Sierra Leone
Economic Development Documents-National Development Plan, 2019-23

The Government of Sierra Leone’s new Medium-term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019–2023 has been founded on a strong political commitment to deliver devel-opment results that would improve the welfare of Sierra Leone’s citizens. The plan charts a clear path towards 2023 en route to the goal of achieving middle-income status by 2039 through inclusive growth that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. For the next five years, the Free Quality School Education Programme is the government’s flagship programme to provide a solid base to enhance human capital development and to facilitate the transformation of the economy.


The Government of Sierra Leone’s new Medium-term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019–2023 has been founded on a strong political commitment to deliver devel-opment results that would improve the welfare of Sierra Leone’s citizens. The plan charts a clear path towards 2023 en route to the goal of achieving middle-income status by 2039 through inclusive growth that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. For the next five years, the Free Quality School Education Programme is the government’s flagship programme to provide a solid base to enhance human capital development and to facilitate the transformation of the economy.

Executive Summary

A. General overview

The Government of Sierra Leone’s new Medium-term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019–2023 has been founded on a strong political commitment to deliver development results that would improve the welfare of Sierra Leone’s citizens.

The plan charts a clear path towards 2023 en route to the goal of achieving middle-income status by 2039 through inclusive growth that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. For the next five years, the Free Quality School Education Programme is the government’s flagship programme to provide a solid base to enhance human capital development and to facilitate the transformation of the economy.

Four key national goals are identified – emerging from the consultative process and grounded in the developmental state model – for this plan period.

  • Goal 1: A diversified, resilient green economy

  • Goal 2: A nation with educated, empowered, and healthy citizens capable of realizing their fullest potential

  • Goal 3: A society that is peaceful, cohesive, secure, and just

  • Goal 4: A competitive economy with a well-developed infrastructure

B. Key lessons that inform the new plan

Prioritization of needs is critical to the effective management of development expenditure and the achievement of planned outcomes. Many projects in previous plans could not be achieved within the planned time frame because of changing and sometimes conflicting priorities. Many projects required longer time for consolidating solid foundations. The nationwide consultations for this new five-year development plan have consistently recommended a long-term plan for the country, from which future medium-term plans will be derived. The government therefore is proceeding to prepare a Long-term National Development Plan in tandem with the MTNDP.

Sector coordination was also weak in previous plans, leading to duplication of some functions and gaps in others. This was coupled with substantial of-plan and of-budget spending, along with weak monitoring and evaluation. Other lessons include the need to increase the alignment of the National Development Plan with global and regional frameworks such as the Mano River Union Strategy, the African Union Agenda 2063, the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the New Deal Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals. All these frameworks are critical for strengthened development cooperation and financing for Sierra Leone’s development.

C. Principles guiding the formulation and implementation of the new plan

The principles that guided the formulation of the new plan, and which will underpin its implementation, include the following: national inclusiveness and ownership of the process, involving participation of all political parties; sustained political commitment; women and youth mainstreaming; international development cooperation; strong sector coordination; domestic resource mobilization, combined with the prudent use of resources; and management for development results.

D. Plan preparation process

The plan was drafted with the most intensive and extensive consultations in the history of Sierra Leone’s development planning. While setting priorities and validating the plan, the estimated outreach involved 2 million people. This included consultations through town hall meetings, focus group discussions, public engagements in learning institutions, and consultations with civil servants, local councillors, district and municipal administrators, civil society organizations, private institutions, trade unions, political parties, development partners, persons with disabilities, market women, the elderly, traditional authorities, religious leaders, those in detention centres, and those in the diaspora, among others. Radio, T V, and social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook were utilized to reach a wide array of citizens.

E. Socio-economic indicators and the situation of the macroeconomy

While some laudable efforts were made in the past to promote development, some overwhelming challenges remain. Six-month sample data from the 2018 Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey reveals that income poverty is still high, especially in rural areas. The overall poverty headcount ratio of the country is 57 percent, while the population in extreme poverty is 10.8 percent. Freetown accounts for the lowest poverty rate (18.5 percent), while other urban areas are estimated at 41.2 percent. In the rural areas, poverty levels are 72.4 percent.

In 2017, the incidence of multidimensional poverty (the proportion of people identified as multidimensionally poor) was 64.8 percent. This means that almost two-thirds of the population in Sierra Leone is identified as multidimensionally poor.

The country’s annual average population growth rate between 1985 and 2004 was 1.8 percent and increased sharply between 2004 and 2015 to 3.2 percent. This led to a 40 percent increase in total population, from about 5 million in 2004 to more than 7 million in 2018. At this rate, by 2026 the total population will be at least 10 million people. This calls for policies that take advantage of the growing population and address the challenges of the youth bulge.

A growth diagnostic confirms that the economy has remained broadly undiversified and susceptible to fluctuations. It has remained especially vulnerable to external shocks, as in the case of the twin crises of the Ebola disease outbreak and the iron ore price decline of 2014–2015 (during which gross domestic product growth contracted to negative 20.5 percent in 2015 from a growth rate of 4.6 percent in 2014).

Agriculture has continued to make up the largest share of gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at 55.1 percent in 2017, followed by services at 36.6 percent, and industry at 9.3 percent. Aggregate spending of the economy mainly comes from private consumption and remains larger than what the whole economy produces. Economic growth has generally been driven by export-led capital-intensive mining over the last eight years. Sustainable growth will require de-concentration of productivity growth in capital-intensive industries such as mining, with its limited capacity to generate jobs, and will emphasize raising productivity in sectors where most of the labour force is found (e.g. agriculture).

Domestic revenue averaged around 12.5 percent in the last decade, well below the African average of 18 percent. Yet public expenditure has been increasing, driving up the fiscal deficit from 1.9 percent of GDP in 2013 to an average of 11.4 percent in 2016 and 2017 (including grants). Additionally, the external debt stock increased from US$1.04 billion in 2013 to $1.51 billion in 2017 and further to $1.53 billion in June 2018.

F. Macroeconomic framework to guide plan implementation 2019–2023

The government is determined to maintain a stable macroeconomic environment, and to this end will pursue key macroeconomic targets during the 2019 to 2023 period. These include the following:

  • Maintaining single-digit inflation

  • Reducing the budget deficit (including grants) to not more than 3 percent of GDP, with domestic revenue collection of at least 20 percent, while public expenditures are kept within budgetary limits of around 24 percent of GDP

  • The wage bill not to exceed 6 percent

  • Reducing the current account deficit (including official grants) to an average of around 11.5 percent

  • Foreign exchange reserves built to a minimum of three months of import cover

  • Public debt maintained at a sustainable threshold of not more than 70 percent in nominal terms and 55 percent in present-value terms, while external debt will not exceed 40 percent of GDP in present-value terms

Policies and actions to achieve these targets include pursuing stringent short- to medium-term revenue mobilization measures; expenditure management and control; measures to manage and control domestic capital expenditure; monetary and exchange rate policy management; financial sector policy advancement; and public debt management.

G. Policy clusters and actions

Against the above background, the new MTNDP (2019–2023) is organized around eight policy clusters and several sub-clusters (or broad result areas), which are presented below.

Policy Cluster 1 – Human capital development. Systemic country diagnostic studies suggest that Sierra Leone could only sustainably transform its economy and achieve middle-income status with optimal poverty reduction if the government adequately invests in the country’s human capital. Beyond its natural resources, the nation’s most substantial asset is its young and dynamic population, which, like natural resources, must be properly developed to deliver shared economic growth and meaningful poverty reduction and prosperity for all.

Under this cluster, the Government of Sierra Leone will focus on the following broad result areas: 1.1 Ensuring free quality basic and senior secondary education; 1.2 Strengthening tertiary and higher education; 1.3 Accelerating health-care delivery; 1.4 Enhancing environmental sanitation and hygiene; 1.5 Increasing social protection; and 1.6 Advancing housing and land management.

Policy Cluster 2 – Diversifying the economy and promoting growth. To effectively transform the economy, ensure increased domestic financing of programmes, and build resilience against external shocks, the government is committed to economic diversification. Promoting productivity and capturing more of the value chain of its products underscores the strategy in this cluster. A case in point is agriculture, which accounts for about 50 percent of GDP; however, productivity in the sector has been low. In the case of mining, while labour productivity is relatively high, the capacity to generate jobs and the sector’s linkage to the rest of the economy has been limited.

Under this cluster, the government will focus on the following broad result areas: 2.1 Improving productivity and commercialization of the agricultural sector; 2.2 Improving productivity and sustainable management of fisheries and the marine sector; 2.3 Revitalizing the tourism sector; 2.4 Revamping the manufacturing and services sector; 2.5 Improving the management of oil and gas exploration and production; 2.6 Improving the management of mineral resources; and 2.7 Promoting an inclusive rural economy.

Policy Cluster 3 – Infrastructure and economic competitiveness. Promoting infrastructure and economic competitiveness is another critical enabler of socio-economic development and transformation. Here the role of the private sector is crucial, hence the emphasis on private sector promotion.

Under this cluster, the government will focus on the following broad result areas: 3.1 Accelerating the provision of energy supplies; 3.2 Transforming the transportation systems; 3.3 Improving the water infrastructure systems; 3.4 Improving information and communication technologies; and 3.5 Fostering private sector growth.

Policy Cluster 4 – Governance and accountability for results. This cluster is a leading precondition for the effective and efficient delivery of the planned outcomes in the new MTNDP. That is, achieving the desired results for Sierra Leonean society can only be guaranteed if the state is able to secure the requisite political buy-in and commitment and apply fairly the appropriate legal and regulatory institutions and property rights as part of enforcing the rule of law. Success will require the active participation of grass-roots communities and the general public.

Under this cluster, the government will focus on the following broad result areas: 4.1 Advancing political development for national cohesion; 4.2 Fighting corruption and illicit financial flows; 4.3 Strengthening public financial management; 4.4 Strengthening audit services; 4.5 Promoting inclusive and accountable justice institutions; 4.6 Building public trust in state institutions; 4.7 Strengthening public service delivery; 4.8 Strengthening decentralization, local governance, and rural development; 4.9 Strengthening security institutions; and 4.10 Strengthening external relations for integration.

Policy Cluster 5 – Empowering women, children, adolescents, and persons with disability. Pursuing special policies under this cluster recognizes the issue of gender and the role of vulnerable groups in guaranteeing inclusiveness and empowerment. This cannot be overemphasized, as women constitute more than 50 percent of the national population, while the need for adequate investment in children from pre-primary onward has become more crucial than ever, given the weak state of human capital development and fluctuating economic growth in the country. Low investment in the talents and capabilities of persons with disability can also lead to an inability to unleash the potential of the economy for inclusive development.

Under this cluster, the government will focus on the following broad result areas: 5.1 Empowering women; 5.2 Increasing investment in children and adolescents; and 5.3 Increasing investment in persons with disabilities.

Policy Cluster 6 – Youth employment, sports, and migration. Sierra Leone boasts of a youthful population (the population below 15 years of age is estimated at 42 percent), and providing adequate employment and other socio-economic opportunities has become ever more crucial. Livelihood difficulties and high rates of unemployment have resulted in increased migration from rural to urban areas, as well as from urban areas to other countries.

Sporting activities, which have been neglected for years, present opportunities for creating jobs, sustaining peace, and building social and national cohesion, hence curtailing migration.

Under this cluster, the government will focus on the following result areas: 6.1 Increasing youth employment and empowerment; 6.2 Revitalizing sporting activities across the country; and 6.3 Addressing migration challenges.

Policy Cluster 7 – Addressing vulnerabilities and building resilience. Sierra Leone experienced recurring environmental disasters and viral tragedies during the last five years, with telling macroeconomic and general development consequences. This suggests the need to rethink public policy regarding management of the environment and natural resources and strengthening disaster early warning and response systems for minimized vulnerabilities and increased national resilience.

Under this cluster, the government will focus on the following broad result areas: 7.1 Building national environmental resilience; 7.2 Strengthening forest management and wetland conservation; and 7.3 Improving disaster management governance.

Policy Cluster 8 – Means of implementation. This cluster presents the mechanisms set to deliver the results of the MTNDP. As an improvement on the implementation arrangement for previous plans, and drawing lessons from earlier plans, this new plan benchmarks the arrangements for delivering results in a comprehensive indicator-based results framework and policy matrix.

Tree sets of issues are presented under this cluster: financing the plan; the governance arrangements for supervising and monitoring plan implementation; and the projects and policy measures to be carried out. The specific actions and mechanisms are as follows: delivering robust governance structures for supervising plan implementation (including the establishment of a Ministerial Oversight Committee; sustaining government–donor dialogue; and revitalizing Sector Working Groups and District Working Groups); pursuing a sound resource mobilization strategy (including enhancing domestic resource mobilization; strengthening relationships with existing development partners and expanding the partner base; exploring public–private partnerships and dialogue; and pursuing assistance under the Millennium Challenge Corporation); mitigating risks; instituting a robust monitoring and evaluation and performance management system that is underpinned by a comprehensive indicator framework and policy/programme matrix aligned to the indicators and targets of the SDGs and the African Union Agenda 2063; and strengthening data, information, and statistical systems.

H. Cost of the plan

The total estimated cost of the new plan is US$8.15 billion for a period of five years (2019–2023). This is distributed across the eight policy clusters and sub-clusters. Using the fiscal projections provided by the Ministry of Finance for the 2019 to 2023 period, including discretionary and non-discretionary expenditures and direct development (domestic and foreign) financing of US$6.60 billion, there is a financing gap of US$1.55 billion.

To boost domestic revenue, the following opportunities will be explored: introduce a lottery system to encourage greater compliance by taxpayers; work with Tax Inspectors Without Borders to strengthen the auditing of large taxpayers; revise and update levies to cover costs and reflect international standards; put in place structures to issue and manage diaspora bonds; and evaluate the potential for investing pension fund assets in infrastructure.

I. Mitigating risks to plan implementation

The foreseen risks to the implementation of the plan include the following.

a) Susceptibility of the economy to shocks – A continuous slump in the price of iron ore (the main export commodity of Sierra Leone) could delay the resumption of iron ore mining and hence the implementation of planned projects; a further rise in the international prices of petroleum products would have implications for domestic inflation, given the full pass-through into domestic pump prices; delays in the disbursement of budget support and other earmarked donor resources would have negative implications for financing priority programmes in the plan; continued exposure of the country to climate change–related environmental challenges and the rising urban population (with limited housing) would have economic effects; and the expanding youth population poses serious risks for social stability.

These risks can be mitigated through the following: establishing effective systems of alert; aggressively seeking other development partners; implementing planned macroeconomic policies; increasing capacity for domestic resource mobilization; and ensuring the effective delivery of planned development projects, paying special attention to Policy Cluster 6 on youth empowerment, sports, and migration and Policy Cluster 7 on addressing vulnerabilities and building resilience.

b) Data and information availability – Data and information are fragmented across the various sectors, and it is often difficult to ascertain their credibility and relevance.

A mitigating strategy is to strengthen and capacitate Statistics Sierra Leone so that it can respond to the data and information needs of the country through a coordinated and concerted approach with the various stakeholders.

c) Inadequate capacity of ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) – The capacity within and across MDAs is weak and mostly underdeveloped, and therefore they are not performing to expected standards. This has huge implications on the time frame for the completion of tasks, as well as the quality of service delivery.

