The Economy

Sierra Leone is slowly emerging from a protracted civil war and is showing signs of a successful transition. Investor and consumer confidence continue to rise, adding impetus to the country’s economic recovery. There is greater freedom of movement and the successful re-habitation and resettlement of residential areas.

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top 10 diamond producing nations in the world. Mineral exports remain the main foreign currency earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in diamonds, it has historically struggled to manage their exploitation and export.

Annual production of Sierra Leone’s diamond estimates range between $250–300 million U.S dollar.  Formal exports have dramatically improved since the civil war with efforts to improve the management of them having some success. In October 2000, a UN-approved certification system for exporting diamonds from the country was put in place and led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the government created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities’ stake in the legal diamond trade

Sierra Leone has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. The export of 88,000 tons realized $75 million in export earnings in 1990.

About two-thirds of the population engages in subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 52.5% of national income. The government is trying to increase food and cash crop production and upgrade small farmer skills. The government works with several foreign donors to operate integrated rural development and agricultural projects.

Despite its successes and development, the Sierra Leone economy still faces significant challenges. There is high unemployment, particularly among the youth and ex-combatants.

Currency

Sierra Leone’s currency is the Leone. The central bank of the country is the Bank of Sierra Leone which is located in the capital, Freetown.

Sierra Leone operates a floating exchange rate system, and foreign currencies can be exchanged at any of the commercial banks, recognised foreign exchange bureaux and most hotels.

Credit card use is limited in Sierra Leone, though they may be used at some hotels and restaurants. There are a few internationally linked automated teller machines that accept Visa cards in Freetown operated by ProCredit Bank.