Photos of Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone estuary became a focal point for trade and interaction between Africans and Europeans because of its exceptional harbor, starting in the mid-15th century. European ships were unable to land along much of the West African coast due to lack of safe anchorage. By contrast, the Sierra Leone estuary offers ideal anchorage for trading ships (the estuary is the largest natural harbor on the continent). Around 1672, the English established and fortified themselves at Bunce Island. By the mid-18th century, Sierra Leone had become a major trading participant with Europe and the Americas. Part of Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown appears as the greyish area in the lower left corner. This satellite image covers an area of 32 x 45 km (20 x 28 mi). Photo courtesy of NASA.



Continuously populated for at least 2,500 years, the area now known as Sierra Leone is covered with dense jungle that allowed the region to remain relatively protected from invading West African empires. Traders introduced Sierra Leone to Islam, which occupies a central role in Sierra Leonean culture and history. In the 17th century, the British set up a trading post near present-day Freetown. The trade originally involved timber and ivory but later expanded to enslaved people. In 1787, after the American Revolution, Sierra Leone became a destination for Black British loyalists from the new United States. When Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, British ships delivered thousands of liberated Africans to Sierra Leone. During the 19th century, the colony gradually expanded inland.

In 1961, Sierra Leone became independent of the UK. Sierra Leone held free and fair elections in 1962 and 1967, but Siaka STEVENS -- Sierra Leone’s second prime minister -- quickly reverted to authoritarian tendencies, outlawing most political parties and ruling from 1967 to 1985. In 1991, Sierra Leonean soldiers launched a civil war against STEVENS’ ruling party. The war caused tens of thousands of deaths and displaced more than 2 million people (about one third of the population). In 1998, a Nigerian-led West African coalition military force intervened, installing Tejan KABBAH -- who was originally elected in 1996 -- as prime minister. In 2002, KABBAH officially announced the end of the war. Since 1998, Sierra Leone has conducted democratic elections dominated by the two main political parties, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the All People’s Congress (APC) party. In 2018, Julius Maada BIO of the Sierra Leone People’s Party won the presidential election that saw a high voter turnout despite some allegations of voter intimidation. BIO won again in June 2023, although irregularities were noted that called into question the integrity of the results.  In October 2023, the Government of Sierra Leone and the main opposition party, the All People’s Congress, signed the Agreement for National Unity to boost cooperation between political parties and begin the process of reforming the country’s electoral system.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia

Geographic coordinates

8 30 N, 11 30 W


total: 71,740 sq km

land: 71,620 sq km

water: 120 sq km

comparison ranking: total 119

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than South Carolina

Land boundaries

total: 1,093 km

border countries (2): Guinea 794 km; Liberia 299 km


402 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm


tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)


coastal belt of mangrove swamps, wooded hill country, upland plateau, mountains in east


highest point: Loma Mansa (Bintimani) 1,948 m

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

mean elevation: 279 m

Natural resources

diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

Land use

agricultural land: 56.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 23.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 30.5% (2018 est.)

forest: 37.5% (2018 est.)

other: 6.3% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

300 sq km (2012)

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Niger (2,261,741 sq km)

Population distribution

population clusters are found in the lower elevations of the south and west; the northern third of the country is less populated as shown on this population distribution map

Natural hazards

dry, sand-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (December to February); sandstorms, dust storms

Geography - note

rainfall along the coast can reach 495 cm (195 inches) a year, making it one of the wettest places along coastal, western Africa

People and Society


total: 9,121,049

male: 4,515,726

female: 4,605,323 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 98; male 98; total 99


noun: Sierra Leonean(s)

adjective: Sierra Leonean

Ethnic groups

Temne 35.4%, Mende 30.8%, Limba 8.8%, Kono 4.3%, Korankoh 4%, Fullah 3.8%, Mandingo 2.8%, Loko 2%, Sherbro 1.9%, Creole 1.2% (descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area in the late-18th century; also known as Krio), other 5% (2019 est.)


English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)


Muslim 77.1%, Christian 22.9% (2019 est.)

