Trade Profile

flag Sierra Leone Sierra Leone: Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Sierra Leone has an open economy in which trade accounts for around 58% of the country’s GDP (World Bank, 2021). The country's trade policy is a part of global strategy to reduce poverty and is in compliance with its commitment to ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). Customs duties are relatively high in Sierra Leone. Despite having few trade barriers, the country has very few bilateral investment agreements. A more restrictive trade regime was put in place in 2017 with selective tariffs on imports and the launch of the "Made in Sierra Leone" (BAD) initiative. The factors favoring foreign trade are the rapid expansion of the telecommunications sector, unrestricted conversion or transfer of foreign investment funds, and the absence of legal restrictions on obtaining foreign exchange. Sierra Leone mainly exports minerals (titanium, iron, aluminium, etc.), wood, precious stones (diamonds), cocoa, fats, machinery and fish. Cereals and other food products, machinery, vehicles, mineral fuel, plastics and pharmaceutical products account for the bulk of the country's imports (ITC, 2021).

The top destinations for goods exports are China (18.3% of total exports), Korea (14%), the Netherlands (13.5%), Somalia (10.8%), Ghana (8%), Romania (7.8%) and Germany (5.3%). The main partners for imports of goods are China (20.1% of total imports), the United Arab Emirates (8.4%), Belgium (7.5%), India (7.2%), the United States (5.4%) and Turkey (5.2%) (ITC, 2021). Sierra Leone’s trade was severely impacted by the Ebola outbreak, lower prices for iron ore, the closure of the country's largest iron mine (the Tonkolili facility), the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. However, the ramp-up of production at the Tonkolili and Marampa sites, and the opening of the country's first cocoa processing plant in November 2021 are expected to boost exports.

Sierra Leone’s trade balance is structurally in deficit and this trend is expected to continue considering the country’s fledgling industry and lack of agricultural productivity. In 2021 Sierra Leone exported USD 697 million in goods and imported USD 1.8 billion. In 2021, services exports fell to USD 49 million, while imports reached USD 197 million (WTO). The trade deficit reached USD 716.8 million in 2020, a decrease compared to 2019 (USD 758 million) (World Bank, latest data available). Trade deficit is expected to shrink thanks to the recovery in exports, but it will remain substantial due to the country’s dependence on imports (Coface).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 1,3541,5022,1461,8031,966
Exports of Goods (million USD) 5546354236971,124
Imports of Services (million USD) 384430165238331
Exports of Services (million USD) 10575536837
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -12-7747n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -35-2-102n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -551-830-612-585n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 57565258n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 39383641n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 17181517n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

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Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2018
China 18.3%
South Korea 14.0%
Netherlands 13.5%
Somalia 10.8%
Ghana 8.0%
See More Countries 35.4%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2018
China 20.1%
United Arab Emirates 8.4%
Belgium 7.5%
India 7.2%
United States 5.4%
See More Countries 51.4%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

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To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows

 
 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Commercial Policy

International Economic Cooperation
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Member of ECOWAS - Economic Community of West African States
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Sierra Leone Commercial Policy
Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products)
14.9%
 
 

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Party to the International Coffee Agreement
International Economic Cooperation
Member of ECOWAS - Economic Community of West African States
Useful Resources
 
 
 

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Latest Update: December 2023