An ideal way to mitigate this is to build the capacity of the MDAs beyond the normal civil service system, which at the moment is restrictive. Recruitment needs to be open and flexible for bespoke positions, especially professional and evolving professional fields such as information and communications technology (ICT).

d) Governance architecture – The current government inherited a bloated governance system of parallel structures with overlapping functions. The legal instruments, especially the Acts that created the MDAs, are conflicting and cumbersome, and include gaps that often create rivalry and unhealthy competition, particularly in resource mobilization.

These risks can be mitigated through effective monitoring systems that combine continuous beneficiaries’ assessments with technical evaluations, to enable timely corrective action at the policy level. Key factors that would ensure success are transparency, information dissemination, and full participation of all stakeholders.

Part 1: Context

1. Background and Introduction

Since the end of the conflict in 2002, the Government of Sierra Leone has been producing National Development Plans (NDPs), otherwise referred to as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), beginning with an Interim PRSP for 2002–2003, followed by a National Recovery Strategy implemented in 2003–2004. The first fully fledged PRSP was the National Programme for Food Security, Job Creation and Good Governance 2005–2007, which was to set the stage for a stable society with a focus on peace consolidation. The Agenda for Change 2008–2012 was to improve the socio-economic condition of the people and lay the foundation for sustained growth. The third PRSP, Agenda for Prosperity 2013–2018, built on the successes of the Agenda for Change and was supposed to continue the transformation of the economy and accelerate growth towards a middle-income status while improving the lives of all citizens.

This Medium-term National Development Plan (2019–2023), the fourth in the series, is grounded on renewed optimism as the country’s democracy matures and public participation in development processes attains new heights. This plan represents the first five years of a 20-year long-term national commitment to a vision for a middle-income country, with an appropriate governance framework that would be based on inclusivity, unity, and the rule of law, and with a diversified economy that is resilient, offering jobs to all, and taking account of the special needs of women, children, and vulnerable groups. In essence, the MTNDP seeks to build a united, peaceful, progressive, dynamic, confident, enterprising, and happy nation where the people have access to jobs, food, education, and health services, and where there is equal justice and equal opportunity for all.

At the core of the plan is the vision of Sierra Leone as a middle-income country by 2039. The realization of this vision requires a long-term plan of 20 years, allowing for the application of coherent programmes within a framework of policies and legislation that are consistently enforced. The completion of such a long-term plan involves the projection of different scenarios based on in-depth studies and consultations, revisiting currently accepted assumptions of the country’s growth trajectory and more robust methods for addressing regional issues. This must be done if the country is to emerge from what appears to be a low-level income trap, where signs of apparent progress are followed by dramatic reversals. The first year of this plan is therefore to be implemented in tandem with the formulation/finalization of the 20-year plan.

In this first five-year period, the current government’s policies will guide the country towards the vision through a strategy with priorities and programmes that are consistent with regional and international development agendas such as the African Union Agenda 2063, the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals, and the New Deal Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals. Here special mention must be made of the Mano River Union, which provides the space within the Economic Community of West African States subregion for wider growth and development initiatives. It must be emphasized that the programmes and policies proposed in this MTNDP period will lay the foundation for longer-term goals in the 20-year plan period. Furthermore, the wide and extensive preparatory process for this plan has allowed the capture of the development aspirations of all political parties and sectors of Sierra Leone. This is to address one of the key constraints limiting progress in the past: coherence, continuity, and consistency in development strategy and programmes.

For the first five years, the Free Quality School Education Programme is the government’s fagship programme to provide a solid base not only to enhance human capital development, but to facilitate the transformation of other sectors. Four key national goals are identified, emerging from the consultative process and grounded in the developmental state model, for this plan period. The goals are as follows:

Goal 1: A diversified, resilient green economy

Goal 2: A nation with educated, empowered, and healthy citizens capable of realizing their fullest potential

Goal 3: A society that is peaceful, cohesive, secure, and just

Goal 4: A competitive economy with a well-developed infrastructure

Seven policy clusters were generated from the extensive nationwide consultations, and they incorporate the priorities of government as agreed during the ministerial round table organized by the government. An additional cluster on implementation is included. The clusters are as follows:

  • 1. Human capital development

  • 2. Diversifying the economy and promoting growth

  • 3. Infrastructure and economic competitiveness

  • 4. Governance and accountability for results

  • 5. Empowering women, children, and persons with disabilities

  • 6. Youth employment, sports, and migration

  • 7. Addressing vulnerabilities and building resilience

  • 8. Means of implementation

The strategy to achieve the goals of the MTNDP revolves around transforming the economy, promoting diversification, stimulating growth sectors, taking into account sub-regional opportunities, investing in critical infrastructure to facilitate private sector expansion, and providing disciplined, effective, efficient, and accountable leadership underpinned by respect for the supremacy of the rule of law. These focus areas together constitute the new development agenda pursued by the Government of Sierra Leone.

There are six guiding principles of the Medium-term National Development Plan:

  • 1. Disciplined leadership

  • 2. Efficient and prudent management of resources

  • 3. Participation and inclusiveness of all stakeholders in the development process

  • 4. Local ownership and content, with the people of Sierra Leone at the centre of development

  • 5. Coordination and partnerships for development among all actors in the economy

  • 6. Results-oriented implementation of the plan to ensure accountability

The MTNDP is aligned to regional and international agendas, as diagrammatically represented in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1:
Figure 1.1:

Map of UN Sustainable Development Goals, AU Agenda 2063, New Deal Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals, and Sierra Leone’s National Development Plan

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

The selection of these goals and the derived clusters, associated outcomes, strategies, and programmes collectively represent the government’s agenda for development. The Theory of Change is illustrated in Figure 1.2.

Figure 1.2:
Figure 1.2:

Theory of Change

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

The Theory of Change describes the pathways through which the outcomes achieved within each of the clusters will lead to the national goals that in turn will produce the vision.

The vision encompasses what the society desires to become over a period of time. In the next five years, the achievement of the four goals collectively will translate the vision into reality. It must be emphasized that the goals are interconnected and not isolated from each other. For example, the goal of a society with high levels of education and education-enabled development is not only a goal in its own right, but is a precondition for attaining full potential in each of the other goals.

At the outcome level, the cross-cutting nature of many policy actions is evident, but so is the danger of overlaps. To illustrate, the outcomes in the cluster on governance and accountability for results permeate the entire National Development Plan; overlaps can easily occur, resulting in the inefficient use of resources or even contradictory effects.

To attain the four goals, policy actions and programmes are grouped into the eight clusters, each with several sub-clusters. The national outcomes in each cluster require policy actions that together will generate the outcomes listed. In these cases, some will have multiple impacts, some of which could be incoherent with others without effective coordination and regular consultation.

Continuous monitoring, evaluation, and coordination are essential for the success of the entire programme. Each of the outcomes in the clusters will therefore outline its Theory of Change to ensure effective implementation and facilitate the monitoring of progress. Only the most influential policy actions are shown in the results framework, while the full panoply of actions will be developed during the formulation phases of actions and programmes at the MDA level. In turn, this would require continuous training of MDAs on project formulation and management.

A number of risks are identified as having the potential to compromise success, and these are listed in Cluster 8 on implementation. Mitigating measures to counter such effects are also outlined. Experience from past plans indicate that insufficient attention is given to risks and ex ante preparation of risk-mitigating measures. This time around, reporting arrangements will make constant attention to risks and updating of mitigating measures obligatory.

1.1 Plan preparatory process

The Medium-term National Development Plan was prepared after thorough research and extensive consultations within the country and globally. A poverty and macroeconomic diagnostic, including growth projections, was conducted, with support from development partners. The findings informed the design of clusters and the priorities.

The research undertaken to prepare the document was exhaustive, participatory, and inclusive, involving desk reviews, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and other relevant research techniques necessary for deriving the requisite data and information for such an exercise. Staff of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED), with support from the Ministry of Finance, other MDAs, and local professionals, and with technical assistance from development partners, participated fully in the development of this plan.

The manifestos of political parties in the current parliament were reviewed in the plan preparation process. Key policy statements of presidential candidates were also reviewed to inform the content of the plan. Moreover, extensive consultations within and outside the country were held with Sierra Leoneans of all shades of opinions.

MoPED arranged for the broad-based participation and inclusion of all stakeholders to ensure that the views of Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life were incorporated into the plan. In addition, a deeper multi-partisan approach to the consultations underscored the government’s commitment to national cohesion and the sustainable development principle ‘leave no one behind’. This approach will secure buy-in and facilitate the smooth implementation and effective monitoring of the plan by the majority of Sierra Leoneans.


Consulting secondary schools for planning national development.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Gender and other cross-cutting issues are incorporated into the policy clusters, with the results framework capturing these issues in the indicators and targets.

1.1.1 Review of national documents on development

Desk reviews were conducted to understand the current state of the economy and the country context. The following sources were the primary focus of the document review:

  • Functions of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, as gazetted in 2002 and 2008

  • The New Direction manifesto

  • Other political party manifestos

  • Previous PRSPs, including the Agenda for Change and the Agenda for Prosperity

  • Review of national documents, including the Report on the Conference on Development and Transformation 2012, the Report of the Constitutional Review Committee 2017, and the Sierra Leone Fragility Report 2018

  • Global development plans, including the SDGs

  • Regional documents, including the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Economic Community of West African States and Mano River Union frameworks

  • Other literature relevant to Sierra Leone’s development

  • A number of key messages and lessons emerged from the desk review and consultations:

  • A long-term perspective and plan are important to form the basis for, and continuity of, national plans.

  • Absence of inclusive consultation undermined previous planning processes.

  • Poor prioritization resulted in weak expenditure alignment with the previous plan.

  • Duplication and overlapping of functions of key actors coupled with insufficient and ineffective coordination led to poor implementation.

  • There is need to maintain consistency in pursuing development agendas.

  • A strong monitoring and evaluation component in the plan is essential for staying on course.

  • Alignment of the MTNDP to regional and global plans will provide options for benefitting from regional and global opportunities and limit the country’s size constraints.

  • There is commonality in the development goals outlined in political party manifestos.

  • Cross-cutting issues such as gender, the environment, and disability have till now been largely lip service.

  • Political and leadership commitment accelerates the delivery of public results.

Table 1.1:

District priority ranking

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1.1.2 Governance structure

Great significance and much attention has been placed on the development of an all-inclusive MTNDP. This necessitated setting up a framework to ensure that the preparation process was participatory, transparent, and all-encompassing. Strategic direction was provided by the Office of the President, and the exercise was led by MoPED in collaboration with various stakeholders, as shown in Table 1.2. The table also shows the governance structure, consisting of the Secretariat (comprised of technical staff of the ministry), which works with Cluster and Sub-cluster Working Groups that report to a Core Technical Committee, which in turn gets direction from a National Oversight Committee. The composition of the committees is shown below.

1.1.3 Nationwide consultation

Extensive nationwide consultations were conducted at various levels, including regional and district levels, and with government institutions. There was therefore a frank exchange of views on district-specific issues, as well as ideas on how to address national priorities. This participatory approach contributed to building national ownership of the plan. There was physical outreach to about 2 million people through town hall meetings, focus group discussions, public engagements in learning institutions, and other outreach mechanisms targeting the disabled, market women, the elderly, and those in detention centres, among others. Recognizing that it is impossible to reach out to everyone using this approach, radio, TV, and social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook were utilized. A special effort to reach out to Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora was also undertaken for the first time in the planning process through the country’s missions abroad. Information collected from these sources was processed and stored for ease of reference.

At the institutional level, members of the National Oversight Committee, the Core Technical Committee, the Cluster Working Groups, and the Secretariat met with MDAs, development partners, academia and research institutions, private sector representatives, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, youth groups, trade unions, market women, women’s groups, the disabled and the elderly, political parties, universities, secondary schools, inmates of correctional centres, the judiciary, paramount chiefs, councillors, and members of parliament. This inclusive approach ensured that the views of the majority of Sierra Leoneans are captured in the final document.

District consultations

In planning the district consultations, the following stakeholders were consulted:

  • 1. MDA representatives in health, education, agriculture, gender, social welfare, and youth; the police; correctional centres; the military; and the anti-corruption commission, among others

  • 2. District council representatives, including chairpersons, chief administrators, councillors, and planning/monitoring, evaluation, and finance officers

  • 3. Paramount chiefs; traditional and religious leaders; and civil society groups operating in the districts The consultation methodology consisted of a presentation of the government’s key issues, in order to facilitate the discussions and to keep them in context. However, the districts were at liberty to rank the main issues as well as raise additional development issues that were not presented. Table 1.1 outlines the priority development areas (sectors) for each district.

Table 1.2:

Governance structure

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These rankings are not necessarily a reflection of the hierarchical levels of the key drivers therein. Under the general social contract between the government and the people of Sierra Leone, the government places equal importance on all the issues mentioned in the table. As a result, despite some priority initiatives, equal attention has been given to the issues raised at the district level.

Tree observations from the district rankings emerged:

  • 1. The respective district rankings, which were done independently, significantly mirrored government priorities, with an emphasis on quality education for all.

  • 2. Participants believed the construction and rehabilitation of feeder roads, trunk roads, and bridges should be included as a priority in the plan.

  • 3. At the district level, other issues presented for ranking were also influential drivers of the economy.

1.1.4 Regional consultations and validation

Regional consultations to validate what emerged from the district consultations were conducted in the five administrative regions of Sierra Leone: Northern region, North-western region, Southern region, Eastern region, and Western region. This was done immediately after the first draft of the plan was developed to ensure that inputs from the district consultations were fully incorporated into the document. The results mirrored the district consultations. Table 1.3 presents the rankings from the regions.

1.2 Organization of the document

The rest of the document is organized as follows. Chapter 2 in Part I contains a social and economic analysis of the country, while Part II opens a discussion on the clusters, starting with human capital development (Cluster 1). Cluster 2 is on economic diversification and promoting the growth of the economy, and Cluster 3 is on the development of infrastructure and promoting the competitiveness of the country. Good governance is under Cluster 4, while issues related to women, children, and persons with disability are addressed in Cluster 5. Cluster 6 examines the issues surrounding youth empowerment, sports, and migration. Cluster 7 discusses environmental resilience, forestry management, and disaster management, and the last section, Cluster 8, deliberates on the means of plan implementation.

Table 1.3:

Regional ranking of development issues by sector

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First Person

‘The commitment demonstrated by the planning team in ensuring that our next development agenda is formulated through a painstaking bottom-top approach can only lead to a National Development Plan that the people of Sierra Leone will derive practical benefits from. My expectation, therefore, is that we shall pursue the logical next step by maintaining a similar spirit of open consultations as we progress through the subsequent implementation, monitoring, evaluation and learning stages of the plan.’

—Joseph Sherman-Kamara (PhD), Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Njala Campus

‘The approach for the development of the new National Development Plan was inclusive and considerate. The final document is expected to be progressive and fruitful for sustainable national development.’

—Kaiinnamu ANZ Kumabeh II, National Education Office, Motor Drivers and General Transport Workers Union

2. Social and Macroeconomic Context of Sierra Leone

This chapter profiles the following: the poverty status based on the first six months of data from the Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey in 2018; multidimensional poverty using Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2017 data; economic growth; demographics; and the medium-term macroeconomic policy of the government.

2.1 Current poverty profile

This part presents the prevalence of income and multidimensional poverty and discusses food and nutrition security in order to illustrate the current welfare of households and individuals.