Demographic profile

Sierra Leone’s youthful and growing population is driven by its high total fertility rate (TFR) of almost 4 children per woman as of 2022, which has declined little over the last two decades. Its elevated TFR is sustained by the continued desire for large families, the low level of contraceptive use, and the early start of childbearing. Despite its high TFR, Sierra Leone’s population growth is somewhat tempered by high infant, child, and maternal mortality rates that are among the world’s highest and are a result of poverty, a lack of potable water and sanitation, poor nutrition, limited access to quality health care services, and the prevalence of female genital cutting.

Sierra Leone’s large youth cohort – about 60% of the population is under the age of 25 – continues to struggle with high levels of unemployment, which was one of the major causes of the country’s 1991-2002 civil war and remains a threat to stability today. Its estimated 60% youth unemployment rate is attributed to high levels of illiteracy and unskilled labor, a lack of private sector jobs, and low pay.

Sierra Leone has been a source of and destination for refugees. Sierra Leone’s civil war internally displaced as many as 2 million people, or almost half the population, and forced almost another half million to seek refuge in neighboring countries (370,000 Sierra Leoneans fled to Guinea and 120,000 to Liberia). The UNHCR has helped almost 180,000 Sierra Leoneans to return home, while more than 90,000 others have repatriated on their own. Of the more than 65,000 Liberians who took refuge in Sierra Leone during their country’s civil war (1989-2003), about 50,000 have been voluntarily repatriated by the UNHCR and others have returned home independently.

Age structure

0-14 years: 40.1% (male 1,843,606/female 1,812,304)

15-64 years: 57.4% (male 2,557,715/female 2,675,418)

65 years and over: 2.5% (2024 est.) (male 114,405/female 117,601)

2023 population pyramids:
2023 population pyramids

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 74

youth dependency ratio: 68.5

elderly dependency ratio: 5.5

potential support ratio: 18.3 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 19.4 years (2024 est.)

male: 19 years

female: 19.9 years

comparison ranking: total 210

Population growth rate

2.32% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 29

Birth rate

30.8 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 24

Death rate

9 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 58

Net migration rate

1.4 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 60

Population distribution

population clusters are found in the lower elevations of the south and west; the northern third of the country is less populated as shown on this population distribution map


urban population: 44.3% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 3.02% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

1.309 million FREETOWN (capital) (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

19.6 years (2019 est.)

note: data represents median age at first birth among women 20-49

Maternal mortality ratio

443 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 18

Infant mortality rate

total: 71.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 76 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 66.2 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 5

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 59.4 years (2024 est.)

male: 57.8 years

female: 61 years

comparison ranking: total population 223

Total fertility rate

3.61 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 30

Gross reproduction rate

1.78 (2024 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 92.5% of population

rural: 58% of population

total: 72.8% of population

unimproved: urban: 7.5% of population

rural: 42% of population

total: 27.2% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

8.8% of GDP (2020)

Physician density

0.07 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 79.5% of population

rural: 35.5% of population

total: 54.4% of population

unimproved: urban: 20.5% of population

rural: 64.5% of population

total: 45.6% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2023)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria, dengue feve, and sexually transmitted diseases: hepatitis Br (2024)

water contact diseases: schistosomiasis

animal contact diseases: rabies

aerosolized dust or soil contact diseases: Lassa fever

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

8.7% (2016)

comparison ranking: 147

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 3.22 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0.17 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.01 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0.15 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 2.9 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 107

Tobacco use

total: 13.5% (2020 est.)

male: 20.5% (2020 est.)

female: 6.4% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 115

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 8.6%

women married by age 18: 29.6%

men married by age 18: 4.1% (2019 est.)

