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Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is situated in West Africa and borders the North Atlantic Ocean, Guinea and Liberia. This country gained independence from Britain in 1961. Sierra Leone experienced a severe civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002. Thousands of Sierra Leoneans died, while over 2 million people were displaced as a result of this war. As expected, it is still gaining its political, social and economic stability. Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds. It is said that these diamonds were used in the civil war to fund conflict. Currently, it is the diamond exports that are helping to sustain the Sierra Leonean economy. Sierra Leone is home to mountains and many Creole villages, some of which were established in 1800. Villages such as

Hastings, Kent, Sussex, Waterloo, Wellington and York were built as resettlement areas for liberated slaves. Freetown is Sierra Leone’s capital city, which is on the North Atlantic Ocean coast. It has a 500-year-old cotton tree, a museum and a place known as ‘King’s Yard,’ where freed slaves waited to receive land. Fourah Bay College is West Africa’s oldest university and it is in Freetown. Freetown is also home to many bazaars and the King Jimmy Market. Sierra Leone has a variety of game parks as well. This country also produces a lot of arts and crafts, including masks.
CATEGORIES: Demographics - Quick Facts - Economy - Communications - Health Issues
Country Flag: Sierra Leone's Flag

Three equal horizontal bands of light green (top), white, and light blue

Nationality: Sierra Leonean

Capital: Freetown

Population: 6,005,250 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 44.8%
  • 15-64 years: 52%
  • 65 years and over: 3.2% (2006 est.)  

Population growth rate: 2.3% (2006 est.)

Literacy rate:

  • ages 15 and above can read and write English, Mende, Temne, or Arabic
  • 29.6% of the population is literate (male: 39.8%, female: 20.5%) (200 est.)

Major religions: Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%

Languages: 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%)

Quick Facts
  • total: 71,740 sq km
  • land: 71,620 sq km
  • water: 120 sq km

Area comparative to Canadian province: slightly smaller than the size of New Brunswick

Natural resources: diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

Environmental 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 depleting natural resources; overfishing


Nearly two-thirds of the working-age population of Sierra Leone is involved in subsistence agriculture. Sierra Leone suffers from an immense inequality in income distribution. Although it has considerable amounts of mineral, fishery and agricultural resources, the economic and social infrastructure of the country are not well developed. Moreover, some social problems also hinder the economic development of Sierra Leone. The manufacturing that Sierra Leone is involved in is mainly processing raw materials and light manufacturing for the domestic market. Alluvial diamond mining is the major source of currency earnings, accounting for almost half of Sierra Leone’s exports. The economic development of the country depends greatly on political and domestic peace as well as the continued aid from abroad. This aid is necessary to offset the trade imbalance and supplement government revenues. The IMF has completed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program that helped to stabilize economic growth. Because of the recent political stability, there has been a revival of economic activity, such as the rehabilitation of bauxite mining.

Major industries:

  • diamond mining
  • small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear)
  • petroleum refining
  • small commercial ship repair

Agricultural products:

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

Oil production: 0.8361 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Railways: N/A

Road map: 11,300 km (paved: 904 km, unpaved: 10,396 km)

Currency: Leone


Telephone lines in use: 24,000 (2002)

Cellular lines in use: 113,200 (2003)

Television Stations: 2 (1999)

Radio Stations: AM 1, FM 9, shortwave 1 (1999)

Internet users: 2,005 (2005)

Health Issues

HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 7% (2001 est.)

People living with HIV/AIDS: 170,000 (2001 est.)

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