Wealth and poverty
While the country has experienced improvements in recent years Sierra Leone is still an extremely poor nation, with tremendous inequality in income distribution. The poorest 10% of the population shares only 2.6% of the economy, while the richest 10% shares 33.6% (2003 figures). More than half the people live on less than US$1.25 a day.
Education and work
Education has been an area of focus in the post-conflict rehabilitation. Primary education and three years of secondary school is compulsory. There are four technical institutes, a rural institute and a university. The literacy rate is a low 41%, with 53% of men and 30% of women able to read and write English, Mende, Temne or Arabic. Just under half of Sierra Leone’s primary school teachers have received formal training. Sierra Leone has a labour participation rate of more than 66%.
Industries and products
Sierra Leone’s main agricultural products include rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanuts, poultry, beef, lamb, pork and fish. Agriculture accounts for 49% of the country’s GDP.
Its industries include diamond mining, small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear), petroleum refining, and small commercial ship repair.
In 2010 Sierra Leone exported diamonds, rutile (a major ore in titanium), cocoa, coffee and fish worth US$469 million, mainly to Belgium (29%), Romania (15%) and the USA (9%). It imported US$965 million worth of goods such as food, machinery, fuel and chemicals from its main trading partners South Africa (15%), China (11%) and Malaysia (7%).