Inhabited for millennia, Sierra Leone played a key role in the slave trade from its earliest days. Originally controlled by the Portuguese, the area later passed into British hands. The British sent a number of waves of freed slaves to settle around Freetown over the course of the 1800s, and the descendants of whom are known as the Krio ethnic group.
Since independence, in 1961, the country has experienced a fairly difficult period. Economic troubles have been exacerbated by struggles for control of the diamonds, which were the catalyst for a civil war that lasted throughout the 1990s and resulted in millions of displaced people and tens of thousands of dead. From 2002 the political situation has improved, with two successful democratic elections, and campaigns against corruption appear to be having an effect.
Tropical; hot, humid
Population – 5,245,695
Median Age – 19 years
Population Growth Rate – 2.216%
Life Expectancy – 55.69 years
Literacy – 35.1%
Average Years of Schooling – 8 years (male), 6 years (female)
Urban population – 38%
English is the sole official language, though its regular use is limited to the literate minority. Krio, an English-based Creole, is the national lingua franca. It is the first language of 10% of the population but understood by 95% of Sierra Leoneans. Other regional and/or ethnic languages are typically the native tongues for most people.
20 African ethnic groups 90% (Temne 30%, Mende 30%, other 30%), Creole (Krio) 10% (descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area in the late-18th century), refugees from Liberia’s recent civil war, small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians
Muslim 60%, Christian 10%, indigenous beliefs 30%
GDP per Capita – $900 (2009 EST.)
GDP Composition by Sector:
Services: 21% (2009 est.)
diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish
What it is known for:
Historical relevance to the slave trade (many slaves from all over West Africa left from Freetown to go to the New World), eco-tourism
BWA’s Focus Areas in Sierra Leone: