Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa, has a special significance in the history of the transatlantic slave trade as the departure point for thousands of west African captives. The capital, Freetown, was founded as a home for repatriated former slaves in 1787.Sierra Leone has experienced substantial economic growth in recent years, although the ruinous effects of the civil war and the recent Ebola outbreak continue to be felt. The country has a rich supply of natural resources including diamonds, iron ore, gold, titanium ore, bauxite, chromite and vast arable land for various forms of agriculture.
The civil war of the 1990s ended in 2002 leaving behind a devastated economy and the vast majority of the population internally displaced and relying on international humanitarian services for livelihoods, health and education. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established and enabled people to take stock of the weaknesses that provoked and fueled the crisis. Among the TRC’s many recommendations was the need for the government to allocate 30% of public positions for women and to pursue economic development policies that strengthen social equity.
From 2003, Sierra Leone, supported by international development partners, embarked on economic, political and social re-building programmes. The resettlement of the population and revamping of basic social services throughout the country enabled political parties to organize and contest the first post- war general election in 2004. Resumption of multi- party parliamentary democracy was followed by the adoption of Poverty Reduction Strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Sierra Leone joined the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative which enabled the country to qualify for debt relief; In 2006, about US$ 1.7 billion in debts were cancelled.
However, in 2014 an unprecedented Ebola epidemic disrupted the progress that the country had started to enjoy. Economic activities were halted, schools were closed, health facilities were abandoned, and millions of people fled rural towns into the urban centres. The epidemic ended in August 2016, leaving behind thousands of orphans, widows and hundreds of victims suffering from Ebola-related illness including blindness. In 2017, as the country was celebrating the end of the Ebola epidemic, Freetown was hit by heavy rains causing a mudslide which swept away hundreds of shanty houses, killed over 1,141 people and destroyed US$ 30 million worth of properties.
Legal reforms were undertaken to strengthen public institutions’ capabilities to promote inclusive development and social justice. To enhance citizen participation, the Local Government Act 2004 was passed by Parliament. Grassroots structures such as Ward Development Committees, represented by equal numbers of men and women, were established to give citizens direct responsibility for the development of their communities. To foster accountability in the public sector, the Accountability and Procurements Acts were enacted in 2004 and have since been strengthened several times. District Budget Oversight Committees were formed by the Ministry of Finance to increase citizen participation in monitoring expenditures by District Councils and development projects. Three Gender Acts were legislated in 2007 and 2012 to empower Sierra Leonean women and promote gender equality.
The consolidation of peace, economic revitalization and social and legal reform emboldened the people of Sierra Leone to enthusiastically participate in the second post-civil war multi-party general elections in 2008. For the first time in the history of the country, an incumbent political party was defeated through a free and fair election and political power was peacefully transferred to an opposition party. Expansion of social infrastructure (schools and health facilities) to promote economic growth was among the key development priorities of the new government. Reforms of the investment code made Sierra Leone’s rich mineral deposits attractive to foreign investors as rutile and diamond mining became significant sources of employment. Under the government’s National Commission for Social Action program, supported by international civil society organizations, hundreds of schools and Peripheral Health Units were built across the country.
From 2008 to 2012 Sierra Leone’s GDP grew at around 2.5 percent a year. In 2011, when the second poverty assessment survey was conducted, the poverty level had fallen to 52 percent from over 70 percent in 2004. election in which the incumbent government retained power and launched the Agenda for Prosperity Policy Development Framework to achieve middle income status by 2035. Infrastructure such as the road network, electricity, water, sanitation services, and mobile phone services were expanded.