Street scene in Freetown

Social situation A need for more education and employment

The civil war (1991–2002) and the Ebola epidemic (2014–2016) both had a devastating impact on Sierra Leone’s economy and society. High levels of inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the situation.

More than half of Sierra Leone’s population lives in poverty, and one in every four people is malnourished. The average life expectancy is just 55, and maternal and child mortality is very high. The majority of the adult population is illiterate.

Current estimates suggest that around 70 per cent of the working-age population is unemployed, underemployed or unproductively employed, for example in agriculture, most of which is subsistence farming. Many people lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to survive. Unemployed and frustrated young people in urban areas in particular could pose a threat to the country’s recently gained political stability.

Alongside its natural resources, the government sees its young population as the country’s greatest asset. In order to maximise its potential, the government has promised universal free primary and secondary education, and more investment in adult education, higher education and vocational training.

As at: 03/02/2022