The 2019 Economic Freedom of the World report (EFW), which measures the economic progress of a country by considering factors such as the ease of doing business and taxation, ranks Sierra Leone 42 among 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sierra Leone’s 47.5 score is well below the regional and world averages and this puts it in the lower quartile on the ranking (167 among 180 countries). But things did not turn bad for Sierra Leone overnight.
In the last two years, the country has been categorized as an economically-repressed country because it practices protectionisteconomic policies that support restricting imports from other countries through measures like high tariffs or embargo. Moreso, with a steep plunge in fiscal health and lower scores for labor freedom—a measure that considers a country’s labor market, minimum wages and regulatory restraints on hiring, Sierra Leone has remained at the bottom of the economic freedom index. Its economy did, however, once showed progress, especially at the end of the 2002 Civil War. The economy recovered with a GDP growth rate that topped 7 percent and the value of the country’s currency became stronger.
In 2014, though, things went downward with the devastating outbreak of the Ebola Virus. The Ebola epidemic killed nearly 4,000 Sierra Leoneans and the country was not Ebola-free until 2016. By then, Sierra Leone’s economy which had grown by 7.8 percent on average in 2013 through 2014, contracted following a global decline in the price of iron ore, which is the country’s main export.
Also, Sierra Leone has remained extremely poor in the last decade and many of its people depend on subsistence agriculture. Unfortunately, the country also experiences lots of setbacks in agriculture. Floods and poor water reservation is common and there are reports that women are often forced to trade their bodies in exchange for clean water. But Sierra Leone’s problems have a political dimension, too.
Political instability hinders the country’s development as is the case in many African countries. According to the 2019 Global Corruption Barometer Africa, Sierra Leone is the third most corrupt country in Africa with 52 percent of its citizens attesting to this fact. The protection of property rights is equally almost non-existent. It is why Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Sierra Leone 130 out of 180 countries.
Whereas, economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human; the right to control one’s labor and property. Sierra Leone’s lack of economic freedom has prevented its citizens from pursuing happiness and fulfillment. Whereas, continuous improvement of the legal and commercial frameworks, low tax and responsible debt management by the Sierra Leonean government would go a long way to improve the country’s economy.
OluwaponmileOrija is a Writing Fellow at African Liberty and a graduate of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. She can be reached on Twitter via @BrownySaysblog