Education expenditures

9.1% of GDP (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: 8


definition: age 15 and over can read and write English, Mende, Temne, or Arabic

total population: 48.6%

male: 56.3%

female: 41.3% (2022)


Environment - current issues

rapid population growth pressuring the environment; overharvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture have resulted in deforestation, soil exhaustion, and flooding; loss of biodiversity; air pollution; water pollution; overfishing

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification


tropical; hot, humid; summer rainy season (May to December); winter dry season (December to April)

Land use

agricultural land: 56.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 23.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 30.5% (2018 est.)

forest: 37.5% (2018 est.)

other: 6.3% (2018 est.)


urban population: 44.3% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 3.02% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Food insecurity

severe localized food insecurity: due to high food prices and reduced incomes - according to the latest analysis, about 1.18 million people are projected to be in need of humanitarian assistance between the June to August 2023 lean season; acute food insecurity is underpinned by elevated food prices, in part driven by a weak currency, and low purchasing power of vulnerable households (2023)

Revenue from forest resources

6.92% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 8

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 133

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 39.42 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 1.09 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 3.16 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 610,222 tons (2004 est.)

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Niger (2,261,741 sq km)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 110 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 60 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 50 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

160 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Sierra Leone

conventional short form: Sierra Leone

local long form: Republic of Sierra Leone

local short form: Sierra Leone

etymology: the Portuguese explorer Pedro de SINTRA named the country "Serra Leoa" (Lion Mountains) for the impressive mountains he saw while sailing the West African coast in 1462

Government type

presidential republic


name: Freetown

geographic coordinates: 8 29 N, 13 14 W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: name derived from the fact that the original settlement served as a haven for free-born and freed African Americans, as well as for liberated Africans rescued from slave ships

Administrative divisions

4 provinces and 1 area*; Eastern, Northern, North Western, Southern, Western*


27 April 1961 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 27 April (1961)


history: several previous; latest effective 1 October 1991

amendments: proposed by Parliament; passage of amendments requires at least two-thirds majority vote of Parliament in two successive readings and assent of the president of the republic; passage of amendments affecting fundamental rights and freedoms and many other constitutional sections also requires approval in a referendum with participation of at least one half of qualified voters and at least two thirds of votes cast; amended several times, last in 2016

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent or grandparent must be a citizen of Sierra Leone

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Julius Maada BIO (since 27 June 2023) 

head of government: President Julius Maada BIO (since 27 June 2023)

cabinet: Ministers of State appointed by the president, approved by Parliament; the cabinet is responsible to the president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by 55% in the first round or absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 24 June 2023 (next to be held in 2028) note - the president is chief of state, head of government, and Minister of Defense

election results:
2023: Julius Maada BIO reelected president in first round; percent of vote - Julius Maada BIO (SLPP) 56.2%, Samura KAMARA (APC) 41.2%, other 2.6%

Julius Maada BIO elected president in second round; percent of vote - Julius Maada BIO (SLPP) 51.8%, Samura KAMARA (APC) 48.2%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament (149 seats; 135 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by a district block proportional representation vote and 14 seats for "paramount chiefs" indirectly elected to represent the 14 provincial districts; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 24 June 2023 (next to be held in 2028)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - SLPP 81, APC 54; composition - men 105, women 44, percentage women 29.5%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Superior Court of Judicature (consists of the Supreme Court - at the apex - with the chief justice and 4 other judges, the Court of Appeal with the chief justice and 7 other judges, and the High Court of Justice with the chief justice and 9 other judges); note – the Judicature has jurisdiction in all civil, criminal, and constitutional matters

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice and other judges of the Judicature appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, a 7-member independent body of judges, presidential appointees, and the Commission chairman, and are subject to approval by Parliament; all Judicature judges serve until retirement at age 65

subordinate courts: magistrates' courts; District Appeals Court; local courts

Political parties and leaders

All People's Congress or APC [Samura KAMARA]
Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP) [Julius Maada BIO]

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Sidique Abou-Bakarr WAI (since 8 April 2019)

chancery: 1701 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009-1605

telephone: [1] (202) 939-9261

FAX: [1] (202) 483-1793

email address and website:

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Bryan David HUNT (since 8 September 2023)

embassy: Southridge-Hill Station, Freetown

mailing address: 2160 Freetown Place, Washington DC  20521-2160

telephone: [232] 99 105 000

email address and website:

