flag Sierra Leone Sierra Leone: Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Sierra Leone’s economy was hit by various shocks these last years, including the Ebola epidemic (more than 14,100 cases, 3,900 deaths and a revenue loss equivalent to 29% of the country’s GDP according to the WHO), the drop in the prices of iron ore, and more recently the Covid-19 pandemic. After contracting by -2.2% in 2020, GDP growth rebounded to an estimated 3.2% in 2021, driven by the resumption of investment in mining activities and private consumption (IMF). According to IMF forecast, GDP growth should strengthen to 5.9% in 2022 before easing to 4.4% in 2023.

In 2021, Sierra Leone’s economy started to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. After deteriorating due to increased public expenditure and decreasing revenues, public finances improved. Budget deficit narrowed from -5.8% GDP in 2020 to -4% GDP in 2021, and it is expected to further reduce to -3% GDP in 2022 thanks to higher mining revenues and fiscal consolidation efforts (Coface). Notwithstanding efforts in the last few years to mitigate its increase, public debt reached an estimated 73.7% GDP in 2020, and remained as high as 71.1% GDP in 2021 (IMF). It is expected to decrease to 68% GDP in 2022 and 65.8% GDP in 2023 (IMF). According to the IMF, the risk of debt distress is high but remains sustainable. The deficit is financed by concessional financing and grants. High global food prices keep the inflation at a high level. Estimated at 13.4% in 2020, it decreased to 11.3% in 2021, but is expected to rise to 13.3% in 2022 before declining to 11.4% in 2023 (IMF). Inflation will thus remain above the 10% ECOWAS convergence criterion. Near-term policy will focus on the coronavirus vaccine rollout. In addition, after benefitting from two emergency Rapid Credit Facility disbursements, Sierra Leonean authorities are committed to resuming the IMF program supported by the Extended Credit Facility arrangement. Its main objectives are revenue mobilization, safeguarding financial stability, and addressing external vulnerabilities (IMF). The government will also continue to implement the National Development Plan (NDP), which gives priority to macroeconomic stability, infrastructure development and the maintenance of key social programmes (free education, health, social protection). The National Agricultural Transformation Programme 2019/2023 aims to double agricultural production.

Unemployment (5.2% of the workforce in 2020 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. Unemployment among young people reached 50% and more than 90% of the population has a vulnerable job. The Human Development Index ranks Sierra Leone 181st out of 189 countries. The country has to pave the way forward in the post-Ebola and post-Covid-19 period, which has been marked by an increase in poverty and social tensions, exacerbated by inflation and austerity measures.

Main Indicators 20202021202220232024
GDP (billions USD)
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -
GDP per Capita (USD) 509509494472485
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 76.379.381.878.172.0
Inflation Rate (%) 13.411.925.926.820.8
Current Account (billions USD) -0.28-0.62-0.35-0.31-0.31
Current Account (in % of GDP) -6.8-14.9-8.5-7.7-7.3

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

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Monetary Indicators 20152016201820192020
Leone (SLL) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GHS 1,369.471,554.241,729.791,732.731,756.53

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) 54.5 6.8 38.8
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

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

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

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


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.

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

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


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.

Partly Free
Political Freedom:

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


Indicator of Freedom of the Press


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:

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Sources of General Economic Information

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

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Latest Update: February 2023