2.1.1 Income poverty

The overall poverty rate in Sierra Leone is 57 percent, with 10.8 percent of the population living in extreme poverty (Table 2.1). It is highest in the rural areas (a poverty incidence of 72.4 percent) and lowest in Freetown (18.5 percent), thereby indicating that poverty in Sierra Leone remains a rural issue. In terms of absolute poverty by region, the North is the poorest, followed by the South and the East. Western Area has the lowest poverty rate (18 percent).

Extreme poverty is predominant in the East, with 18.1 percent of the people unable to meet their food needs. This is followed by the North (12.1 percent) and the South (8.4 percent). The West (1.7 percent) has the lowest proportion of people who cannot meet their food needs. On average, the poor people of Sierra Leone can only meet 69.8 percent of their basic needs and 89.2 percent of their food needs. Those in Western Area, especially Freetown, can meet 77.5 percent of their basic needs, while those in the rural areas can meet 67.3 percent of their basic needs (South 72 percent; North 68.2 percent; East 65.7 percent).

Socio-economically, poverty decreased significantly with increased educational levels. Households with heads who completed secondary school are less likely to be poor than those whose heads completed primary school only. About 68 percent of households whose head had no education are poor, compared to only 5.6 percent for household heads with a university education. Those without post-secondary education (technical/vocational education) are slightly poorer than those with post-secondary education.

By occupation, the poorest households are those whose head is engaged in farming, with a poverty incidence of 72 percent. The second most common occupation is trading; these households are significantly less poor (42 percent), but still have a higher poverty rate than most of the other occupational groups. In terms of households with diversified sources of income, households who additionally engage in some kind of entrepreneurship/trading are only slightly less poor than those who rely on farming alone. Likewise, household heads who rely solely on business activities are almost at par with households in which at least one member is in gainful employment.

Table 2.1:

Absolute poverty and extreme poverty, Sierra Leone

(January–June 2018)

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Source: Calculations based on SLIHS 2018 (Jan-June).

The statistical picture is one of widespread income poverty. By inference, there is also significant income inequality, given the low share of wealth enjoyed by the vast majority of the population.

Food security disaggregated by urban/rural area and by region follows much the same pattern, with urban areas doing better than rural areas, and Western Area significantly better off than the other regions. Among the regions, the North is both the poorest in monetary terms and the least food secure, followed by the South then the East. Richer households are the most food secure, although the differences are not as large as might be expected. Over half of households, even in the richest group, had to use a food-related coping strategy in the previous seven days. Over half of the poorest group of households can achieve acceptable dietary diversity.

Analysing food security by demographic and socio-economic characteristics revealed similar patterns to those of income poverty. Larger households are generally more likely to be food insecure. Female-headed households do somewhat better than those with male heads.

In terms of education, higher education results in higher food security, although the differences are less pronounced than for income poverty. It is worth noting that households in which the head is engaged in farming are either the most food insecure or the second-most food insecure, depending on the measure; the same effect is seen when looking at economic diversification of the household as a whole. It is not the case that farming households produce abundant food and only face difficulties in translating that food production into financial resources to meet other needs. There might be other underlying challenges, such as having larger households or lacking access to markets for their products.

2.1.2 Multidimensional poverty

The Multidimensional Poverty Index of Sierra Leone has five dimensions (health, education, living standards, housing, and energy) and 14 indicators. In 2017, the incidence of multidimensional poverty (the proportion of people identified as multidimensionally poor) was 64.8 percent. This means that almost two-thirds of the population in Sierra Leone is identified as multidimensionally poor. In turn, the average intensity of poverty, which reflects the share of deprivations each poor person experiences on average, is 57.9 percent. That is, each poor person on average is deprived in almost 60 percent of the dimensions included in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. The National Multidimensional Poverty Index, which is the product of the incidence and intensity of poverty, has a value of 0.375. This means that multidimensionally poor people in Sierra Leone experience 37.5 percent of the total deprivations that would be experienced if everyone was deprived in all indicators.

There is more deprivation in rural areas than in urban settings. Therefore, the rural incidence or rural poverty headcount ratio is more than double that of urban areas – 86.3 percent and 37.6 percent, respectively.

Estimates for the National Multidimensional Poverty Index, incidence of poverty, and intensity of poverty by region show that the South and North have the highest levels of all three.

The poverty incidence is 67.6 percent in the East; 75.8 percent in the North; 76 percent in the South; and 36.2 percent in the West.

At the district level, the results reveal that Pujehun is the poorest district in Sierra Leone, with an incidence of poverty of 87.2 percent. The second-poorest district in the country is Koinadugu, with 86.5 percent of its population living in multidimensional poverty. In turn, the Western Area Urban District has the lowest levels of poverty, at 28.5 percent.

When the levels of multidimensional poverty are analysed by age group, children younger than 18 years have the highest levels of multidimensional poverty (69.6 percent) compared to any other age group. The group with the lowest levels of poverty is working-age individuals (18 to 40 years old).

2.1.3 Malnutrition

Childhood malnutrition can have long-lasting effects on the growth and educational achievements of the child. Malnutrition is therefore an important indicator of the future health and well-being of the population. It is measured by estimating the percentage of children under five who are classified as stunted, wasted, or underweight.

Malnutrition by various demographic characteristics obtained from the MICS data indicate that it is higher in girls than boys. The exact age at which malnutrition peaks is different by indicator, but it is in the age range between when solid foods are introduced around six months and when the child is eating the usual diet of the household by age two. Children in households with significantly older heads do seem more likely to be malnourished. The most important factor here is the education level of the mother; children with better educated mothers are less likely to be malnourished.

Table 2.2:

Income poverty by selected household characteristics, Sierra Leone

(January–June 2018)

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Table 2.3:

Multidimensional poverty by national level, location, region, district, and age group

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2.2 Population trends

The country’s annual average population growth rate increased sharply from 1.8 percent between 1985 and 2004 to 3.2 percent between 2004 and 2015, increasing the size of the population by about 40 percent from about 5 million in 2004 to more than 7 million to date. If this growth rate continues, at least 3 million people will be added to the current population by 2026, increasing the size to at least 10 million people. This landscape prompts a number of policy questions, including how to manage the growing population most effectively. Most crucial is the growing youth population.

As the population pyramid in Figure 2.1 shows, those between 0 and 34 years account for close to 80 percent of the total population. The under-five population accounts for 13 percent; those between 5 and 14 years are 28 percent; those between 15 and 24 years are 22 percent; and those between 25 and 34 years account for 15 percent. The size of this cohort of young people certainly constitutes both an asset and a blessing, representing a readily available pool of labour for economic transformation. However, it could equally represent a threat and a recipe for disaster in diverse ways, in the absence of the requisite investment in social and economic services.

Figure 2.1:
Figure 2.1:

Sierra Leone’s population pyramid

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

2.3 Structure of the economy and growth diagnostic

Sierra Leone’s economy is small and undiversified. GDP growth in Sierra Leone has been conspicuously inconsistent. This instability could be associated with the uneven economic growth across sectors, and largely driven by the export-led mining sector. The post-war economic recovery was first driven by agriculture, and from 2010 onwards propelled by the mining industry. Without steady growth, it is hard to attract investments that can strengthen the economic sectors to foster job creation. Gross capital formation, which reflects the prospect of future stability in Sierra Leone, rose from 1 percent of GDP in 2000, fluctuated between 9.8 and 11.8 percent throughout the rest of the decade, and attained its highest point at 42 percent in 2011. However, this investment bump was short-lived, as capital investment declined by 15 percent of aggregate output by 2012.

The 2017 GDP growth rate (3.7 percent) was dismal in comparison with the 2016 rate (6.1 percent) after a recovery from an abysmal performance in 2015 (-20.6 percent), with agriculture contributing 55.1 percent of GDP, services 36.6 percent, and manufacturing 9.3 percent. Growth patterns within the service sector may be described as consistent with sub-regional economies such as Guinea and Liberia, which recorded 42.9 percent and 41.9 percent of GDP respectively. The gap in output for agriculture and industry was over 45 percentage points in Sierra Leone, whereas it was about 16 percentage points in Guinea and 36 percentage points in Liberia (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2:
Figure 2.2:

Contribution to GDP growth by sector

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: World Bank Group WDI (2017).

Labour productivity remains the lowest in agriculture. Value added per worker in agriculture increased in real terms from US$455 in 2002 to $1,105 in 2015. However, in 2014 labour productivity in agriculture was about one-third lower than the average national labour productivity, 20 percent lower than labour productivity in services, and 12 percent of labour productivity in industry. Labour productivity in the mining sector was driven by a sharp increase in capital per worker and a large influx of foreign direct investment between 2009 and 2013. However, the increase in value added per worker did not translate into an equivalent improvement in the welfare of miners.

The undiversified nature of the economy and its disproportionate distribution of employment and productivity across all sectors is a major impediment to sustained inclusive growth and poverty reduction. Current trends indicate that productivity growth is largely driven by capital-intensive industries that have limited capacity to generate jobs. Continuing this trajectory entails grave risks for social stability. The current state of the economy (see Box 2.1) – with employment and productivity highly concentrated in a few sectors – makes it hard for economic performance to experience broad-based growth that is sustainable.

Employment and productivity across sectors, 2003–2014

  • On one side, the agriculture sector makes up around 50 percent of real GDP. It also comprises more than 60 percent of the country’s labour force. Productivity in this sector is the lowest compared to the other two groups of economic activity.

  • On the other side, the industry contributed 51 percent of the overall increase in productivity in the economy from 2003 to 2014, but only added 8 percent of the jobs created in the same period.

  • The services sector is in between. It holds 36 percent of the labour force, and it generated 44 percent of the jobs created in the period. Its labour productivity has not increased, although it is still higher than in the agriculture sector.

Source: World Bank Group, Jobs Diagnostic – Sierra Leone, 2018

At the sectoral level, realignment of labour is not yet fully efficient. The recent shift of employment from agriculture to services resulted in declining relative productivity in the latter (see Figure 2.3). Continuing this path without finding drivers for productivity growth within sectors will lead to further reduction of overall productivity. Furthermore, productivity in the services sector is not much higher than that of agriculture, suggesting that while workers moved to relatively better jobs, they are not accessing the highly productive jobs. Understanding where to focus to make growth more robust is imperative in the context of the opportunities offered by a rising population. This is one of the areas for further study to inform the 20-year plan.

Figure 2.3:
Figure 2.3:

Labour productivity (value added per worker)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: World Bank Group WDI (2016)
Figure 2.4:
Figure 2.4:

GDP per capita and value added per worker

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: World Bank Group WDI (2016) and staff projection.
Figure 2.5:
Figure 2.5:

Value added per worker by sector (projection 2016–2030)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: World Bank Group WDI (2016) and staff projection.

2.4 Challenges to economic diversification, inclusive growth, and macroeconomic development

Sierra Leone’s economy will accelerate to a significant level of growth when the application and implementation of the envisaged policy changes comes into force. If the current trends in labour productivity are not reinforced in the next fifteen years, total value added would increase by 5 percent on average per year for the period 2016–2030, down from 5.3 percent on average per year between 2002 and 2015. This reflects slower growth in agriculture and services, which will offset the effects of the higher growth in industry, driven by the extractive sector. Under these hypotheses, value added per worker increases by 2.6 percent on average per year to reach US$1,830 in real terms (constant 2010 US$) by 2030, up from $1,235 in 2015. Considering the declining share of the non-working-age population, GDP per capita would increase 3.1 percent on average per year in the period, to reach US$770 in real terms by 2030. This will be well below expectations if the country is to achieve middle-income status by 2035.

The expected growth in value added per worker and GDP per capita may however not translate into faster poverty reduction if labour productivity growth is driven mainly by the mining sector, as was the case in 2011–2014. The sector does not create enough jobs for direct access to and wider sharing of the generated prosperity. In addition, without meaningful change in land and agricultural policy, labour productivity will continue to grow at a slow pace, keeping most of the population in poverty. Also, without significant improvement in the business environment, labour productivity in the non-resource sectors (industries excluding mining and services) will continue to stagnate or decline. Recent demographic trends suggest that rural-to-urban migration will continue in the new decade, and it is very likely that the majority of urban dwellers will only find jobs in the informal sector. The percentage of the population living in urban areas increased from 35 percent in 2001 to almost 40 percent in 2015, with a high concentration in the capital, Freetown, which hosts 15 percent of the total population in only 0.02 percent of the total area of the country.

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Sierra Leone, particularly for the poor, and therefore improving agricultural productivity for food security and rural income generation is critical for poverty alleviation. Agriculture employs more than half of the country’s formal and informal workforce and accounts for about half of GDP. According to the 2014 Labour Force Survey, nearly 60 percent of employed individuals aged 15 to 64 work in agricultural self-employment. Despite its potential, the agriculture sector is constrained by compounding failures in both the input and output markets. Yields are lower due to limited access to improved varieties of seeds, modern production techniques, fertilizers, and mechanization, among others. The overall cost of production is high and reduces farmers’ profit margins. Access to credit is also minimal, insurance markets are non-existent, and the cumbersome land tenure system further impedes long-term investment. Furthermore, low prices constrain the sales of agricultural products. Poor infrastructure and an absence of modern processing and storage facilities also increase post-harvest losses.

Constraints to agricultural productivity

According to data collected in the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability cAosusnestrsym.ent, the most commonly cited constraint by farmers was the lack of access to improved seeds. Overall, when asked to identify the top three constraints to increasing agricultural production, 45 percent of farmers cited the unavailability of improved seeds, 41.5 percent cited lack of access to credit, 39 percent cited the Ebola outbreak, 31.5 percent cited insufficient household labour, 27.7 percent cited pests or crop disease, 24.7 percent cited a lack of tools, and 19.1 percent cited the unavailability of fertilizers.

Source: World Bank, Systematic Country Diagnostic (2018) and Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (2015)

Sierra Leone must create poverty-alleviating non-farm jobs outside the mineral sector by diversifying its economy. According to the World Bank, more than 100,000 people move from rural to urban areas each year in search of employment and better living conditions (World Bank, Systematic Country Diagnostic, 2018). Formal well-paid manufacturing and services jobs are virtually non-existent, leaving almost nine in ten Sierra Leoneans in the highly vulnerable informal sector. Employment growth in the formal sector is affected by a myriad of constraints, including low access to electricity, high transportation and communication costs, high competition from imports and state-owned enterprises, lack of access to credit, and an unfavourable regulatory environment. Low productivity in the informal sector meanwhile limits income generation. In particular, three key categories of constraints affect growth and employment generation in manufacturing and services: (a) macroeconomic instability and the general external environment of the firm; (b) limited access to infrastructure (roads, energy, and ICT), labour, and credit; and (c) limited trust in public officials.

Private enterprises’ decisions are influenced by several macroeconomic variables, including the aggregate demand, the inflation rate, the exchange rate, tax rates, and interest rates. In Sierra Leone, there is high volatility of the aggregate demand and the exchange rate, with sharp deviations from the long-run average (8 percent depreciation over a ten-year period), which makes it difficult for the local firms to compete with imports and to plan investments. In addition, the effectiveness of the monetary policy in curbing inflation is very limited (credit to the private sector is below 5 percent of GDP, with only 15 percent of the adult population having an account with a formal institution, against 24 percent on average for sub-Saharan Africa).