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of light green (top), white, and light blue; green symbolizes agriculture, mountains, and natural resources, white represents unity and justice, and blue the sea and the natural harbor in Freetown

National symbol(s)

lion; national colors: green, white, blue

National anthem

name: "High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free"

lyrics/music: Clifford Nelson FYLE/John Joseph AKA

note: adopted 1961


Economic overview

low-income West African economy; primarily subsistent agriculture; key iron and diamond mining activities suspended; slow recovery from 1990s civil war; systemic corruption; high-risk debt; high youth unemployment; natural resource rich

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$14.068 billion (2022 est.)
$13.598 billion (2021 est.)
$13.062 billion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 159

Real GDP growth rate

3.46% (2022 est.)
4.1% (2021 est.)
-1.97% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 124

Real GDP per capita

$1,600 (2022 est.)
$1,600 (2021 est.)
$1,600 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 213

GDP (official exchange rate)

$4.095 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

27.21% (2022 est.)
11.87% (2021 est.)
13.45% (2020 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 207

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 60.7% (2017 est.)

industry: 6.5% (2017 est.)

services: 32.9% (2017 est.)

comparison rankings: services 222; industry 218; agriculture 1

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 97.9% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 12.1% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 18.1% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.4% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 26.8% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -55.3% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

cassava, rice, oil palm fruit, vegetables, sweet potatoes, milk, citrus fruits, groundnuts, fruits, sugarcane (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage


diamond mining; iron ore, rutile and bauxite mining; small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, footwear)

Industrial production growth rate

8.17% (2022 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 26

Labor force

2.829 million (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

comparison ranking: 114

Unemployment rate

3.27% (2022 est.)
3.66% (2021 est.)
3.57% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment

comparison ranking: 52

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 10.8% (2021 est.)

male: 15.8%

female: 7.6%

comparison ranking: total 147

Population below poverty line

56.8% (2018 est.)

note: % of population with income below national poverty line

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

35.7 (2018 est.)

note: index (0-100) of income distribution; higher values represent greater inequality

comparison ranking: 91

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3.4%

highest 10%: 29.4% (2018 est.)

note: % share of income accruing to lowest and highest 10% of population


5.67% of GDP (2022 est.)
5.47% of GDP (2021 est.)
4.36% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities


revenues: $740 million (2019 est.)

expenditures: $867 million (2019 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-7.9% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 199

Public debt

63.9% of GDP (2017 est.)
54.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 66

Taxes and other revenues

15.6% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 135

Current account balance

-$358.39 million (2021 est.)
-$320.411 million (2020 est.)
-$792.257 million (2019 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 102


$1.114 billion (2021 est.)
$661.505 million (2020 est.)
$632.405 million (2019 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 180

Exports - partners

China 54%, Belgium 12%, UAE 6%, Germany 4%, Netherlands 4% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

iron ore, titanium ore, diamonds, wood, aluminum ore (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars


$1.869 billion (2021 est.)
$1.386 billion (2020 est.)
$1.818 billion (2019 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 180

Imports - partners

China 33%, India 12%, Turkey 9%, US 6%, UAE 5% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

rice, plastic products, refined petroleum, vaccines, packaged medicine (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$624.641 million (2022 est.)
$945.908 million (2021 est.)
$707.704 million (2020 est.)

note: holdings of gold (year-end prices)/foreign exchange/special drawing rights in current dollars

comparison ranking: 160

Debt - external

$1.615 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.503 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 159

Exchange rates

leones (SLL) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
14.048 (2022 est.)
10.439 (2021 est.)
9.83 (2020 est.)
9.01 (2019 est.)
7.932 (2018 est.)


