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 88% of the country’s GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The country's trade policy is a part of the 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 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, aluminum, etc.), precious stones (diamonds), wood, and cocoa. Imports are led by rice, followed by petroleum products, vaccines and medicaments, and cars (data OEC 2022).

According to OEC, in 2022, Sierra Leone’s main export partners were China (54.1%), Belgium (11.8%), United Arab Emirates (5.6%), Germany (4.1%), and the Netherlands (3.8%); whereas imports came chiefly from China (33.3%), India (11.7%), Turkey (9.1%), the United States (5.8%), and the United Arab Emirates (5.1%).

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 2022, Sierra Leone exported USD 1.1 billion in goods (+61.2% y-o-y) and imported USD 1.9 billion (+9%). Concerning services, exports stood at USD 37 million vis-à-vis USD 331 million in imports (data WTO). In the same year, the trade deficit stood at 24.3% of GDP (World Bank). Although official figures for 2023 are not available yet, the World Bank recorded stronger iron ore exports and subdued import demand.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 1,5022,1461,8031,9662,154
Exports of Goods (million USD) 6354236971,1241,270
Imports of Services (million USD) 430165238331n/a
Exports of Services (million USD) 75536837n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -7747n/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -2-102n/an/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -830-612-585n/an/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 565258n/an/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 383641n/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 181517n/an/a

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

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Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
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)
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)

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: May 2024