The history of the country’s name dates back to 1462 when a Portuguese ship captain, Pedro da Sintra, sailed southwards down the coast of West Africa and saw the long range of mountains of what is now the Freetown peninsula, which he called 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 came and 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 6,294,774 people with Freetown (capital) accounting for approximately 1.2 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.
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 modeled 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. In cabinet, there are Ministers of State appointed by the President with the approval of the House of Representatives (Parliament). The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term). In the legislative arm, there is a unicameral Parliament consisting of 124 seats; of which 112 members are elected by popular vote and 12 filled by Paramount Chiefs representing each of the 12 Provincial Districts.
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.
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 and Trade Agreement||Size 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|