Similarly, public expenditures constitute a significant single component of the aggregate demand. However, because of the uncertain contribution of the mining sector to government revenue, public expenditures traditionally have been volatile, making market projections and investment planning at the level of the firm very difficult. According to the last Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability Report (2017), the aggregate government expenditure outturn has exceeded the budget each year, mainly due to the lack of commitment control (i.e. politically directed spending on unplanned projects and contracts). Recent experience shows also that bank financing of the fiscal deficit exceeds 2 percent of GDP, raising interest rates and squeezing the credit available to finance the private sector.

Sierra Leone’s infrastructure deficit in energy, transport, and ICT impedes private sector investment by increasing production and marketing costs and thereby preventing links between internal and external markets. According to the African Development Bank, the country’s infrastructure compares poorly to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, and it was ranked 46 out of 54 countries on the bank’s Africa Infrastructure Development Index1 in 2016. The country’s financial system faces substantial challenges. Access to capital appears to be a binding constraint for the entry of new entrepreneurs, as well as for existing businesses. According to the 2014 Labour Force Survey, over half (56 percent) of the unemployed who were not searching for work wanted to start their own businesses, but lacked the capital or resources to do so. Similarly, nearly half (47 percent) of household enterprises reported that they were unable to borrow the necessary capital for their businesses.

The extension of financial services to the rural population (about 60 percent) is inherently limited by the concentration of financial institutions in urban areas. Additionally, only 1 percent of individuals are covered by the Bank of Sierra Leone’s credit registry, which means that banks are unable to properly check individuals’ credit histories, which increases the risk of lending. Outreach of the microfinance and community banking sectors is also limited by poor governance and communication technology. Sierra Leone lacks adequate and relevant labour policy and legislation, and there are no comprehensive regulations for labour market operations in the country.2 Many of the important laws (e.g. the Employers and Employed Ordinance and the Trade Unions Ordinance) regulating the labour market in Sierra Leone date back to 1960, one year before independence.

The country suffers from a poor private sector business environment, which is constraining both domestic and foreign investment. Sierra Leone is experiencing stagnation and deterioration in its business environment and is struggling to regain and sustain reform momentum. In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018, Sierra Leone ranked 160 out of 190 countries. This is a significant decline from the 2017 ranking, in which Sierra Leone was 148. Besides poor infrastructure and limited access to finance, investors also face several regulatory and administrative barriers. The key issues cited by businesses include corruption, high tax rates, and a mismatch between demand for and supply of labour.

A further constraint to accelerated growth and poverty reduction is the continued overwhelming overlap of government bureaucracies and the absence of a clear pathway for operations. The large role of state-owned enterprises is a legacy of post-independence history and so are their inefficiencies, which are reflected in weak management and frequent political interference in their operations. The most critical inputs to the production and commercialization process (electricity, water, transportation, loans, credit, etc.) are currently provided by state-owned enterprises that are characterized by low productivity and poor financial performance. Efforts to liberalize state-owned enterprises have been hampered by the political and economic environment.

To create the conditions for economic growth and poverty reduction, Sierra Leone must invest in its people, particularly the poor. The country’s public service delivery is currently insufficient for meeting the population’s basic needs and developing human capital. It is therefore critical that Sierra Leone improves its human capital to take advantage of new opportunities in an increasingly information-based and digital global economy. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and globally, with a GDP per capita of US$499 in 2017. It ranked 184 out of 188 countries on the United Nations 2018 Human Development Index, below the average for countries with similar GDP per capita.

The quality of education in Sierra Leone is generally poor. Recent studies show that 87 percent of pupils in second grade were unable to read any part of a short passage given to them in the Early Grade Reading Assessment, compared to 40 percent, 30 percent, and 53 percent in Gambia, Liberia, and Uganda respectively.

Furthermore, by the end of third grade, more than 50 percent of children could not write their name. Poor learning outcomes persist throughout the school lifecycle. The country’s uneducated workforce prevents the economy from evolving into areas requiring higher skills, thereby depressing demand and any incentives for individuals to seek training opportunities. Key constraints to skills acquisition include an outdated curriculum that is not aligned with labour market needs; insufficient capacity (financial, organizational, and infrastructural) of providers in technical vocational education and training and higher education; limited links with industry; poor quality of instruction and instructors; and limited responsiveness to training and skills development needs in the informal sector. The vast majority of the 120,000 new entrants to the labour force each year face few good prospects and often become absorbed into rural agriculture or self-employment in the urban informal sector.

Similarly, poor health affects economic growth and the ability of households to increase their incomes. In agrarian areas, labour lost to poor health lowers farm productivity, and the World Food Programme identified poor access to health services as one of the major underlying reasons for the high prevalence of food and nutrition insecurity in Sierra Leone. Health shocks also limit households’ ability to save and invest in income-generating assets. Beyond the microeconomic consequences of poor health for household income, the disease environment and the ability to combat disease outbreaks are critical to overall economic growth. In Sierra Leone, economic growth dropped sharply in 2014, partially because of the Ebola outbreak, which was estimated to have caused a 3.3 percentage point loss of GDP (World Bank, 2014).

As a small open economy, Sierra Leone is highly dependent on the international price of its major commodity exports, particularly iron ore, for revenue and foreign exchange. Iron ore exports account for over 50 percent of total exports. At the same time, the country does not have any control over the price of its major imported goods, such as rice and fuel, which account for over 50 percent of total import value. Therefore, a drop in the international price of iron ore and or rise in the price of rice/ fuel (adverse terms of trade) will adversely affect the macroeconomy. Consequently, lower levels of exports reduce the supply of foreign exchange and trigger inflationary pressures, which in turn increase the cost of goods and services purchased by government and reduce real household income.

Lower iron ore prices would have a cumulative negative impact on domestic revenue collection, as royalty payments, personal income tax, and corporate tax from mining contractors would drop. This scenario was evident from 2015 to 2017 and into 2018, when a drop in iron ore prices resulted in slow GDP growth.

Recently a flexible exchange rate regime has been adopted. As a result, the value of Sierra Leone’s currency (the leone) reflects the strength of the domestic economy and is influenced by international developments, over which it has no control. In recent years, the exchange rate of the leone to the US dollar and other international currencies depreciated continuously due to the volatility of mineral exports and the unpredictable disbursement of external budget amid increasing demand for imports. The depreciation of the exchange rate led to an increase in the prices of essential imported goods such as rice and fuel, with huge economic, political, and social implications. Consumer prices have remained high since mid-2016.

In addition, Sierra Leone’s external debt is high relative to the size of the economy. The depreciation of the exchange rate also increased external debt service payments (interest payment and debt amortization) and, consequently, budget deficit.

Domestic revenue collection is a serious economic and fiscal management challenge in Sierra Leone. It is less than 12 percent of GDP, which is lower than the average in sub-Saharan Africa (18 percent). In the midst of high domestic expenditure, averaging 20 percent of GDP, this situation often leads to higher budget deficits, which have been financed largely by borrowing from the domestic banking system, with adverse macroeconomic consequences, including high inflation, a depreciating exchange rate, and low bank credit to the private sector.

The low revenue collection is attributable to weak tax administration, including weak capacity, excessive tax relief and exemptions, wide ranging off-budget revenues, and a narrow tax base. The result has been a wider fiscal deficit, financed largely by borrowing from the domestic banking system and the accumulation of arrears to suppliers and contractors. This in turn has increased the level of domestic debt, estimated at 5 trillion leones, and associated debt service payments. Total arrears were estimated at 1.5 trillion leones in March 2018. The high debt service payments undermined priority development expenditures by the government.

In 2017, Sierra Leone’s public debt was estimated at US$2 billion, of which external debt is $1.5 billion and domestic debt is $.5 billion. A recent Debt Sustainability Analysis conducted by the Ministry of Finance reveals that Sierra Leone’s debt situation is categorized as high-risk debt distress due to the fall in exports, low revenue generation, and slow economic growth. The high domestic debt service payments increase government expenditure and weaken fiscal stability.

Sierra Leone also has a substantial stock of domestic debt in the form of marketable and non-marketable securities. In June 2018, the interest rate on the 365-day treasury bills, which account for over 80 percent of the marketable treasury securities, has remained high, at 28 percent. The government’s inability to repay the debt, due to other pressing expenditure priorities, explains the high lending rates of commercial banks.

The instability of the tax policy environment is caused by the yearly review of tax laws and regulations (passed as the Finance Act), often without fully evaluating the previous provisions. This has been the modus operandi of financial management for decades. This proliferation of tax laws creates uncertainty in the tax system, which affects investment decisions.

Sierra Leone’s economy is vulnerable to shocks because it is not diversified, as demonstrated in 2014 when the crash in commodity prices impacted negatively on economic growth. The accumulation of all of the above factors explains the weak performance of the economy over the last ten years, notwithstanding the short bursts of high growth rates. At the same time, these factors justify the need for prioritizing diversification, policy choices that promote inclusive growth, and special attention to maintaining a stable macroeconomic and fiscal policy.

Key macroeconomic objectives and targets for 2019–2023

The key macroeconomic objectives of the Government of Sierra Leone in the medium term (2019 to 2023) are to:

  • 1. Attain and maintain single-digit inflation.

  • 2. Reduce the budget deficit, including grants, to not more than 3 percent of GDP, through increasing domestic revenue collection to 20 percent of GDP by 2023 and keeping government expenditures within budgetary limits of around 24 percent of GDP. In particular, the government wage bill will be kept at the sustainable threshold of 6 percent of GDP.

  • 3. Reduce the current account deficit, including official grants, from 14 percent of GDP in 2018 to an average of 11.5 percent of GDP from 2019 to 2023 through export promotion and diversification.

  • 4. Build foreign exchange reserves to a minimum of three months of import cover.

  • 5. Maintain the public debt at the sustainable threshold of not more than 70 percent of GDP in nominal terms and 55 percent of GDP in present value terms. External debt will remain at not more than 40 percent of GDP in present value terms.

2.5 Medium-term macroeconomic policy framework for delivering the Medium-term National Development Plan

This section defines the fiscal and general macroeconomic policy parameters within which the government is expected to be able to finance sector projects and programmes in the MTNDP. Setting these parameters from the outset is crucial to guiding the selection and prioritization of the sectoral policy actions discussed in the following chapters and the attendant projects for financing in the next five years. Box 2.3 highlights key fiscal and macroeconomic targets the government hopes to achieve by 2023, and the rest of the section deals with specific policies that would be undertaken in order to achieve these targets and hence ensure optimal financing of the sector policy actions discussed in the subsequent chapters.

2.5.1 Fiscal policy medium-term measures

Fiscal policy will focus on restoring macroeconomic stability through fiscal consolidation, which involves intensifying domestic revenue collection and expenditure rationalization. Going forward, the government will pursue short- and medium-term revenue measures and general expenditure controls. These are highlighted below. Short-term revenue mobilization measures
  • 1. Develop and implement a comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date, and reliable taxpayer database. This will be done through cleaning and broadening the coverage of Tax Identification Numbers and Goods and Services Tax (GST) registers and harmonizing the two databases to improve compliance with business registration and tax payments.

  • 2. Explore the property tax potential to mobilize domestic revenues. To this end, among others, a Rental Income Tax Unit has been re-established at the National Revenue Authority to enhance the rental property database and implement an enforcement programme for collecting rental income tax.

  • 3. Gather third-party data for data-matching purposes. Expand the taxpayer base through the systematic use of third-party information to detect unregistered taxpayers.

  • 4. Introduce electronic cash registers to improve Sierra Leone’s GST ‘c-efficiency’. This will increase the percentage of GST-registered businesses and those fling GST returns through enhanced automated GST administration in the country.

  • 5. Enhance collection of income tax from professionals, including lawyers, doctors, accountants, and engineers. This is critical, given the evidence that there is notable noncompliance across a range of revenue instruments by these categories of professionals.

  • 6. Enhance customs valuation. While awaiting the installation of Automated System for Customs Data World, the current Automated System for Customs Data programme is being interfaced with a price reference database to improve the valuation of imports. Third party sources with original commercial invoices are also being used to address under-declared import values.

  • 7. Review and standardize the processing and clearance of transit goods. This is aimed at addressing any adverse revenue implications for the economy in light of the increase in transit goods going through Sierra Leone.

  • 8. Enhance the National Revenue Authority integrity mechanisms. Staff integrity is crucial to reducing revenue leakages.

  • 9. Other measures include:

    • Enhancing cooperation and collaborative strategies with all stakeholders

    • Implementing post-clearance audit monitoring systems to improve compliance in customs declaration

    • Implementing an automated payment gateway and reconciliation system, as well as integrating with all banking and Government of Sierra Leone systems

    • Collaborating with the Ministry of Finance to examine abuse of tax incentives to ensure that the incentives are not overgenerous to the extent that the government loses much-needed revenues for public service delivery

    • Improving voluntary compliance through aggressive taxpayer education and sensitization, which is to be done through the implementation of a nationwide tax education programme by the National Revenue Authority

    • Recovering tax arrears from companies in tax liability

    • Stepping up the auditing of GST-registered businesses, including medium-sized and large enterprises Medium-term revenue mobilization strategies
  • 1. Automating tax collection processes and procedures. This is geared towards implementing an Integrated Tax Administration System for domestic taxes, focusing on:

    • Automating domestic tax processes

    • Introducing an electronic single-window customs system at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay to improve efficiency in the clearance of goods at the quay

  • 2. Enforcing tax compliance. This will be done through:

    • Implementing a taxpayer compliance management programme

    • Developing a strategy for the enforcement of existing tax legislation

    • Strengthening tax investigation and prosecutorial processes

    • Establishing a tax court under the Commercial Court of Sierra Leone

    • Strengthening field audits of large taxpayers, especially in sectors with distinctive accounts that require specialized technical knowledge to ensure the proper assessment of tax liabilities

    • Developing and enforcing transfer pricing provisions

    • Implementing revenue stamps through the enforcement of relevant provisions of the Finance Act 2009

    • Revising fees/rates levied by MDAs

  • 3. Other medium-term revenue measures:

    • Rationalizing tax and duty waivers

    • Expanding the tax base

    • Combating cross-border smuggling

    • Undertaking comprehensive tax reform as part of the 20-year plan Expenditure management and control measures

A range of measures will be undertaken to control the government wage bill:

  • 1. No new employee records will be created without valid National Social Security and Insurance Trust numbers and Basic Bank Account Numbers.

  • 2. National Civil Registration Numbers will be utilized as unique identifiers for public sector employees.

  • 3. The government will ensure that the National Social Security and Insurance Trust discontinues contributions for public sector employees above 60 years (above 55 years for police and army).

  • 4. Rationalizing the current Personal Identification Number (PIN code) system by considering the feasibility of moving towards having employees maintain the same PIN code as they move from one category of the payroll to another.

  • 5. Minimizing the payment of salaries through manual vouchers and addressing multiple pensions.

  • 6. Aligning the manpower planning process with the budget preparation process and harmonizing salaries and allowances across all public sector payroll categories.

  • 7. Assigning public sector employees to their correct budget programmes.

  • 8. Decentralizing data input for payroll changes and employee input at the MDA level, through devolving the Integrated Financial Management Information System human resources/payroll system to MDAs so that they will have direct access to the system to input payroll changes in a timely manner.

