Sierra Leone has opportunity to increase economic growth but faces challenges in improving citizens’ welfare – says new World Bank Report

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 December 2022:

Sierra Leone faces many challenges in improving the welfare of the population, but increased investment in education provision and quality skills, can help more Sierra Leoneans access formal opportunities which could lead to improvement in living standards and reduction of poverty, according to the new World Bank Sierra Leone Poverty Assessment launched two days ago in Freetown.

The report reviews the country’s track record in reducing poverty and improving livelihoods and wellbeing of citizens.

Official poverty rate in Sierra Leone in 2018 was 57% of the population. The incidence of poverty varies significantly across the country, ranging from 23% in Greater Freetown to 49% in other urban areas, and 74% in rural areas. The geographic dispersion of poverty is wide, with the Northern Province experiencing the highest rate of poverty (77%) and the Greater Freetown area experiencing the lowest rate (23%), the report notes.

“If education is a barrier towards accessing opportunities especially in the capital and other urban cities, then increased investments in the sector throughout the country could be a plausible pathway in ensuring that citizens are equipped with the knowledge and skills that make them suitable for the job market, thus improving their socio-economic wellbeing,” said Abdu Muwonge, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone.

A key finding from the analysis is that, though Sierra Leone faces multiple challenges in meeting the welfare needs of its citizens, there is also an untapped opportunity in investing in secondary cities. The report attempts to explain why some areas in the country are poorer than others and the role urbanization plays in poverty reduction.

As in other low-income countries, growth does not necessarily translate to poverty reduction and GDP per capita does not tell the whole story, the report says.

“Many countries achieve lower rates of poverty than predicted by their GDP per capita, likely because they have good economic and social policies and effective institutions, the report found. Middle-income countries (often with economies that have started on the path of structural transformation) appear to be especially successful in achieving lower rates of poverty, possibly due to enhanced productivity.

“Over the past decade, the main driver of poverty reduction was strong growth in urban areas as evidenced by a large poverty decline. An estimated 43% of Sierra Leone’s population lives in urban centers.”

The report notes that though the number of private sector jobs increased in urban areas, many of them are non-wage low-productivity jobs in retail trade and to a lesser extent in transport, construction, and food services.

Population growth is exacerbating pressures on the urban economy, as the number of youths entering the labor force is growing rapidly. Low investment in urban infrastructure may be constraining economic growth in cities and towns and, consequently, improvements in welfare.

As policy priorities over the short to medium-term, the report identifies that government has an opportunity to increase growth and improve welfare by: (a) investing in human capital, (b) investing in secondary cities to make them more productive, (c) increasing communication and connectivity between outlying rural areas and secondary cities to improve rural welfare,  (d) continuing to aim for universal provision of basic services, including in small villages, (e) developing and improving agriculture as this will play a critical role in poverty reduction as about 80% of the rural population relies on agriculture.

The authors believe this approach can yield externalities that benefit both rural and urban populations in a fiscally responsible way.

“Secondary cities could provide non-farm employment opportunities, which can lead to income diversification and higher productivity. Given that a large share of Sierra Leone’s population depends on farming and that the majority of the poor are involved in it, these benefits hold promise for reducing poverty,” said Paul Corral, World Bank Senior Economist and co-author of the report.

You can read the Report here:

Sierra Leone Poverty Assessment FINAL

1 Comment

  1. In the face of it, this world bank report on poverty reduction and the untapped social and economic resources we all understand exists in our country is not only a daming indictment of the Bio administration ,but one would also go further to challenge the world bank and other international financial institutions about their failure to hold this out of touch government transparent and accountable for where they are spending the million of dollars that have become more like a free hand out with no questions asked .Apart from education and training , the inter connectivity infrastructure around the country that will normally be seen as the primary development programs that delivers the goods is none existence . Lack of good roads have deny farmers access to markets .Also have created more tribal and regional division in the country . Because it has stop us to socialize and meet the other half that live in the other part of the country .Which makes us strangers to each other .How do you expect strangers to come together and build a nation ?Freetown is doing better than some areas in the North or South and East of the country because the city is the major economic hub of the country, and the melting pot .And all the roads leading to Freetown and it’s surrouningas are well looked after. Traveling to out posts like Falaba, Kambia in Portlock district , Some areas in the South like Pujehun, Bo, Kenema, and Kono and Kailahun is like embarking on a death wish .

    Spare a thought for the long suffering people of Sherbro Isands , whoes access to the main land is a challenge at the best of time , doesn’t inspire confidence that economic activities and poverty reduction however well-meaning the World Bank report wants to highlight some of the issues holding us back,so the one directionless Bio government can take into account next time they are disbursing development grants for leveling up those hard to reach areas of the country , to meet the aspirations needs of the poor and wretched people , just highlighting the problem is not enough .If the world bank and other development partners wants to see the necessary changes we all want to see in Sierra Leone , we need a commitment not only in giving us the loans but action by way of sending in experts to our various public institutions to monitor or shadow our government ministries to see where the money is going .Back in the eighties the US government sent a team of economic advisers on the request of the Doe government to help tackle the economic woes facing Liberia .After few months they gave up and left the country because they realised the Doe government wasn’t serious about economic reforms and tackling poverty .In his book title the Charles Taylor’s Inolvement .

    The Bitterness of War, By Dandeson Smith .”Part of the initial strategy of the rebels, many of whom spoke only Liberian English through an interpreter , was to convene a meeting in a newly captured town and make a seemingly sincere declaration :’We are freedom fighters of the Revolutionary United Front .(RUF).We have come to save you the people of Sierra Leone , our brothers and sisters from the clutches of government .As you all know there is too much suffering in our country today , all because of bad governance .Prices of basic food commodities like rice keeping soaring , and so are the prices of basic non-food items.Salaries are very low :the capital city of Freetown perpetually experiences electricity blackout .It remains the darkest city in the whole world .Our politicians are very corrupt no one would deny that corruption is the order of the day “.So after all what we saw and witnessed, Iam no fan of Foday Sankoh and his RUF rebels no one will forgive them for the deaths and destruction, but on that note they have a point .So the question becomes what has change since March 1991 ? Answer Nothing and is getting worst

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