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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > Sierra Leone

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Sierra Leone: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Sierra Leone

English is the most common language in business circles. Appointments and punctuality are expected. Business cards are essential. September to June are the best months for business visits.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1200 and 1400-1700.

Economy

Following a permanent end to the country's debilitating civil war, Sierra Leone can now start to rebuild its shattered economy. With an annual per capita income of just US$881, it is one of the world's poorest countries. It is ranked 177th in the 2012 UN Human Development Index: in other words, it is among the worst nations in the world to live.

The agricultural and mining sectors were particularly badly hit by the fighting. Agriculture employs over two-thirds of the workforce who grow coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, nuts and ginger as cash crops along with rice, bananas and cassava as staples. The fishing industry is also important.

The principal industrial activity is mining: the country has some of the world's most valuable diamond mines, as well as deposits of gold, bauxite and titanium ore. Diamonds have proved as much a curse as a blessing, as much of the civil war fighting was motivated by control of the mines and both the government and the rebel forces relied on the revenues to sustain their war efforts. The remainder of the industrial sector is devoted to mineral and ore processing, as well as some light manufacturing of consumer goods such as textiles and furniture.

Sierra Leone's other major economic asset is one of the world's largest natural harbours, which the government is hoping to develop as a hub for international and transit trade for the whole of the region.

Since the end of the war, the economy has grown healthily at between 4 and 7% annually up until 2012 where it is estimated to have increased to 21.3%. Inevitably, Sierra Leone still depends on large injections of foreign aid to support the economy, and the IMF and World Bank have been involved in the government's reconstruction plans.

Sierra Leone is a member of the African Development Bank and the West African trading bloc ECOWAS.

GDP

$3.8 billion (CIA, 2012 est.)

Main exports

Diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee and fish.

Main imports

Foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants, chemicals

Main trading partners

China , South Africa, US, UK, India (CIA, 2011)

Keeping in Touch in Sierra Leone

Telephone

The are no public telephones away from the Western Area of Sierra Leone and the service is generally poor.

Mobile Phone

Mobile telephone coverage extends all over Sierra Leone, however is stronger near major towns and villages where the mobile phone masts are. The major telephone companies are Airtel, Africell and Comium.

Internet

There are internet cafes all over Freetown, Bo and Kenema where internet access is constant but slow. In 2013, a fibre optic cable was introduced to Sierra Leone to increase the coverage and range of internet connectivity in the country. USB modems are also available from the major mobile phone providers and are an easy, but relatively expensive, way of connecting to the internet.

Media

Media freedom in Sierra Leone is limited, especially when it comes to reporting corruption; Broadcasters face many challenges, such as unreliable electricity supplies, a shortage of funds and a lack of advertising revenue. The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) was created in April 2010 and operates television and radio services. There are a number of other radio providers; private stations include Kiss FM and SKYY FM and FM relays of BBC World Service and Radio France Internationale are on the air in Freetown. Freetown-based newspapers include Awoko, The Democrat and Concord Times.

Post

Airmail to Western Europe takes about five days. A number of internaitonal and local postal/courier services operate in Sierra Leone.

Post Office hours

Mon-Thurs 0900-1700.