  • 9. Establishing a Wages and Salaries Commission to further improve on and sustain payroll management. Measures to manage and control non-salary, non-interest recurrent expenditures
  • 1. The government will step up efforts to improve the public procurement process in order to reduce expenditure and ensure value for money, ensuring that all public procurement above the legal threshold should be done through open competitive bidding, with single-source procurement only allowed in exceptional circumstances.

  • 2. The government will review and amend the relevant sections in the Public Procurement Act (2016) and the Public Financial Management Act (2016) to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the National Public Procurement Authority and the Procurement Directorate of the Ministry of Finance, as well as to strengthen compliance with the Public Procurement Law.

  • 3. The government will enforce and monitor the preparation and implementation of procurement plans in the context of the Medium-term Expenditure Framework, consistent with the Public Financial Management Act (2016).

  • 4. The government will migrate from the current manual procurement processes to an electronic procurement (e-procurement) system to improve transparency and accountability to ensure value for money.

  • 5. Expenditure commitment control systems will be strengthened to avoid accumulation of arrears, through rolling out the automated Public Expenditure Tracking Survey Form I to MDAs, and upgrading the Integrated Financial Management Information System to Version 7 to help enhance the expenditure commitment control system, ensuring that the MDAs are unable to enter into any commitment above the budgetary allocation issued by the Ministry of Finance.

  • 6. Efforts will be made to discourage extrabudgetary expenditures by improving the budget planning process and ensuring strict adherence to the provisions in the Public Financial Management Act (2016) relating to the control of extrabudgetary expenditures.

  • 7. The Ministry of Finance will automate expenditure management, including the enterprise resource system, to track in real time the stages of expenditure in the system. Measures to manage and control domestic capital expenditure

To improve the efficiency of public investment, there is an urgent need to conclude and adopt the National Public Investment Policy and the National Public Investment Manual, which have been developed in conformity with the Public Financial Management Act of 2016 and its accompanying regulations. More specifically, the following measures will be undertaken:

  • 1. Projects wholly funded by the government should be negotiated in domestic currency, with provision for domestic currency depreciation.

  • 2. Such projects should be included in the public investment programme only after a thorough project appraisal demonstrates that they are economically and financially viable and funding sources have been identified.

  • 3. There will be a comprehensive review with regard to compensation for these projects, except those involving the resettlement of persons, as compensation payments do not only add to the cost of the project, but usually cause delays in project implementation.

  • 4. Hiring external consultants for wholly government-funded projects will be minimized to the extent possible, noting that some contracting authorities, such as the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority, the Electricity Distribution and Supply Agency, and the Electricity Generation and Transmission Company, are presumed to have the required expertise to provide effective supervision of projects.

  • 5. There is a need for ex-post evaluation of major projects for lessons going forward regarding future public investment decisions.

  • 6. For donor-funded projects, appraisal will be done in line with the provisions of the Public Financial Management Act 2016, the Public Debt Act 2013, and the National Public Investment Policy.

  • 7. The government will encourage the public sector to adequately budget for the government counterpart funding required by most donor-funded projects, in the form of compensation for project-affected persons and sometimes resettlement needs, as well as payment for quarries and campsites and other project-related costs.

  • 8. Government counterpart funding should be paid in the local currency.

  • 9. In order to evaluate the strength of our public investment practices, the Government of Sierra Leone, with assistance from the International Monetary Fund Fiscal Affairs Department, will embark on a Public Investment Management Assessment.

2.5.2 Monetary policy measures

The main monetary policy objective for the Bank of Sierra Leone would be to lower infa-tion, re-anchor inflation expectations, and ensure progressive convergence to medium-term single-digit inflation. To this end, the following measures will be undertaken:

  • 1. Monetary policy will continue to be driven by the need to align monetary growth with levels consistent with medium-term inflation and GDP growth objectives.

  • 2. The central bank will continue primarily to use its monetary policy rate to signal its monetary policy stance.

  • 3. It will continue to enhance the effectiveness of monetary policy operations as well as liquidity management through more active participation in the money market by the use of market-based instruments.

  • 4. It will seek to further develop and deepen the interbank market to enable market participants to effectively and appropriately respond to monetary policy signals.

  • 5. It will improve monetary policy communication to key stakeholders and the public at large.

  • 6. It will focus on the development of appropriate monetary instruments and tools to make liquidity management more effective.

  • 7. In collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Sierra Leone will implement reform measures geared towards improving the efficiency of the government securities market, as the government considers the prospect of issuing a long-term bond in domestic currency to support the financing of infrastructure projects. Exchange rate policy measures

The exchange rate will continue to be determined by the market within the framework of a flexible exchange rate regime to allow the economy to adjust to external shocks and maintain its competitiveness to support export-oriented growth. The Bank of Sierra Leone’s interventions in the foreign exchange market will be limited to smoothing excessive volatility in the exchange rate and will not be designed to resist market-driven trends in the exchange rate. In the medium term, therefore, the following specific measures will be undertaken:

  • 1. There will be a focus on developing a vibrant, well-established foreign exchange market that can facilitate well-referenced exchange rate determination.

  • 2. The established electronic trading platform will be enhanced to accommodate all significant foreign exchange transactions to help in determining the reference exchange rate for the market.

  • 3. The government will strengthen the cooperation of all authorized dealer banks and traders in meeting reporting requirements in a timely manner to ensure that the foreign exchange market is deepened and well anchored.

  • 4. The government will accelerate the economic diversification programme in the medium term to stabilize currency exchange through encouraging exports and discouraging imports, especially of basic consumption commodities. Financial sector policy measures

The key objectives of the government’s financial sector policy implemented by the Bank of Sierra Leone are two-fold:

  • To deepen financial intermediation and fniancial inclusion to foster higher, broader, and more inclusive growth.

  • To safeguard financial stability through the strengthening of the regulatory and supervisory framework and to appropriately assess risks within the banking system and other financial institutions.

Specific measures to achieve these objectives are as follows:

Promoting financial inclusion

  • 1. The Bank of Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the World Bank, will continue to work on procuring a National Financial Switch for Sierra Leone as part of a larger project within the second phase of the Financial Sector Development Programme for increased financial inclusion. The government will promote digital financial services (DFS). With 14 DFS providers licensed by the Bank of Sierra Leone and an average of over 5.6 million transactions per month, DFS (using financial technology) is well positioned to close the remaining gaps in financial inclusion by offering affordable and convenient ways for individuals, households, and businesses to save, make payments, access credit, and obtain insurance.

  • 2. As a member of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion and the Better Tan Cash Alliance, Sierra Leone will continue to leverage digital financial services to create transformative impact in the economic and social well-being of all citizens, and actively participate in regional and global peer-learning exchanges.

  • 3. The government will continue to strengthen the functioning of the Digital Financial Services Working Group, led by the Bank of Sierra Leone and including the Ministry of Finance, the National Telecommunications Commission, the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the private sector.

  • 4. The government will strengthen the subcommittee of the national DFS Working Group/DFS Task Force for Smallholder Farmers to mainstream digital financial services into the operations of smallholder farmers.

  • 5. The Bank of Sierra Leone will review and revamp the mobile money guidelines to keep pace with the evolution of DFS globally.

  • 6. In order to ensure predictability in DFS, the government will consider the establishment of a legal and regulatory framework that is risk-based and fair; that allows for new entrants and is technology-neutral; and whose operations do not impose excessive, non-risk-based compliance costs.

  • 7. The government will ensure that women, youth, and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises have improved access to transformative digital financial services; that DFS regulators have strengthened institutional capacity to formulate and implement a financial technology regulatory framework; and that DFS can be leveraged by the government to improve and monitor domestic revenue collection and resource mobilization.

  • 8. Furthermore, development partners such as the World Bank and the UN Capital Development Fund are working closely with the government to promote the DFS sector in the aforementioned areas, towards building capacity and strengthening coordination among DFS regulators, developing the consumer protection framework for DFS, and implementing the digital credit bureau initiative through linking digital financial identity to digital transactions.

Supervision and regulation of the financial system

A range of measures will be undertaken by government in this regard, including the following:

  • Promoting financial sector legislative reforms

  • Improving the performance of the two state-owned banks through increased supervisory oversight by the Bank of Sierra Leone Public debt policy measures

In its continued commitment to remain proactive in debt management within its overall economic policy management framework, the government will undertake the following between 2019 and 2023 to inform the implementation of projects/programmes in the Medium-term National Development Plan:

  • 1. Reform the institutional and legal framework for accessing external and domestic debts for the central government, local governments, and state-owned enterprises.

  • 2. Debt ceilings will be explicitly set in the medium- to long-term in the context of implementing government development plans, informed by sound medium-term debt strategy and debt sustainability analysis aimed at reducing the risk of debt distress.

  • 3. The government will carefully monitor the build-up of domestic debt to ensure it is within sustainable and affordable limits.

  • 4. It will issue medium- to long-term bonds to finance capital and infrastructure projects within available programme borrowing limits to avoid mismatch in utilizing short-term borrowing to finance infrastructure projects.

  • 5. The government will prioritize grant and concessional external financing to ease the burden on domestic financing and the pressure on the domestic interest rate.

  • 6. It will limit external financing of social services predominantly to grants, while direct loan resources will go to productive sectors and infrastructural development with high economic returns.

  • 7. The government will limit the accumulation of domestic arrears and ways and means advances from the central bank to not more than 5 percent of domestic revenue, supported by improved budget execution and control.

  • 8. The government will embark on the verification of claims and adopt various strategies to clear arrears, including explicit provision in the annual budget arrears settlement.

  • 9. The government will discount or apply a haircut (a reduction applied to the value of an asset) on verified claims based on certain characteristics; it will ensure upfront cash payments and issuance of special bonds to securitize arrears.

  • 10. The government will utilize budget support and revenue windfalls to clear some categories of the verified claims, which is all aimed at zero accumulation of external debt arrears.

  • 11. It will assiduously work towards avoiding future build-up of arrears by improving public financial management (PFM) practices, looking forward to the joint technical assistance request from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in this direction; this is while noting the huge stock of domestic arrears and pipeline commitments estimated at 10.6 trillion leones (US$1.4 billion) or 39 percent of GDP at the end of May 2018, which included nonpayment for goods and services already delivered or works completed.

Additionally, a domestic arrears clearance strategy will be implemented as follows:

  • Maintaining a comprehensive and credible database on arrears and payables across all sectors.

  • Subjecting the database to verification or audit to ascertain the accuracy and validity of claims, ascertaining whether transactions were conducted within the law, including following correct procurement processes.

  • Ensuring verification of arrears by category (salaries and wages, social security, recurrent goods and services, and so on), and prioritizing liquidation or treatment accordingly in the annual budget.

  • In liquidating, the government will consider negotiating a haircut on certain categories of claims and would mobilize a down payment to pay of the discounted amount for those creditors willing to participate.

  • The government will transform arrears to explicit obligations by borrowing to finance the liquidation of the claim, prioritizing cheaper sources of financing to settle verified claims.

  • It will consider grant resources and revenue windfall towards clearing verified claims.

  • It will consider ring-fencing pre-deter-mined grants for disbursement towards addressing specific categories of claims in the short term.

  • For large claims, in the roads and energy sectors in particular and in construction contracts in general, it will consider a securitization approach, allowing for delaying financing until such time that the fiscal situation of the government has improved with specific and predictable payment timelines; holders of securities or claimants could use these as guarantees to access financing elsewhere.

First Person

‘There is a need to continue the participatory approach for the National Development Plan.’

—Parliamentarian representative

‘There is a need for a long-term plan that will set out a clear vision and path to development. Such a long-term plan needs to be legislated for stability in the development trajectory of the country.’

—NGC Political Party Representative

‘The National Development Plan should be developed in “Blueprint Form”, i.e. the document should serve for a long period of time and should not be changed from one government to another.’

—President, Labour Union

Part 2: Policy Clusters

Policies and programmes to implement the National Development Plan have been organized into eight broad policy clusters. These clusters also contain the eight leading strategic priorities of government. Cluster 1: Human capital development; Cluster 2: Diversifying the economy and promoting growth; Cluster 3: Infrastructure and economic competitiveness; Cluster 4: Governance and accountability for results; Cluster 5: Empowering women, children, adolescents, and persons with disabilities; Cluster 6: Youth employment, sports, and migration; Cluster 7: Addressing vulnerabilities and building resilience; and Cluster 8: Means of implementation. All these clusters are gender and environmentally mainstreamed.

Cluster One: Human Capital Development

Beyond its natural resources, Sierra Leone’s most substantial asset is its human resources, largely made up of a young and dynamic population. Like natural resources, this resource must be properly developed to be an asset for economic growth and development. However, as outlined earlier, levels of literacy are low, performance in primary and secondary education is weak, and what is produced for the labour market is inadequate to meet needs. The difference between a potentially detrimental youth bulge and a beneficial, dynamic young workforce is the level of a country’s human capital, particularly as it relates to health and education. Improving human capital to promote growth and development will require a dramatic increase in the quality of public services.

In the short term, better public service provision (especially free quality education) will free up household resources previously used to purchase similar services in the private sector, allowing for increased consumption or for productive investments. This alone can improve outcomes, as lack of funding or capital was identified as the main reason for not sending children, particularly girls, to school and a key reason for not starting or expanding businesses and farming activities (2014 Labour Force Survey). In the medium term, an increase in human capital resources at the national level will improve the business climate, boosting the output of private sector activities and the attractiveness of Sierra Leone for future investment. Improved health also reduces days lost to illness, increasing the supply of labour for agriculture or informal nonfarm enterprises. Quality education meanwhile has been shown to improve the uptake of modern farming practices and allow fishermen and fish traders to move up the value chain.

This offers two channels for poverty reduction. First, it directly increases the income of the poor, as agriculture and fishing are key sectors of employment for this group. Second, higher production of rice (a staple grain) and fish (a major protein source) would reduce their prices and increase consumption, thereby improving food security and nutrition for poor households. Better services in rural areas can also reduce migration to urban areas, which are already under pressure to provide basic services and jobs. In the long term, healthy and educated people living in stable conditions will constitute a ready workforce for new foreign direct investment in the manufacturing and service industries or increased domestic entrepreneurial activities.


Joyous primary children ready for free quality education.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Building human and physical capital for growth and poverty reduction would also require more efficient public spending. Bottlenecks in public financial management and procurement lead to inefficient public spending in priority sectors. Greater efficiencies and higher value for money can be achieved through improvements in budgeting (enhanced allocative efficiency), procurement, and financial management, including reporting and oversight. Sierra Leone has built a fairly solid legal and regulatory framework that serves as the foundation for public financial management and a sound implementation framework.

Moreover, increased investment in human capital will guarantee sustained reduction of poverty, including improved conditions of vulnerable persons, as well as sustainable management of land and housing in the country.

Education is the bedrock of long-term sustainable growth and the transformation of the economy of Sierra Leone. It is at the heart of the socio-economic development of the country, helping to lift people out of poverty and create vast new opportunities to reduce unfair income distribution and increase choices. Education is the key to individual, community, and national development. As noted in the 2018–2020 Education Sector Plan of Sierra Leone, investing in the quality of education is the most fundamental requirement for accelerating the future growth and development of the country.

This policy cluster, human capital development, therefore aims at generating a critical mass of highly educated, trained, and skilled Sierra Leoneans with the capacity to undertake research and development, pursue innovation and learning, start productive businesses and run sound industries, and deliver better leadership and services in the public sector. It is indeed not surprising that the Government of Sierra Leone has portrayed ‘education for development’ as the overarching guiding principle for the new National Development Plan.

