Sierra Leone - Overview of economy

Sierra Leone is an extremely impoverished country with an economy primarily based on agriculture and mining. Although the country is richly endowed with natural resources and minerals—especially diamonds—a decade-long civil conflict has brought most production to a near standstill. Sierra Leone has large areas of fertile land, but the vast majority of farmers engage only in subsistence farming . Of the cash crop agricultural production that continues during the internal conflict, the most significant

products are palm kernels, palm oil, cocoa and coffee, and food crops including rice (the main food crop), cassava, corn, millet, and peanuts.

Sierra Leone has vast deposits of diamonds, gold, ru-tile, and bauxite. Diamonds make up the country's principal export. However, diamonds have become more of a curse than a blessing for Sierra Leone. The civil war that has been raging for the past 10 years has mainly been a struggle for control of the diamond fields. Illicit diamond mining has provided money for the rebels to continue the war, and has made it difficult to realize peace in the country.

The country's economy has been steadily declining since the 1960s, with severe stagnation and recession since the early 1980s. Between 1980 and 1990, the World Bank put the country's average GDP growth rate at 0.6 percent, decreasing to-3.3 percent between 1990 and 1996, and falling to-3.6 percent in 1996. The civil war is the main reason for the steady decline. Although a brief ceasefire in the late 1990s brought hope to the economy, the resumption of fighting by 1999 caused more damage to the country. The World Factbook estimated that gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity was US$2.7 billion in 2000. The disruption of the war has reduced Sierra Leone to one of the poorest countries in the world.

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