (SLEC) oversees electricity generation and supply.

The serious energy shortage in Sierra Leone has forced many citizens to buy personal diesel generators; more than 86 per cent of the population use kerosene for lighting.

Banking and insurance

The banking sector has been weakened by war.

Central bank

Bank of Sierra Leone

Main financial centre


Factiva (R) Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Economy
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information
Sierra Leone is an impoverished country, despite its extensive mineral resources. Economic performance has been severely affected by the brutal civil war, leading to a recession and tumbling per capita income. The country has also been wracked with hyperinflation in the late 1990s. The war had an adverse impact on government finances, with the fiscal deficit rising every year since the start of the conflict from 7.5 per cent of GDP in 1997 to 21 per cent in 2000.

Around two-thirds of the population are engaged in subsistence agriculture, this also provides around half of total GDP. Bauxite and rutile mines were closed down during the civil conflict, however there are plans to re-ignite these industries. Diamonds provide for most hard currency earnings, although during the conflict they were used to fund the armies as opposed to improving social infrastructure. The economy is looking at developing tourism, a sector unheard of in the civil war years. In 2004, China invested US$270 million in the development of hotels, if development in this sector is successful Sierra Leone could have a major boost to GDP.

Following the end of the civil war in January 2002, the economy has seen growth. In 2003, GDP grew to 6.5 per cent and is expected to increase to 6.8 per cent in 2004, this however is largely due to donor aid rather than a strengthening economy. It is likely to be a long time before the very low social indicators improve and the rising Aids prevalence rate will put strain on the country’s economy in the following years.

However, there is a tension between macroeconomic stabilisation, advocated by the IMF, and the desire to rehabilitate the economy and prevent an upsurge in violence, either from combatants or demobilised guerrillas pushed into banditry due to economic disadvantage. However, the impact of fiscal adjustment will be mitigated by transferring defence expenditure to priority sectors, such as health and welfare, as well as significant foreign aid. Donor support will have to be sustained over the long-term to cope with the demobilisation and reintegration programmes which are designed to give ex-combatants a chance to earn in a civilian life.

External trade

On 31 December 2002, the US approved Sierra Leone as being eligible for tariff preferences under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). The legislation requires that countries are only eligible for greater access to US markets provided they have made continued progress toward a market-based economy, the rule of law, free trade, poverty reduction and the protection of workers’ rights. This process is reviewed annually.


Principal imports are foodstuffs (typically 34 per cent of total value), machinery and transport equipment (19 per cent), manufactured goods (14 per cent), fuel (10 per cent).

Main sources: Germany (25.0 per cent of 2002 total), UK (10.9 per cent), The Netherlands (7.5 per cent), US (5.7 per cent), Côte d’Ivoire (4.9 per cent).


Principal exports are bauxite, diamonds, rutile, coffee and cocoa.

Main destinations: Belgium (42.0 per cent of 2002 total), Germany (28.2 per cent), US (3.7 per cent), UK (3.7 per cent), Italy (2.9 per cent).

Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Business Directory
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information
Telephone area codes

The international direct dialling code (IDD) for Sierra Leone is +232, followed by area code and subscriber’s number:

Freetown 22

Chambers of Commerce

Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Guma Building, Lamina Sankoh Street, PO Box 502, Freetown (tel: 226-305; fax: 228-005; e-mail:


Bank of Sierra Leone, PO Box 30, Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown (tel: 226-501; fax: 224-764).

First Merchant Bank of Sierra Leone Ltd, Sparta Building, 12 Wilberforce Street, Freetown (tel: 228-493; fax: 228-318).

National Development Bank Ltd, 21/23 Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown (tel: 226-791/2; fax: 224-468).

Rokel Commercial Bank (Sierra Leone) Ltd, PO Box 12, 25-27 Stevens Street, Freetown (tel: 222-501; fax: 222-563).

Sierra Leone Commerical Bank Ltd, 29-31 Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown (tel: 225-264; fax: 225-292).

Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone Ltd, PO Box 1155, 9 -11 Lightfoot Boston Street, Freetown (tel: 226-220, 225-021; fax: 225-760).

Union Trust Bank Ltd, 2 Howe Street, Freetown (tel: 222-792; fax: 226-214).

Central bank

Bank of Sierra Leone, Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown (tel: 226-501; fax: 224-764; e-mail:

Travel information

Sierra National Airlines, Leone House, PO Box 285, 25 Pultney Street, Freetown (tel: 2075, 6297; fax: 2026).

Ministry of tourism

Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Stadium Hostel, Syke Street, Freetown (tel: 241-256).

National tourist organisation offices

National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone, International Conference Centre, Aberdeen Hill PO Box 1435, Freetown (tel: 272-520, 272-396; fax: 272-197; e-mail:


Department of Finance, Secretariat Building, George Street, Freetown (tel: 26-911, 22-211; fax: 28-355).

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Youyi Building, Brookfields, Freetown.

Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Wallace Johnson Street, Freetown (tel: 26-345, 24-776).

Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministerial Building, George Street, Freetown (tel: 26-045, 22-755, 22-706; fax: 28-373).

Other useful addresses

Central Statistics Office, Tower Hill, Freetown (tel: 23-897, 24-267).

Sierra Leone Embassy (USA), 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington DC 20009 (tel: 202-939-9261; fax: 202-483-1793; e-mail:; internet: ).