The plan has categorized specific educational targets and strategies under two broad sub-policy areas: free quality basic and senior secondary education; and tertiary and higher education. And it has returned the country’s education system to the 6–3-3–4 system that was instituted in 19931 from the 6–3-4–4 system used for the last seven years. Additionally, to heighten the focus on education as the flagship programme of the country, in tandem with related sectors, for the period 2019 to 2023, the government is pursuing a special Human Capital Development Project.

1.1 Free quality basic and senior secondary education

Education is the bedrock of every society. Development of education as a cutting-edge catalyst is at the heart of the development agenda of the government. As the government seeks to develop human capital and improve academic performance, access to quality free education has become the flagship programme for the government. The aim is to further ensure that education is modernized and made relevant to the development needs of Sierra Leonean society.

Access and equity

The Free Quality School Education Programme will increase demand for school. It is anticipated that school enrolment will increase. Currently enrolment rates are rising across all levels of schooling, as shown in Table 1.1. There has been an increase in access: between the 2010/2011 school year and 2017, overall enrolment at all levels of schooling increased by 474, 612 (i.e. by approximately 30 percent). The percentage change in enrolment over the same period is greatest for the pre-primary level, at 115 percent, followed by the senior secondary level, at 66 percent. The percentage change is least for the primary level, at 24 percent. This should inform the allocation of resources moving forward, but at the same time it should be noted that enrolment at the primary level will remain higher than that of all other levels for the foreseeable future.

Female enrolment grew at a faster rate than that for males at the pre-primary, primary, and junior secondary levels. Already the Gender Parity Index values based on the gross enrolment ratio indicate that gender equity is close to being attained at the basic level of schooling, standing at or better than 1. This trend is expected to continue, especially with the introduction of the Free Quality School Education Programme, and could result in more girls than boys being in senior secondary school in the next five years. It is therefore critical to ensure that girls do not only enrol in school, but continue with and complete their education. The programme is a strategy to ensure that this materializes.

Table 1.1:

School enrolment from 2003 to 2017

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Pupils’ attention is important for quality learning.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

The phased approach in the implementation of the Free Quality School Education Programme means that pupils benefitting in the first phase will be only those attending government and government-assisted schools. This is expected to result in a significant increase in enrolment in these two categories of schools.

The increase in enrolment over the years has not only been at the national level, but also at regional and district levels. Even though enrolment varies from district to district, largely because of population differences, it is worth noting that in every instance the enrolment rates have been improving.

In order to ensure that children with disabilities are not excluded or prevented from enrolling, provisions are being made to make schools more accommodating of persons with disability by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education. This includes providing ramps, making toilets more easily usable by pupils with disabilities, and making teachers more aware of the needs of students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms. Data from the annual school census indicates, however, that the number of students with disabilities in schools decreased a little from 25,339 in 2015 to 25,022 in 2017, even though overall enrolment increased. Full implementation of the recently developed Inclusive Education Policy will help to get more children with disabilities into schools.

Quality: learning, relevance, completion, integrity

While starting school is important, completing and advancing to the next level of education is equally important, if not more crucial in terms of national development. Late school entry impacts negatively on school completion, especially for girls. Generally, school completion rates have been moderate in Sierra Leone. These rates increased fairly consistently until 2017, when the increase in the estimated population of school-age children was not matched by the increase in enrolment at the primary level. Unsurprisingly, there was slippage in the gross completion rate at the primary level, from approximately 74 percent in 2016 to 67 percent in 2017. This also happened at junior secondary level, from approximately 61 percent in 2016 to 49 percent in 2017.

Ideally, all pupils completing primary school are expected to advance to junior secondary school, but the challenge has been acquiring the required aggregate pass score in the National Primary School Examination. Between 2016 and 2017, data from the Annual School Census revealed a reduction in the primary-to-junior secondary transition rate, from 88 percent in 2016 to 78 percent in 2017. Encouragingly, however, in 2017 the female primary-to-junior secondary transition rate was higher than that for males.

Entries for the Basic Education Certificate Examination increased up until 2017, when a decrease was recorded. Table 1.2 shows the numbers that entered, sat, and passed this examination from 2013 through 2017, which were not very encouraging, especially in 2013 and 2014. However, the trend shows a continued increase in the rate of passes each year.

The numbers entering, sitting, and passing the West African Senior School Certificate Examination fluctuated between 2012 and 2018 and registered dismal performance rates, ranging from 7 to 20 percent, as shown in Table 1.3. While boys are outperforming girls in the West African Examinations Council private school examinations, it is worth noting that girls are almost at par with boys in the public National Primary School Examination and West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

Teacher numbers have been increasing over the years as enrolment (at all levels) increased along with the number of schools constructed. In 2016, the total number of teachers in all schools was 63,535, of which 17,147 were females. By 2017, the total number had increased to 63,736, while that of female teachers decreased to 17,006 (a .8 percent decrease). It is only at the pre-primary level that there have been more female teachers than male teachers.

About 34 percent of teachers had no formal training as educators in 2016; in 2017, this dropped to 33 percent. Given the relatively small percentage of teachers who are appropriately qualified for the level they teach, it is not surprising that the pupil-to-qualified teacher ratio for 2017 is generally above ideal levels (Table 1.5), remaining higher in the provinces compared to Western Area.

In order to enable the Teaching Service Commission to effectively play its designated management and deployment role, policies, standards, guides, and related frameworks have been developed. Management of teacher records, transfers, deployment, assessment, promotions, and related responsibilities have now been moved from the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to the Teaching Service Commission for improved governance.

The MTNDP addresses the numerous abovementioned challenges in the basic and senior secondary education sector. The fiscal constraints inherited from the implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity (2013–2018) resulted in a drastic shortfall in the financing requirements for the sector. This was exacerbated by the devastating Ebola virus disease outbreak (2013–2016) and the simultaneous crash in the country’s leading export commodity, iron ore. During the 2013–2016 period, at the height of the Ebola epidemic, schools were shut down for almost a whole year. With GDP growth plunging from 20.7 percent in 2013 to 4.6 percent in 2014, and then contracting to negative 20.7 percent in 2015, and with spending on Ebola control diverting resources from other sectors, few resources were available for the education sector. All this was in addition to existing required improvements in overall service delivery in the sector.

Quality of education remains a concern across school levels. For instance, many Class 4 (primary) pupils cannot read a grade- and age-appropriate text fluently and with comprehension. Many pupils in Class 2 and Class 4 do not know the letter sounds and cannot decode words. At higher levels, the latest assessment on mathematics revealed that only 7 percent of Junior Secondary School 2 and 12 percent of Senior Secondary School 2 pupils typically demonstrate math skills linked to the highest performance band; a vast majority of pupils in both grades fall within the lower performance bands, with about 37 percent of Junior Secondary School 2 and 25 percent of Senior Secondary School 2 pupils demonstrating skills linked to the lowest performance band. Across both grades, boys perform significantly better than girls, and the gap in their performance appears to widen as they move from the junior level to the senior level.

Figure 1.1:
Figure 1.1:

Trends in National Primary School Examination performance 2013–2018

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Table 1.2:

Entries for the Basic Education Certificate Examination

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Table 1.3:

Pupil performance in Basic Education Certificate Examination

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Table 1.4:

Performance of male (M) and female (F) school candidates in the 2014–2018 West African Senior School Certificate Examination

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Additionally, based on the performance of pupils in public tests and examinations, the teaching force in Sierra Leone is of poor quality. Results for the Early Grade Reading Assessment, the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment, the National Primary School Examination, the Basic Education Certificate Examination, and the West African Senior School Certificate Examination are poor and not getting better. An average of 34 percent of all teachers are classified as unqualified/untrained. The problem is most serious at the primary level, where 42 percent of teachers are unqualified, compared to junior secondary and senior secondary levels, where 27 percent and 12 percent respectively of teachers are unqualified. But there is a positive trend, with the percentage of unqualified teachers declining from 45 percent in 2010 to 34 percent in 2016.

The school completion rate remains a serious challenge. Too many girls are still not completing basic education, and many who complete do not move on to senior secondary school. High repetition rates, especially at the primary level, have been a major factor in limiting school completion. The low levels of teacher competence and motivation are additional factors.

Equity issues exist in education. Pre-primary schooling is not equitably provided. A vast number of pre-primary school-age children do not have access to pre-primary school. Where this is provided, the quality of service has been uneven. There is still inequity in the provision of general schooling and in enrolment across geographical areas. Many children are still starting primary school late, above the official age.

In addition, many children with disabilities are out of school. In the governance and management of the school system, there has been unnecessary over-centralization, and no system of financing that encourages and rewards good performance and improvement.

Among the main opportunities and strengths for basic and senior secondary education are the increased focus on learning in schools and efforts to minimize the cost of schooling. The commencement of the Free Quality School Education Programme provides an immense opportunity for Sierra Leoneans to have access to quality schooling at minimal cost. Under the programme, interventions that would improve the quality of schooling are being rapidly implemented. Additionally, increased attention has been given to decentralization in the management and supervision of education. Among other things, this would allow greater local ownership at the community level.

Table 1.5:

Pupil-to-qualified teacher ratio

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Greater importance has been given to early childhood education, putting the necessary policies and structures in place, including strategies to improve and enhance inclusive education. Standards and teacher guides have also been developed for early childhood education, and plans are in place to make available the necessary accompanying provisions. Another opportunity is the increasing school enrolment, which will serve as a catalyst for the government to accelerate the delivery of the compulsory Free Quality School Education Programme, especially given the encouraging enrolment numbers for girls over the years, including higher participation rates in public school examinations: the National Primary School Examination, Basic Education Certificate Examination, and West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination.

Furthermore, development partners have shown strong willingness to support the Free Quality School Education Programme and ensure that it succeeds. A trust fund has been established for partner participation, in addition to funds available from the budget. A stronger relationship between the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and the Ministry of Finance has been established,

including an understanding to guarantee a 20 percent minimum recurrent state budget for education.

There are greater schooling opportunities now, with more schools meeting the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education minimum criteria. New sustainable policies are underway. We are also seeing greater involvement of civil society in the monitoring of education, and more collaboration between the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and other MDAs.

Strategic objective

The strategic objective is to significantly improve and increase access to quality basic and senior secondary education in both formal and non-formal settings, providing modern, free basic and secondary education services that are safe, inclusive, equitable, corruption free, and relevant to needs in order to impact productive economic activity.

Key targets
  • 1. By 2023, implement free quality basic and secondary school education.

  • 2. By 2023, increase access, equity, and completion rates at all levels of schooling (formal and non-formal) above the 2018 rates.

  • 3. By 2023, improve the basic and senior secondary learning environment at all levels above the 2018 rates.

  • 4. By 2023, review and strengthen educational systems and governance architecture for improved quality education.

Key policy actions
  • 1. Prioritize the provision of universal free quality education programmes by increasing the national budgetary allocation to education.

  • 2. Decentralize basic and senior secondary school education.

  • 3. Revert from the 6–3-4–4 system of education to the 6–3-3–4 system, as recommended in education sector reviews.

  • 4. Provide specialized facilities and structures that meet the needs of vulnerable pupils, especially girls and children with disabilities, in primary and secondary schools.

  • 5. Establish a functioning Non-formal Accelerated Learning Centre in every district.

  • 6. Establish a Multi-partner Education Basket Fund for development with an effective governance and oversight mechanism.

  • 7. Increase teacher–pupil contact hours by eliminating the two-shift system and building additional classrooms.

  • 8. Reduce the pupil–teacher ratio by recruiting additional trained and qualified teachers.

  • 9. Develop a policy and legal framework to enhance public–private partnerships in the education sector.

  • 10. Improve the capacity of the ministry, the School Inspectorate, School Management Committees, etc.

  • 11. Establish a national database with effective monitoring systems for all education programmes.

  • 12. Establish one primary school per administration section; one junior secondary school per electoral ward; and one senior secondary school per electoral constituency.

  • 13. Expand the school feeding programmes in all government and government-assisted schools.

  • 14. Strengthen and expand the school bus system on a cost recovery basis through private participation.

  • 15. Review the current Education Sector Plan to align it with national priorities and other international benchmarks on education.

  • 16. Review the curriculum of the current education system to make it relevant to the modern job market and entrepreneurship opportunities.

  • 17. Eliminate examination malpractice and unethical and corrupt practices in education through an effective national education security and governance strategy.

1.2 Strengthening tertiary and higher education

As noted earlier, the strategic objectives of the flagship education programme of the Government of Sierra Leone include increased access to quality technical and higher education to enable graduates to engage in meaningful productive economic activity. The government’s commitment to achieving this objective was reflected in the President’s State Opening of Parliament policy pronouncement in May 2018, aimed at increasing and sustaining budgetary allocation to education to a minimum of 20 percent of the national budget.

As the state pursues upstream free basic and senior secondary education in building its human resource base, it is very much aware that the ultimate objective of generating a critical mass of capable Sierra Leoneans for socio-economic competitiveness and achievement of middle-income status and beyond equally requires massive attention towards technical and higher education. All over the world, science and technology are the bedrock for the development of any modern economy.

Therefore, while the challenges ahead are enormous in the country’s pursuit of better university and higher education, the new National Development Plan will build on existing opportunities, including renewed state commitment to overcome these challenges and achieve the desired development objectives. The national population is growing fast, with consequent growth in the number of education-ready children and young people. The rising enrolment over the years (expected to quadruple with the introduction of the Free Quality School Education Programme) is testimony to the need to provide commensurate support to technical and higher education.

Table 1.6 presents the projected school-going population landscape for pre-primary (3- to 5-year-olds); primary (6- to 11-year-olds); junior secondary (12- to 14-year-olds); and senior secondary (15- to 17-year-olds) to shed light on the enormous need for the development of higher and university education. The projections for 2025, based on a 2015 baseline, suggest an increase in total population for these four school levels, from 2.89 million in 2015 to 3.38 million in 2020, 3.72 million in 2023, 3.96 million in 2025, and 4.63 million in 2030.

Upward pressure on the demand for post-basic education services will increase along with enrolment and leavers in pre-primary, primary, junior secondary, and senior secondary (due to the rising school-age population), but the government’s determination has increased at the same time to render free quality basic and senior education.

The above provides clear signals of the expected increases in demand for tertiary education, with the accompanying increase in resource requirements, thereby justifying the government’s general attention paid to education and its decision to separate the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education and the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education.

A total of 48 higher and tertiary institutions were registered with the Tertiary Education Commission in 2013:

  • 1. Five universities (3 public, 2 private)

  • 2. Tree polytechnics (all public)

  • 3. Four theological colleges (all private)

  • 4. Four health service institutions (1 private, 3 public)

  • 5. Four technical colleges (3 public, 1 private)

  • 6. Twenty-eight other colleges (all private)

Table 1.7 shows the types and size of enrolment across ten public higher education institutions in Sierra Leone for the 2011/2012 academic year. The total enrolment at the time was 31,103 students. It is logical to extrapolate that the current size of student enrolment will be above this number, given the growing demand for education at the basic level, a trend expected to drastically increase with the introduction of free quality education and accelerated support to higher education.

