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Early European contacts with Sierra Leone date back to 1462, with Portuguese explorer Pedro da Sintra, whose encounter with the uniquely lion-shaped range of hills and valleys inspired the name Sierra Lyoa, meaning “Lion Mountains”. In the sixteenth century an English sailor changed the name to Sierra Liona; which later became Sierra Leone. Several centuries later, the British set up a “crown colony” in Freetown and established indirect rule through traditional rulers in the hinterland called the “protectorate” until 1961 when the country gained independence.

Location and Attributes

Sierra Leone is a coastal state situated in West Africa on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; lying 900 kilometers north of the equator. It borders Guinea-Conakry to the north and east, and Liberia to the south. The Atlantic Ocean forms Sierra Leone’s third frontier: 360 kilometers (212miles) of coast extending from the mouth of the Great Scarcies River.The country covers a total area of approximately 72,000 square kilometres, one of the smallest countries in Africa. The topography is extremely varied. From an approximate 70 mile coastal belt of low-lying land, the country rises to a mountain plateau near the eastern frontier rising 4,000 to 6,000 feet with a rich timber forest region. The western area encompasses the Sierra Leone peninsular, on which the capital and main commercial centre of Freetown stands; is 24 miles long and 10 miles wide. Territorial sea of 12 nautical miles, a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles, an exclusive economic zone of 20 nautical miles; equal to the continental shelf.

Population and Ethnic Groups

Sierra Leone’s population is estimated at 7,075,641 people with Freetown (capital) accounting for approximately 1.5 million. There are fifteen (15) indigenous ethno-linguistic groupings with the Mendes and Temnes as major tribes found in the South East and North West respectively. Other groups include the Limba, Fula, Madinago, Kono, Krio, Kuranko, Loko, Susu and Yalunka, Kissi, Sherbro and Vai


The country has a tropical climate; the inter-tropical belt of cloud and rain migrates northwards and southwards with the apparent movement of the overhead sun but lagging behind by some four to six weeks. From October to March, during the period of low sun, the weather is generally dry with many fine, hot, sunny days. There are principally two seasons: the rainy season from May to October, and the dry season for the other months of the year. The season of high sun, from April to September, is the rainy season. Annual rainfall is high, averaging about 3,000 mm; (2,000 mm in the North to a high of 4,000 mm in the South). July and August are the wettest months, with torrential rainstorms that sometimes moving around and external work and business more difficult. Temperatures are consistently high around the year on the coast and, during the dry season, increase even higher inland. During the rainy season the coastal region experiences high relative humidity; this rarely drops below 80% during the daytime. The country has nine (9) major and three (3) minor perennial rivers.

Political and Governance Structure

Sierra Leone is a republic, with a government modelled along constitutional democracy. The country is divided into four (4) administrative regions with fourteen (14) political districts; twelve in the three (3) provinces and two (2) in the western area. Government comprises the executive arm; the legislative arm and judiciary. In the executive arm, the Head of State is the President. The President appoints his Cabinet Ministers with the approval of the Parliament. The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term). The current President is His Excellency Brigadier-Rtd Julius Maada Bio, who was elected for a five-year term on 4th April 2018. In the legislative arm, there is a unicameral Parliament consisting of 146 seats, 132 directly elected members from single member constituencies and 14 Paramount Chiefs from the 14 Districts of Sierra Leone.124 seats;

Legal System

The legal system is based on English Common Law and customary laws indigenous to local tribes. Universal suffrage is 18 years of age. The judicial arm consists of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, High Court and Magistrate Court.

International Memberships

Sierra Leone is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth, African Union, ECOWAS, African Development Bank (AfDB), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Along with Guinea and Liberia, Sierra Leone formed the Mano River Union (MRU)—designed to implement development projects and promote regional economic integration between the three nations.

Market Access

Market and Trade AgreementSize of Market
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)220 Million
EU Cotonou Agreement (Everything But Arms – EBA)446 Million
U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)310 Million