Sierra Leone External Telecommunications (SLET) Office, Wallace Johnson Street, Freetown (tel: 22-801, 24-591).

Sierra Leone Ports Authority, PO Box 386, Freetown.

Internet sites

Africa Business Network:

African Development Bank:

Africa Online:

Sierra Leone:

Sierre Leone government:

Dow Jones & Reuters
Sierra Leone; Visitors Guide
01 August 2005
Africa Review World of Information



Sierra Leone lies on the west coast of Africa, with Guinea to the north and east and Liberia to the south.


Tropical, with high humidity and rainfall. Dry season November–April, wet season rest of year. Average temperature range of 21–32 degrees Celsius remains fairly constant throughout the year.

Entry requirements


Required by all and must be valid for six months. Return ticket is required. Requirements may be subject to change at short notice. Contact the Embassy before departure.


Required by all, and must be obtained in advance. Citizens of Ecowas countries are exempt. Contact the nearest embassy for an application form. All visas require evidence of return/onward passage; tourists must provide evidence of hotel reservations.

Business visitors should include a letter of invitation from a local contact and a letter of introductory from their employer outlining the purpose of the trip, the nature of business and contacts in Sierra Leone. For new business, an applicant must provide evidence of commercial veracity and financial standing.

Currency advice/regulations

Local currency up to Le50,000 and unlimited foreign currency can be imported, but it must be declared. Export of local currency up to Le50,000 and foreign currency up to the amount imported and declared. Travellers cheques in sterling or US dollars are preferred, but opportunities to cash them are limited. All foreign exchange transactions must be handled through the banks and official exchange offices.


All visitors must complete a customs declaration form for presentation on entering country.

All gem stones require an export licence.

Prohibited imports


Health (for visitors)

Mandatory precautions

Yellow fever, malaria and cholera vaccination certificates are required.

Advisable precautions

Hepatitis A, tetanus, polio, and typhoid vaccinations. Malaria prophylaxis should be taken. HIV/Aids is prevalent. Water precautions should be taken. Lassa fever can be contracted in Kenema and the east; seek urgent medical advice for any fever not positively identified as malaria.

Visitors should carry basic medical supplies and any prescription medication necessary. Medical and emergency insurance (to include repatriation) is strongly recommended.


Available in Freetown, especially at Lumley Beach, within easy taxi access of the centre of Freetown. Limited availability outside capital. Credit cards accepted only in major hotels and payment required in US dollars.

Credit cards

Not accepted.

Public holidays

Fixed dates

1 Jan, 27 Apr (Independence Day), 25 Dec, 26 Dec.

Variable dates

Good Friday, Easter Monday, Eid al Fitr, Eid al Adha, Prophet’s Birthday (Moulid An Nabi).

Working hours


Mon–Thu: 0800–1330; Fri: 0800–1400.


Mon–Fri: 0800–1200, 1400–1630.


Mon–Fri: 0800–1230, 1330–1645; close 1500 on Fri.


Mon–Fri: 0800–1200, 1400–1630; shops open Sat.


Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company Ltd (Sierratel) is the national telecommunications operator. Its networks have been badly damaged by recent conflict.


Service can be unreliable. International connections can be difficult, except at the Sierra Leone External Telecommunications Office (SLET), where it may be necessary to wait.

Mobile phones

Celtel (SL) and Millicom Sierra Leone are the cellular telephony providers. There are around 30,000 mobile phone users (2003).

Electricity supply

230/240V AC, 50 cycles. Voltage fluctuation and power cuts occur.

Social customs/useful tips

Carry some form of identification at all times.


Sierra Leone is emerging from its brutal civil war . Visitors should take care and avoid the border region with Liberia. Travelling outside the capital at night is not recommended, as much for the poor state of the roads as any armed conflict.

Getting there


National airline: Sierra National Airlines

International airport/s: Freetown-Lungi International (FNA), 20km north of city; bar, currency exchange, post office, shops.

Airport tax: International departures US$20, payable in hard currency. Transit passengers are exempt.


Road: There are routes from Guinea Republic and Liberia, but access depends on the prevailing political situation.

Water: From Guinea Republic and Liberia.

Main port/s: Freetown

Getting about

National transport

Public transport is neither reliable nor safe. The heavy rainy season, which lasts for several months between May and November makes travel to outlying areas both difficult and hazardous.

Road: Most main roads in Freetown are paved but have potholes; unpaved side streets are generally navigable. A major road resurfacing and repair programme in Freetown is slowly improving the quality of roads in the city. Most roads outside Freetown are unpaved. All roads are unlit and potholes are common.

Buses: Buses in Freetown tend to be overcrowded and unreliable. Regular service Freetown-Kambia, Freetown-Pendembu, Freetown-Makeni-Kabala.

Rail: There are no passenger services.

City transport

Public transport, when it exists, is neither reliable nor always safe.

Taxis: Available at the airport and in main towns; fares by negotiation; tipping is not usual. It is considered safer to use taxis that work in conjunction with an hotel.

Buses, trams & metro: There are buses from the airport to the city centre, but the services can be erratic.

Helicopter: Services operate between Freetown and Lungi airport – flight time five minutes.

Ferry: Links Lungi Airport with central Freetown and Lumley Beach area.

Car hire

Car hire is available at relatively high rates. International driving license required.