The Main Reasons Behind the Question: Why Is Sierra Leone Poor?


FREETOWN — At one time, the Human Development Index classified Sierra Leone as the world’s most poor nation (according to Rural Poverty Portal). Although it currently is not considered to be in as relatively as bad a state, it is still important to consider the nation’s economic history so as to answer questions such as why is Sierra Leone poor in the first place?

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) breaks down the statistics for the country, highlighting that its poverty rate is slightly over half of the people living in Sierra Leone. Furthermore, it also points out that the per capita income for the nation is only about $684.

When searching for topics like “Why is Sierra Leone poor?” online, one is likely to find a discussion about the nation’s civil war, which concluded in 2002 but took up most of the 1990s. Rural Poverty Portal noted that the civil war bore a detrimental impact and largely hurt people with lower incomes. However, the organization also found that rapid increases in the number of people living in the country did not help quell the struggle of impoverishment.

Its analysis of Sierra Leone’s poverty in rural areas honed in on the following categories:

  • “Landless people and small-scale farmers, particularly women who head rural households”
  • The organization looks further within these classifications, writing that “among these groups, the most disadvantaged are:”
    • Youth (particularly those who fought)
    • Younger females who faced sexual abuse
    • Mothers raising children alone
    • People forced to move around in wartime

UNDP noted that issues like gender inequality, an unemployed and greatly illiterate youth, unsatisfactory infrastructure and other issues continue to plague the nation.

Focusing on the conflict, it is important to note that even though some of the longlasting results may seem unrelated, they still bear connections to civil war circumstances—from the proliferation of HIV/AIDS to the negative impact on education.

The UNDP also noted that the country relies on aid to a large extent. For fiscal year 2015, the United States’ disbursements to Sierra Leone ranked emergency response as the top sector, and the main activity focused on addressing ebola in west Africa.

The U.S. aid amounted to almost $75 million in disbursements for that particular fiscal year.

So with all of this money, why is Sierra Leone poor?

As the UNDP pointed out—one of Sierra Leone’s downfalls is its reliance on “a largely unchanged economic structure at low levels of productivity, with agriculture remaining the mainstay of the economy… and providing employment for about 75 percent of the rapidly growing population.”

This is not to say that the country did not achieve success in the recuperation process though: UNDP cited statistics indicating that the GDP increased between 2010 (4.5 percent) to 2011 (5.3 percent). Furthermore, in 2010 the National Youth Commission’s creation addressed issues like the prevalence of unemployment across the youth in Sierra Leone.

Ultimately, it is imperative to ensure a nation’s self-sufficiency above anything else. Legislation like the Economic Growth and Development Act focuses on improving the lifestyles of a country through developing its market and and private sectors.

By showing support for acts like these to Congress, individuals can guarantee that Sierra Leone and other nations receive sustainable assistance that they need.

Maleeha Syed
Photo: Flickr


About Author

Maleeha Syed

Maleeha writes for The Borgen Project from San Antonio, Texas. Her academic interests include Journalism, human rights and social justice, business and public policy. Maleeha has also been an active officer for an Amnesty International chapter for the past two years. She hopes this will prepare her for a future in reporting on the stories she is fascinated by, which deal with humanitarian struggles and how the political sphere either helps or hinders people.

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