Sierra Leone, since the mid-1980s, has been considered by the United Nations as the country most seriously affected by adverse economic conditions. Sierra Leone is virtually a failed state characterized by a severe decline in educational, health, transportation, and other services.
The private sector dominates the country's free market economy, with subsistence agriculture contributing the most. Agriculture made up the greatest portion of GDP in 1999: 43 percent, according to the World Fact-book. The country could be self-sufficient in foodstuffs, but the destabilizing effects of the civil war has driven most farmers of cash crops from the land.
Diamond mining is the nation's most important source of foreign currency, but its percentage contribution to total foreign earnings has declined from 65 percent in the mid-1970s to less than 20 percent in the 1990s. The decline is the result of a combination of smuggling, unfavorable prices for developing country commodities, depletion of resources, and the effects of the war. The World Factbook reported that industry contributed 26 percent of GDP in 1999 and services contributed 31 percent.