Sierra Leone Country Facts

By | June 30, 2024
Sierra Leone
Capital city Freetown
Surface 71,740 km²
Population 7,076,000
Road network length 936 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway N/A
Motorway name N/A
Traffic drives Right
License plate code WALK

Sierra Leone, formally the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a small country in western Africa. The country is almost twice the size of the Netherlands and has 7 million inhabitants. The capital is Freetown.

Geography

Sierra Leone is located on the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa, bordering Guinea and Liberia. The country measures 300 by 330 kilometers. Sierra Leone is mostly fairly flat, with some isolated mountain ridges. The 1945 meter high Mount Bintumani is the highest point in the country. The landscape consists partly of savanna and partly of jungle. The coastline is mostly lowland with some islands, bays and estuaries. The capital Freetown is also located here.

The country has a tropical climate with a lot of precipitation. There is a dry and wet season. The average maximum temperature in Freetown is around 30°C all year round. There is a lot of precipitation in the period from May to October, but much less in the rest of the year. There is virtually no precipitation from December to March. In total, almost 3000 mm of precipitation falls per year, making Freetown one of the wettest capitals in the world.

Demographics

The population of Sierra Leone grew from approximately 2 million in 1960 to an initial peak of 4 million around 1990. This dipped during conflict and only started to grow again from 2000, to 6 million around 2010. The capital Freetown is also by far the largest largest city with more than 850,000 inhabitants. The only other major cities are Bo and Kenema. Sierra Leone is increasingly urbanized.

The country has about 16 ethnic groups, all with their own language. None of the groups constitute a majority of the population. English is the official language and is taught in schools. Most residents speak Krio, a Creole language based on English. This is the lingua franca in Sierra Leone.

Economy

Sierra Leone is one of the least developed countries in Africa, with an economy limited by internal conflict and a poor infrastructure. A large part of the export consists of mining products, especially diamonds. An important stream is conflict diamonds, which are used to finance war. About two-thirds of the population works in agriculture, mostly for their own food supply.

History

In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers came into contact with the indigenous people of the area. The mountain area around Freetown was then called the Serra da Leoa, on which the name of the country is based. The Spaniards called it Sierra Leona. The Dutch and French also established trading posts on the coast. Freetown was founded by freed slaves from North America who came to the area via Nova Scotia. Freetown had some American cultural influences. Many inhabitants of the area were former slaves. From 1808 the area was a British colony and protectorate. The area surrounding Freetown was a British crown colony and inland a British protectorate, bordering the French colony of West Africa and uncolonized Liberia.

Sierra Leone became independent from the United Kingdom in 1961. The country was initially a democracy, followed by coups in 1967-1968 and a one-party state from 1968 to 1991. This was based on socialist principles. Between 1991 and 2002 a brutal civil war raged in Sierra Leone, related to that of neighboring Liberia. About 50,000 inhabitants lost their lives and hundreds of thousands fled to neighboring countries. After that, democratic elections were held again and the country is trying to recover.

Road Network

The Tarmac Roads of Sierra Leone (2022).

Sierra Leone has a network of approximately 11,300 kilometers of road, of which approximately 8,000 kilometers are established as part of the National Road System and 3,500 kilometers are local roads. The road network is divided into primary, secondary and tertiary roads. The network of asphalted roads in 2011 covered only 8% of the road network, 951 kilometers.

The road network is classified as follows;

Classification status Length Hardened
Primary routes A-roads 2,140 km 756 km
secondary routes B-roads 1,940 km 24 km
Feeder routes C-roads / F-roads 4.152 km 0 km
urban roads (outside NRS) 36 km 35 km
Local roads and streets 3,521 km 80 km
Total 11,300 km 895 km

Decades of neglect and the civil war of the 1990s have left their mark on the road network, which is largely in poor condition. Sierra Leone’s road network is poorly connected to that of neighboring countries, as is more common in this part of Africa. The main road runs from the capital Freetown to Kenema in the east, branching off to Conakry in Guinea. A minor road runs east to Yengema. There are no highways in Sierra Leone, but a 2×2 road runs through the capital Freetown. A double lane road runs from Freetown to Masiaka, this is a toll road.

The road network of the capital Freetown is severely underdeveloped, and together with high petrol prices, walking is the main mode of transport. Freetown is located on a peninsula, on both sides of a mountain ridge, where both parts are not directly connected to each other, you have to go through the center.

Freetown airport is quite far out of town in Lungi, it is accessible by land but then traffic has to make a 180km detour. There is therefore a ferry service across the Tagrin Bay.

Road management

The national road authority is the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA). The SLRA was established in 1992 and is part of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation. A Road Fund was also established in 1992 to finance the road network. This Road Fund was split off from the SLRA in 2010 and has since been called the Road Maintenance Fund Administration. Over the period 2004-2009, maintenance expenditure was approximately $15 million per year. The Road Fund is mainly filled by fuel excise duties.

The Sierra Leone Roads Authority manages the A-roads and B-roads, the F-roads have been transferred to the local authorities.

Toll roads

In July 2017, Sierra Leone’s first toll road, a 62-kilometer link between Freetown and Masiaka, opened. The toll road was built by a Chinese company that also collects the toll.

Road numbering

There is no road numbering in Sierra Leone. There is, however, a road classification of A-roads, B-roads and F-Roads.

Signage

Signage is non-existent in Sierra Leone, also common in this part of West Africa.

 

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