Table 1.6:

School-age population projection 2013 estimate for 2015–2030

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Table 1.7:

Types and size of enrolment in the public higher education institutions in Sierra Leone 2011/2012 academic year

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Source: Tertiary Education Commission

The government’s commitment to scaling up support for higher education is also rooted in its increased determination to diversify the economy, detailed in Cluster 3 on transforming the economy. This is evidenced in President Bio’s State Opening of Parliament policy pronouncement aimed at developing skills in tourism in the next five years through conducting a comprehensive skills audit of the tourism sector; preparing a Labour Force Development Plan for the tourism sector; upgrading the existing training school for hotel management; supporting private colleges pursuing tourism-related disciplines in terms of materials, equipment, and staffing; and introducing higher education programmes for tourism training, believing that higher education is the foundation for enhancing the country’s competitiveness.

The government is mindful of the wide range of challenges existent in the technical and higher education sector as its forges ahead with the Medium-term National Development Plan. These challenges include poor facilities and infrastructure; low-quality teacher training and technical and vocational institutions; corruption; and limited financial resources for the oversight ministry and the institutions of higher learning. Conditions in higher learning institutions are deplorable: they lack basic modern facilities for scientific research, innovation, and technological development, and are poorly financed. Additionally, the quality of output of teacher training institutions does not meet the needs of the educational system, and the curricula of tertiary, technical, and vocational institutions are not properly tailored to meet the growing demands of the Sierra Leone economy, thus compounding the problem of unemployment and underemployment.

First Person

‘We feel good today that the government is here in our school. No one can better articulate our needs and what we suffer from except us. We believe that our views will help government to improve the educational sector, especially for girls.’

—Dellanie L.B.R. Buck, SSS3 Science 1, Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School, Freetown

‘Education is key for achieving the other development targets.’

—NGC representative

‘Government should focus only on programmes and projects outlined in the NDP.’

—Chairperson, Bo District Council

The government’s commitment to driving higher education is demonstrated in the establishment of a separate Ministry of Technical and Higher Education to focus solely on the improvement of higher education. The government is determined to strengthen the university system’s independence, including selecting its own leadership (chancellors and vice-chancellors), as a way of reducing political interference. It is hoped that this will restore the system’s international clout and increase funding for research and networking opportunities. A Directorate for Science, Technology, and Innovation has been established in the Office of the President to work closely with the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education to help provide an initial impetus and develop a framework for scientific research.

Strategic objective

The strategic objective is to increase equitable access to quality higher education that promotes research, innovation, and entrepreneurship for growth, stability, and national development.

Key targets
  • 1. By 2023, increase access to quality higher education.

  • 2. By 2023, increase access to functional adult literacy education.

  • 3. By 2023, implement a universal civic education programme.

  • 4. By 2023, improve the quality of research and academic excellence at tertiary levels.

Key policy actions
  • 1. Improve support to the teaching of science, technology, and innovation at universities and polytechnics through the provision of special resources (equipment, motivation packages, etc.).

  • 2. Review and reinvigorate the Teaching Service Commission through improvement in personnel capacity and other requisite resources.

  • 3. Establish the Directorate for Science, Technology, and Innovation, initially anchored within the Office of the President.

  • 4. Upgrade and expand the curriculum of universities and the research output.

  • 5. Introduce a special motivation scheme for teachers in rural communities and special needs educational institutions through a special package (housing, medical services, scholarships, etc.).

  • 6. Introduce a BEST Teacher Award Scheme by providing free university education for three children of every schoolteacher with at least ten years teaching experience.

  • 7. Extend teacher training institutions to all districts by supporting established institutions with the requisite resources and adequate capacity.

  • 8. Review and expand on students’ grants-in-aid and introduce a Student Loan Scheme for deserving students across the country.

  • 9. Establish functional Adult Literacy Centres in all districts.

  • 10. Review and standardize the curriculum and certification for technical and vocational education and training.

  • 11. Develop a National Apprenticeship Scheme through the engagement of public–private partnerships in technical and vocational education and training.

  • 12. Establish additional universities and improve university infrastructure – energy, water, ICT, and student dormitories.

  • 13. Complete the review of policies and acts covering operations of higher learning institutions.

  • 14. Strengthen accountability mechanisms in higher education and improve university governance and administration to engender greater autonomy in the management of universities through the independent selection of chancellors and vice chancellors.

  • 15. Improve and expand partnerships with regional and international education institutions through coordinated research, exchange learning, and the establishment of regional centres of excellence and inter-university scientific cooperation.

1.3 Health care improvement

A healthy population is among the most crucial prerequisites for the advancement of a nation. Along with education, health is a leading dimension of the human capital formation required for sustained GDP growth and the structural transformation of an economy. There has been some progress over the years to improve access to affordable health care, both at policy and operational levels. Building on the post-conflict policy reforms, the Free Health Care Initiative launched in 2010 was a major initiative undertaken to improve health outcomes in Sierra Leone, and the government remains committed to sustaining the implementation of this initiative.

Table 1.8 provides some trends in health-care service outcomes between 2008 and 2017. The infant mortality rate dropped from 89 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 56 deaths in 2017, and the under-five mortality rate dropped from 140 to 94 deaths during the same period. There was fluctuation, with infant mortality recording a slight increase (92/1,000 live births) in 2013 and under-five mortality going up to 156/1,000 live births in 2013. Similarly, the maternal mortality ratio increased from 857/100,000 live births in 2008 to 1,165/100,000 in 2013, thus giving Sierra Leone one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world.

In Sierra Leone, preventable non-communicable diseases, malnutrition, pregnancy, and newborn complications have been reported to account for nine in ten under-five deaths, with malaria taking the lead, followed by acute lower respiratory tract infections and other non-communicable, perinatal, and nutritional conditions (Figure 1.2). For maternal mortality, the deaths are largely preventable, with the main cause being postpartum haemorrhage, which accounted for 33 percent of all deaths and 10 percent of unsafe abortions among adolescents. Teenagers account for almost half of all maternal deaths, which is not surprising, given the high adolescent birth rate of 125 per 1,000 live births.

Figure 1.2:
Figure 1.2:

Access to health facilities in Sierra Leone

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: Government of Sierra Leone Human Capital Development Project Report

Unfortunately, out-of-pocket health expenditure is very high in Sierra Leone compared to other countries in the region and the sub-Saharan African average (Figure 1.2), and this limits the affordability of health care in the country, particularly for the poorest.

The pattern of access to the nearest health clinic is uneven, with a high proportion of households in the northern and southern regions living beyond a walking distance of 60 minutes to a health clinic.

The health sector is faced with myriad challenges, including, but not limited to, poor infrastructure; poor conditions of service for health workers; poor governance and management of delivery systems; a weak human resource base; low per capita expenditure on health (the health allocation is below 15 percent of the national budget, which is the 2001 Abuja Declaration minimum); inadequate disease prevention; a poor control and surveillance programme; poor quality data; and limited access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Table 1.8:

Selection of Demographic and Health Survey and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey indicators – changes over time

article image
Source: Ministry of Health and Sanitation Directorate of Policy Planning and Information, National Health Sector Strategic Plan 2017–2021 and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2017

Quality care for children under five in hospitals.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

The Government of Sierra Leone is determined to use its strong leadership and political will to increase health-care spending to 15 percent of the national budget, enhancing the implementation of the Free Health Care Initiative. Crucially, Sierra Leone is among the countries that may benefit from the World Bank’s Human Capital Development Project, which is under formulation. This is expected to positively impact on health outcomes, as the health sector is one of the major sub-components for support, alongside education and social protection.

There is an opportunity for Sierra Leone to benefit from a demographic dividend in the coming years, and reducing the fertility rate by increasing access to family planning will be key.

Studies have shown that women who are able to choose family planning are healthier and face a lower risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. Children born to women who space their pregnancies tend to be healthier and face reduced risk of death in their first five years. Furthermore, women with choices and greater reproductive health are better empowered to seek and keep jobs and contribute more to their families, their nations, and global prosperity.

Strategic objective

The strategic objective is to transform the health sector from an under-resourced, ill-equipped, and inadequate delivery system into a well-resourced and functioning national health-care delivery system that is affordable for everyone and accessible to all.

Key targets
  • 1. By 2023, expand and improve on the management of free health care.

  • 2. Continuously improve disease prevention, control, and surveillance.

  • 3. By 2023, improve health governance and human resource management.

  • 4. By 2023, increase modern diagnostic and specialist treatment within the country and improve on secondary health delivery systems.

Key policy actions
  • 1. Increase the national health-care budget allocation to 15 percent.

  • 2. Establish a National Ambulance Service in all districts.

  • 3. Strengthen the Health Management and Information System through the digitalization of health-care systems and processes.

  • 4. Recruit specialists through the introduction of attractive schemes for Sierra Leonean specialists in the diaspora and partnerships with international agencies.

  • 5. Encourage publicmprivate partnership involvement by developing a policy and legal framework to secure modern diagnostic facilities and provide laboratory equipment and facilities in all districts.

  • 6. Strengthen the capacity of medical regulatory bodies through the review of a legal and policy regulatory framework in line with regional and international benchmarks.

  • 7. Promote efficient health-care delivery through constructive dialogue among stakeholders within the sector.

  • 8. Implement the Sierra Leone Social Health Insurance Scheme.

  • 9. Strengthen the management and coordination of all resources allocated to the health sector and track donor resources through a regularly updated national health database system.

  • 10. Strengthen and capacitate the Health Service Commission to develop a Human Development Plan to guide the absorption of trained health workers into the public service and advocate for conditions of service of health workers through restructuring and providing the requisite resources.

  • 11. Strengthen national, district, and community-based monitoring of the free health-care drugs and services through capacity building, adequate resources, and the introduction of innovative approaches for tracking.

  • 12. Strengthen the National Programme on Sexual and Reproductive Health for adolescents in order to reduce teenage pregnancy through a systems review and innovative SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely) mechanisms.

Figure 1.3:
Figure 1.3:

Distribution of under-five deaths by disease in Sierra Leone

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: Government of Sierra Leone Human Capital Development Project Report
Figure 1.4:
Figure 1.4:

Out-of-pocket expenditure in Sierra Leone compared with peers in sub-Saharan Africa

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: Government of Sierra Leone Human Capital Development Project Report

President Bio visits a children’s ward to ensure adequate care is provided.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

1.4 Environmental sanitation and hygiene

Many of the major causes of death and disability in Sierra Leone can be traced to challenges with environmental health and sanitation.

Table 1.9:

Sanitation indicators for Sierra Leone

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Source: MICS, 2017; Demographic and Health Survey 2008, 2013

Examples include diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections, and the high prevalence of stunting and wasting in children under the age of five. Furthermore, environmental health and sanitation interventions are highly cost-effective and have immense health and socio-economic benefits across the life course. In general, access to clean water and sanitation is regarded as a fundamental human right.

The current situation on sanitation is of great concern. Use of improved sanitation facilities has had a mixed performance, rising from a low base of13percent (MICS,2008)to16 percent (MICS, 2017).Urban dwellers are much more likely to have improved sanitation facilities than rural households (27 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively). The most common toilet facility is the latrine with slab (33.1 percent), which is much more likely to be used in rural areas (44.7 percent) than in urban areas (23.7 percent). About 27.7 percent of the rural population practices open defecation. Sanitation is far below the reasonable SDG target of 66 percent for the country, and the budget allocation for the sector is less than 0.02 percent of GDP.

Poor environmental quality directly accounts for between 25 and 33 percent of all preventable ill-health in the world today, with diseases such as pneumonia and parasitic malaria heading the list (Black et al., 2011). In Sierra Leone, poor sanitation and hygiene and use of unsafe water cause ill-health and contribute to about half of the preventable diseases. The leading diseases are malaria, diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera and typhoid), worm infestation, and respiratory tract infections. Poor disposal of human excreta and garbage also increases the spread of cholera andtyphoid, resultingin many deaths.

The environmental sanitation and hygiene sector has many problems to solve. Many Sierra Leoneans are still not aware of the benefits of good hygiene and sanitation, in part due to cultural beliefs and practices. Lack of awareness also is caused by lack of information and technical knowledge, and inadequate and inappropriate technological solutions, especially for urban sanitation.

The sector has in the past been given a low priority in the national development agenda, with the effect that the resources allocated are inadequate to meet the needs of all. However, the government made a commitment to accord sanitation high priority at the Sanitation and Water for All high-level meetings in Liberia and Washington, D.C. For a better environment, sanitation, and hygiene sector that will address these challenges, the country needs to build on the ongoing programmes, including the following: a) the Integrated Waste Management Programme; b) the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Programme; c) the Housing Sanitation Programme; d) the Food Safety and Quality Control Programme; e) the Integrated Vector Management Programme; f) the Occupational Health and Safety Programme; and g) the Port Health Services Programme.


Indiscriminately dumped garbage and poor drainage systems.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

These programmes are organized and implemented around four principal operational strategies of the Directorate of Environmental Health and Sanitation: a) Enabling Environment and Capacity-building Strategy; b) Integrated Waste Management Strategy; c) Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Strategy; and d) Safety Strategy.

The environmental health and hygiene subsector is fraught with many challenges. The system lacks an integrated, comprehensive policy, strategies, standard operating procedures, and sectoral coordination, which might be due to inadequate technical/human and financial capacity and limited research capability in the Directorate of Environmental Health and Sanitation. Again, there are low levels of sanitation coverage in both rural and urban areas, as well as in health facilities, schools, and other public institutions.

Waste disposal and management is in a deplorable situation. Mining companies and other industrial operations have high-volume discharges that are not well treated. In addition, wastewater and sewage treatment and disposal systems are weak in communities. Solid waste management in all cities, towns, and villages is also weak.

The monitoring and supervision of sanitation services is weak even in cities and towns with relatively good transportation systems. Rural communities with poor transport systems are hard to reach, and this limits the provision of services in those communities.

Climate change–related effects, including frequent foods and the risk of rising sea levels, have further aggravated the sanitation challenges of communities.

However, there are growing opportunities for improving sanitation to the desired levels in the country under the new National Development Plan. The government has stepped up its commitment, according sanitation the priority it deserves in public policy. The strong political will and existence of good legislation, plans, and programmes for the sector suggest that there is a good chance for drastic improvement in water, sanitation, and hygiene services. These efforts are coupled with the coordinated approach to country assistance that is seen among international bodies. Building on the lessons learned about community response and participation during the Ebola outbreak could help in achieving the sector objectives in the new plan.


President Bio participates in cleaning the city for a healthy environment.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Strategic objective

The strategic objective is to provide, with minimal impact on the environment, acceptable, affordable, and sustainable sanitation services for urban and rural households and institutions, through inter-sectoral coordination, integrated development, and community-based management.

Key targets
  • 1. By 2023, increase on-site sanitary construction incentives and test and implement output-based aid schemes at the district level.

  • 2. By 2023, reduce deaths and property loss from natural and human-made disasters and extreme climate events by 30 percent.

  • 3. By 2023, reduce disease outbreaks in vulnerable communities by half.

Key policy actions
  • 1. Review and update Integrated Vector Management and Integrated Waste Management policies and strategies.

  • 2. Establish a monthly National Cleaning Day.

  • 3. Replace the 1960 Public Health Ordinance Act with a new Public Health Act.

  • 4. Establish and operationalize a National Environmental Health and Sanitation Coordination Group.

  • 5. Develop and implement guidelines for Housing Sanitation Programmes.

  • 6. Implement guidelines for the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Programme and increase communication and dissemination of information on water, sanitation, and hygiene.