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 29.4% (2022 est.)

electrification - urban areas: 55.3%

electrification - rural areas: 5%


installed generating capacity: 138,000 kW (2022 est.)

consumption: 122.083 million kWh (2022 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 76.158 million kWh (2022 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 43; consumption 197; installed generating capacity 181

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 3.7% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

solar: 3% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

hydroelectricity: 90.8% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

biomass and waste: 2.5% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)


imports: (2022 est.) less than 1 metric ton


refined petroleum consumption: 9,000 bbl/day (2022 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

1.352 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 1.352 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 165

Energy consumption per capita

2.229 million Btu/person (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: 185


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 269 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: (2021 est.) less than 1

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 221

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 8.227 million (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 98 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 100

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: the telecom sector has only gradually recovered from the destruction caused during the war years, and only since 2019 has there been an effective terrestrial fiber backbone infrastructure, while the cable link to neighboring Guinea was not completed until February 2020; there is considerable available capacity from the ACE submarine cable and the national fiber network, but this is used inefficiently and so the price of internet connectivity remains one of the highest in the region; the theft of equipment and cabling, compounded by neglect, mismanagement, and under investment, means that telecommunications companies continue to operate in difficult conditions; the telecom regulator has made efforts to improve the market, including the liberalization of the international gateway and regular checks on QoS; the regulator reduced the price floor for mobile voice calls in early 2020, though consumers objected to the MNOs withdrawing a number of cheap packages as a response; the mobile sector has been the main driver of overall telecom revenue (2022)

domestic: fixed-line less than 0 per 100 and mobile-cellular just over 98 per 100 (2021)

international: country code - 232; landing point for the ACE submarine cable linking to South Africa, over 20 western African countries and Europe; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

Broadcast media

1 government-owned TV station; 3 private TV stations; a pay-TV service began operations in late 2007; 1 government-owned national radio station; about two-dozen private radio stations primarily clustered in major cities; transmissions of several international broadcasters are available 


Internet users

total: 1,047,499 (2022 est.)

percent of population: 12.7% (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total 149


National air transport system

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 50,193 (2015)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 0 (2015) mt-km


8 (2024)

comparison ranking: 167


3 (2024)


total: 11,701 km

paved: 1,051 km

unpaved: 10,650 km (2015)

urban: 3,000 km (2015)

non-urban: 8,700 km (2015)

comparison ranking: total 133


800 km (2011) (600 km navigable year-round)

comparison ranking: 79

Merchant marine

total: 584 (2023)

by type: bulk carrier 33, container ship 8, general cargo 320, oil tanker 97, other 126

comparison ranking: total 39


total ports: 3 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 0

small: 1

very small: 2

ports with oil terminals: 2

key ports: Bonthe, Freetown, Pepel

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF): Land Forces, Maritime Forces, Air Wing

Ministry of Internal Affairs: Sierra Leone Police (2024)

Military expenditures

0.6% of GDP (2022 est.)
0.3% of GDP (2021 est.)
0.3% of GDP (2020 est.)
0.3% of GDP (2019 est.)
0.3% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 156

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 8,500 personnel, mostly ground forces  (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the RSLAF has a small inventory that includes a mix of Soviet-origin and other older foreign-supplied equipment; in recent years, it has received limited amounts of mostly donations and secondhand equipment (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-30 for voluntary military service for men and women (25-40 for specialists); no conscription (2023)

Military - note

the RSLAF’s principle responsibilities are securing the borders and the country’s territorial waters, supporting civil authorities during emergencies and reconstruction efforts, and participating in peacekeeping missions; it is small, lightly armed, and has a limited budget; since being reduced in size and restructured with British assistance after the end of the civil war in 2002, it has received assistance from several foreign militaries, including those of Canada, China, France, the UK, and the US; the RSLAF has participated in peacekeeping operations in Somalia and Sudan

the RSLAF’s origins lie in the Sierra Leone Battalion of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF), a multi-regiment force formed by the British colonial office in 1900 to garrison the West African colonies of Gold Coast (Ghana), Nigeria (Lagos and the protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria), Sierra Leone, and The Gambia; the RWAFF fought in both World Wars (2023)

Transnational Issues

Refugees and internally displaced persons

IDPs: IDPs: 3000 currently displaced due to post-electoral violence in 2018 and clashes in the Pujehun region in 2019); 900 internal displacements due to flood in 2022 (2022)

5,500 (displacement caused by post-electoral violence in 2018 and clashes in the Pujehun region in 2019) (2021)