  • 7. Develop a framework with guidelines for district environmental health and sanitation strategies.

  • 8. Revise laws, regulations, norms, and standards for environmental health and sanitation to include a Sanitary Court.

  • 9. Use a sector-wide approach in financial resource allocation.

  • 10. Improve sanitary service delivery at district and chiefdom levels through a local sanitary task force.

  • 11. Facilitate the establishment of sanitation businesses in villages and districts.

1.5 Social protection

Supporting the poor and vulnerable is a fundamental requirement of implementing the ‘leave no one behind’ principle in the fragile context of Sierra Leone. More than half (57 percent) of inhabitants live below the poverty line, nearly 1 million (10.8 percent) of whom are extremely poor. Food insecurity plagues almost half (49.8 percent) of households across the country. The population faces a low life expectancy of 42 years, and only about 37 percent of the population is literate (25 percent for women). In the last 15 years, Sierra Leone has experienced major foods, and most recently a landslide that affected over 220,000 people, causing the loss of lives and severe economic damage. Global economic shocks, such as the global financial crisis and falling commodity prices, also severely affect households’ economic conditions. Yet many of the existing social programmes suffer from low coverage, high leakages, and inefficient coordination.


Making provision for vulnerable groups.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Social protection is defined as: all actions, public and private, taken in response to levels of vulnerability, risks, and deprivation deemed by the state to be socially and economically unacceptable. These include a multisectoral and multidisciplinary strategy for poverty reduction that targets the poorest, those with disabilities, and the aged. On 30 March 2011, the cabinet approved the National Social Protection Policy, which defined specific outcomes and prioritized interventions for the sector. In 2011, the Government of Sierra Leone, with the support of the World Bank, launched a Social Protection Assessment to guide the development of an improved social protection system and to inform the implementation of the National Social Protection Policy. The assessment, which concluded in June 2013, recommended that the government focus its efforts on three major programmes selected from areas covered in the policy, including: (i) a cash transfer to very poor households with children; (ii) a social pension targeted at war victims and the elderly; and (iii) a permanent labour-intensive public works programme that seeks to help the unemployed and those rural and urban households that are seasonally exposed to food insecurity.


Teenage mother struggling to make a living.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

From these recent efforts, a number of lessons have emerged: (i) social protection systems to reduce inequality and social exclusion for long-term sustainable and inclusive growth are critical; (ii) social protection projects are often fragmented across many actors, thus collaboration and oversight is required; (iii) social transfers in emergencies help to cushion shocks while establishing key building blocks for resilience; and (iv) targeting women as household representatives yields better outcomes. Implementing these lessons will be imperative to overcome the challenges of establishing a social safety net system that can support poor and food insecure households to achieve basic consumption, mitigate shocks, and over the long run, increase human capital.

Some of the challenges facing the poor and vulnerable are exacerbated by population growth and rising inequality. A major challenge is the heavy dependence on external financing, with about 85 percent of the social assistance coming from development partners. This undermines sustainability because the development partners may not support such programmes indefinitely.

There is a coverage gap issue. The expenditure and coverage information indicates that major programme gaps include: (i) the elderly, persons with disabilities, and war victims who are unable to work and have no means of sustenance; (ii) the working poor and the seasonally or long-term unemployed; and (iii) very poor families with children. These coverage gaps are compounded by the fact that the major social assistance programmes are not generous. The planned social pension transfer under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s National Social Safety Net Programme would cover only 8.3 percent of the food requirements of the poorest families, compared to a median of 27 percent in a sample of similar programmes in other developing countries.

The targeting of beneficiaries lacks efficiency. There is substantial room to increase the targeting accuracy of social assistance programmes through an improved mechanism for selecting beneficiaries. In addition, the cost-effectiveness of the programmes is low due to fragmentation and duplication among many different programmes. Poor coordination (especially between MDAs and non-state actors) of social protection interventions can cause such duplication. This critically constrains the efficient use of resources and undermines the impact of social protection interventions on the lives of the poor and vulnerable.

Monitoring and evaluation is very weak within the social protection management system. Any further development of a culture of evidence-based policymaking and management by results will require continued commitment and effort from the government, as well as greater investment in information gathering.

Strategic objective

The strategic objective is to provide a stronger relationship between the state and citizens with enhanced human capital development by effectively managing risks and vulnerability and empowering livelihood development for sustained social cohesion and nation-building for the people of Sierra Leone.

Key targets
  • 1. By 2023, establish an integrated national identity card system.

  • 2. By 2023, establish a social safety net fund for emergency response.

  • 3. By 2023, all persons working in the formal sector have social security.

  • 4. By 2023, provide social protection to at least 30 percent of vulnerable populations (including persons with disabilities, older persons, and children).

  • 5. By 2023, establish an integrated birth registration system.

Key policy actions
  • 1. Develop a national biometric ID card system for identification and data management of beneficiaries.

  • 2. Strengthen the National Commission for Social Action to coordinate all national social protection programmes through the requisite legislative and policy frameworks.

  • 3. Develop resilience to natural disasters by establishing a social safety net fund for emergency response.

  • 4. Create targeted employment schemes (i.e. cash-for-work and food-for-work programmes) for youth, women, and others, especially the most vulnerable of these groups, through public–private partnerships and development partners.

  • 5. Support informal schemes such as ’osusu’ and other community savings and insurance schemes with welfare provision elements.

  • 6. Identify and train 3,000 Community Identification Committees.

  • 7. Design and implement a national programme that promotes and enhances smallholder food production and productivity to meet national institutional demand (i.e. school feeding and food for the armed forces).

  • 8. Establish a universal birth registration system.

1.6 Lands and housing

Lands and housing are two critical sectors for Sierra Leone’s socio-economic and spatial development. Managing the country’s valuable land resources and scarce housing stock is imperative for achieving sustainable development and social inclusion.

The land space in Sierra Leone is rich in minerals, including iron ore, diamonds, rutile, bauxite, and gold, and is fertile for agricultural production. Economic growth is driven heavily by agriculture and mineral production, both of which are highly dependent on access to land. Nearly 95 percent of the land territory on which agricultural and mining activities take place is administered under customary law (leasehold system). Recent efforts have actively promoted large-scale land acquisition to support agriculture and mining, with no unified inventory of concessions or consolidated information on the leasing arrangements. It is estimated that a total of 773,999 hectares are under contract by foreign investors, equating 1.43 percent of the total arable land in the country. Most of the concluded acquisitions are leaseholds that run between 5 and 50 years.

In Western Area, land tenure is administered under general law (freehold system) and is plagued by inadequate land survey data, which results in the cadastre being outdated and inaccurate. This current cadastre and registry have contributed to an environment in which land conflicts are common, collection of taxes remains difficult, land markets are distorted, and urban planning and the associated disaster risk management is undermined. Successive governments have attempted to address land ownership and management issues, which most recently culminated in the development of a National Land Policy in 2015.

Lack of awareness and recognition of the importance of effective land management and spatial planning in the implementation of development projects and programmes has resulted in reduced internal rates of return on urban investment and the creation of agglomeration diseconomies and negative externalities, which impede economic growth and prosperity. Furthermore, urban growth and expansion has occurred in Sierra Leone without proper strategic and detailed land-use plans, public service infrastructure, and community services. Therefore, a spatial strategy for Sierra Leone is required to transform towns, cities, and districts to generate linkages in other associated sectors, such as transportation, agriculture, tourism, and telecommunication. Enhanced spatial planning will facilitate the mobility of people, goods, and services, and, crucially, access to markets and resources.

The right to housing is a fundamental human right, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The housing situation in Sierra Leone is appalling. This is seen, in part, in overcrowding: the average household size is 8.8 persons per dwelling. This situation is compounded by the lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities, leading to health issues such as diarrhoea, malaria, and cholera, and even the recent Ebola virus disease outbreak. There is an overdependence on imported building materials, which keeps the cost of housing construction out of reach for most Sierra Leoneans. There is, therefore, a need to promote the use of local materials, which are environmentally friendly, and to adopt low-cost construction technologies.

Over the years, successive governments have used programmes through the Sierra Leone Housing Corporation, the Home Finance Company, and the National Social Security and Insurance Trust to increase access to affordable housing for Sierra Leoneans, especially those occupying informal settlements.

Over the last ten years, the rapid rate of urbanization, which is currently at 3 percent, along with limited housing development and relatively high poverty levels, has led to an increased number of slums and informal settlements, particularly in the capital city, Freetown, where 15 percent of the country’s population resides. At present, over 72 slums and informal settlements have been identified.2 Improving the quality of life for those living in informal settlements must be complementary to efforts to enhance the land management system.

The path towards sustainable land management and spatial development still faces serious challenges. The dual land tenure system (freehold and leasehold) creates confusion and difficulties for large-scale investments in agriculture and mining and other sectors. Also, illegal structures are regularly erected, and land disputes are frequent.


Unplanned settlements in Sierra Leone.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001


Planned housing for urban development.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

The lack of adequate physical planning, enforcement of development control, and an effective spatial planning system have exacerbated the already weak system, making it complex to manage land use. This has further been worsened by overlapping and conflicting mandates, coupled with weak collaboration and coordination among agencies involved in land use planning and land management.

In ensuring access to safe and affordable housing and upgrading informal settlements/slums, several challenges must be overcome. There is inadequate land for housing delivery, especially in Freetown. There are also insufficient housing financial instruments and deficient institutional and legal frameworks to encourage housing developments. Exacerbating the situation, slum dwellers in the capital city of Freetown are faced with inadequate access to drinking water, poor sanitation, and poor-quality house construction.

There is a lack of large-scale housing developers serving middle- and low-income earners. House costs are very high due to the high dependence on imported building materials. This has been further worsened by inadequate access to information on economical construction technologies and improved modern methods of construction. Limited development of small-scale building material production enterprises also constrains the housing sector.

However, some opportunities exist to remedy the situation. A strong mandate for the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Environment exists to address urban development issues, with the transfer of the Division of Housing under its purview. A new National Land Reform Programme based on the National Land Policy 2015 provides a unique opportunity and the necessary goodwill to address the numerous challenges in the dual land tenure system.

Strategic objective

The strategic objective is to ensure effective land management and administration that is environmentally sound and sustainable for equitable access to and control over land, including providing affordable housing for low- and middle-income groups to alleviate poverty and promote economic growth.

Key targets
  • 1. By 2023, there is a 50 percent reduction in the number of land-related cases in courts, and ultimately the number of land conflicts, disaggregated by region.

  • 2. By 2023, establish a National Land Commission with a corporate strategy, business plan, charter, and migration strategy.

  • 3. By 2022, draft the Freetown Structure Plan and ensure urban structure plans for other cities are validated and approved.

Key policy actions

Land management and spatial development

  • 1. Create land banks to ensure availability and affordability.

  • 2. Establish a unified land title registration system and introduce title registration to enhance the delivery of registration services, archiving processes, and security of land tenure, as stipulated in the National Land Policy 2015.

  • 3. Develop a National Cadastral Records Management System and Strategy for mapping and digitization of all plots, streets, and roads in the country.

  • 4. Establish an autonomous and functional National Land Commission with a corporate strategy, business plan, charter, and migration strategy.

  • 5. Develop a National Spatial Development Plan and Strategy that will facilitate the establishment of an integrated network for human settlements that are socially inclusive, environmentally resilient, and economically sustainable.

Housing and informal settlements

  • 1. Design and implement a national programme for housing.

  • 2. Encourage large-scale local production of building materials.

  • 3. Develop and enact a comprehensive National Housing Policy and a National Building Code.

  • 4. Set up and enforce standards for building materials, encourage large-scale local production of building materials, and improve access to and distribution of imported and locally produced building materials.

  • 5. Develop an investment policy guideline to encourage direct private sector investment and public–private partnerships in the provision of affordable housing, with favourable investment conditions.

Cluster Two: Diversifying the Economy and Promoting Growth

Sierra Leone’s economy is dominated by the agricultural sector, which contributed about 55.1 percent of GDP. Services contribute 36.6 percent, while industry makes up 9.3 percent of GDP. The country also depends on primary commodities for exports. The structure of production is dominated by raw material production from abundant natural resources.

The undiversified nature of the economy renders it vulnerable to external shocks, as occurred during the iron ore price slump of 2014. For growth to be sustained and people’s livelihoods improved generally, greater diversity in the economy must be promoted through the adoption of policies to encourage the development of other sectors and to increase processing and manufacturing. It is therefore imperative to identify new drivers of growth through diversifying into other sectors such as tourism and fisheries; strengthening productivity in agriculture; changing the structure of the economy towards manufacturing and services; and promoting the export of non-primary products.

2.1 Improving the productivity and commercialization of the agricultural sector

Agriculture remains the backbone of the economy of Sierra Leone and is comprised of subsectors that have the potential to be key drivers of the country’s economic development.

The sector directly contributes to the national economy through enhancing food security, income generation, employment, wealth creation, and poverty reduction, and has the potential for industrial development and ensuring equitable distribution of resources. Its share of GDP averages between 40 to 50 percent, and it provides employment to approximately two-thirds of the population. It further accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s total exports.

From 2013 to 2018, the sector accounted for 61.1 percent of rural employment. With support from development partners, contributions were made to food security, as more than 52 agricultural business centres were transformed into functional cooperatives along several crops’ value chains.

Progress was also made in improving access to rural financial services. The Apex Bank was established in 2016, with a network of 51 financial services associations and 17 community banks, to help farmers access financing for agricultural activities (see the Project Supervision Mission Report 2016 and Table 2.2 for a summarized status of key financial indicators, including the number of active borrowers from community banks, disaggregated into women and youth, and the number of active savings accounts).

On the whole, the performance of the sector leaves considerable room for improvement. Despite the large acreage of arable land, and the gains described above, Sierra Leone continues to be a net importer of rice. The value of rice imports in 2016 alone, for example, amounted to US$95.9 million. According to the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis study conducted by the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization, 49.8 percent of households were food insecure in 2015, compared to 45 percent in 2010. That is, they consumed limited or insufficient food to maintain a healthy and active life. The Global Hunger Index 2017 ranked Sierra Leone as the third hungriest country in the world, with the percentage of the population that is undernourished estimated at 38.5 percent, compared to 28.6 percent in Guinea and 16.2 percent in Ghana.

Major factors affecting the productivity, profitability, and competitiveness of the agricultural sector include the inadequate access to effective agricultural input supply systems, resulting in the low use of necessary inputs such as fertilizers and improved seeds of optimal varieties. Apart from low human capacity and weak capacity-building programmes for the sector, the heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture has severely limited large-scale irrigation and mechanized farms.

The entire value chain for agricultural products is weak and vulnerable as a result of low levels of agro-processing and limited downstream integration due to limited access to electricity and water utilities (and their high cost). There is also poor access to markets due to inadequate market information and the poor condition of feeder roads linking smallholder farmers and agribusiness activities. In addition, limited access to affordable agricultural finance (high interest rates and short grace periods) for the purchase of inputs such as fertilizers, machinery, and extension services impedes value chain development.


Diverse agricultural production for food security.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Figure 2.1:
Figure 2.1:

Contribution of agriculture to GDP (%) 2010–2017

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2019, 218; 10.5089/9781498324960.002.A001

Source: Statistics Sierra Leone
Table 2.1:

Production of key agricultural crops (metric tons)

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Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security – Planning, Evaluation, Monitoring and Statistics Division, national yield study data (2017)