Most of the poorest countries are found in sub-Saharan Africa, and the reasons why these countries have remained undeveloped include prolonged civil unrest as well as the structures left behind by their colonizers where the countries were made the suppliers of raw materials rather than the processors. It is due to these reasons and many others such as the poor income distribution and the low literacy level that these countries are unable to move at the same pace with the rest of the world. The social problems have also played a part in the struggle. The researcher aims at carrying out online research to discuss the pattern of the social and economic development made in Sierra Leone in the last five years. It will cover the income distribution, education access, access to water and electricity, the GDP as well as the vulnerability to climate change. It will include the relationship of Sierra Leone with international institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and the WTO. The work will conclude with the social problems experienced in the area including the high inflation, political instability, malnutrition as well as the issue of youth unemployment.
Sierra Leone is an African country located in the western part of the continent. Its geographic coordinates are 8° 30? N, 11° 30? W and it is between Liberia and Guinea while bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the west with a coastline of 402 kilometers (International Organization for Immigration, 2014).The country covers a total area of 71,740 square km with an estimated population of 5.890 million people (International Organization for Immigration, 2014). It has an infant mortality rate of 89 deaths per 1,000 with male deaths being estimated at 118 per 1000 births, while the female being recorded at 105 per 1000 births (International Organization for Immigration, 2014). Sierra Leone is a multiracial country with over 20 African tribes and other races such as the Europeans, Indians, Pakistanis, and Lebanese presented here. The low level of social, political, and economic development has hindered the country's ability to make critical steps towards development. The poor growth record can be associated with British colonialism that left the country in structural constraints such as a high level of dependency on revenues from the export of mineral and agricultural products. The country later suffered the mismanagement, authoritarianism, and extreme corruption. The military rule resulted in major economic and political crisis as the country suffered a disastrous war that lasted for a decade from 1991 to 2002 (Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index, 2016). The country is making economic progress especially with the emergence of iron ore as an export product. This essay aims to discuss the socio-economic development made in Sierra Leone in the last five years, its relation with organizations, and social problems.
The Socio-Economic Snapshot
Gross Domestic Product
According to (Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index, 2016), the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) of the country has improved by 66% in the period of 2002 to 2012 as a result of post-conflict recovery, reconstruction of agriculture, flourishing of the informal sector and the revival of mining. The iron ore has emerged as the leading export making the annual growth of 15.2% in 2012 and 20.1% in 2013 (Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index, 2016). However, due to the Ebola crisis in 2014 IMF gave the country an impressive growth rate of 8% but the World Bank lowered it to a projection of 4%. The GDP per capita increased to $ 500 in the year 2011 from $278 in 2002 before registering an impressive $805 in 2013 as per IMF data (Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index, 2016). According to (Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index, 2016), the growth rate has mostly been boosted by the mining sector registering a growth of 5.3% in 2012 and 5.5% in 2013.
The country has unequal income distribution since the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to increase with time. The total growth in revenue and redistribution will maximize the earnings of the bottom 20 percent, but this will not be enough to guarantee the income of the poorest, especially when the aggregate growth is small (Clare, 2014). The education factor has also resulted in the income distribution disparity as the majority of the youth is uneducated due to the disruption of the school system by the war. Therefore, the eradication of poverty and the promotion of equal income parity will require significant aggregate growth. This increase will ensure that the bottom 20% will have an average revenue of above $2 a day by the year 2030 (Clare, 2014).
The progress in the service delivery in the education sector has improved in the period between 2005 and 2013 especially in primary school (Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index, 2016). There has been a significant improvement in the recent past, especially in battling gender inequalities. Education has been poor and available mainly to men while women have received very low attention in school since society has always believed that only males need education. The most advantaged groups are those in the urban areas where the educational facilities can be accessed. The government has also managed to open the countryside for educational opportunities since these are the regions with the highest poverty ratio. The school enrolment in recent years has registered an improvement with an excess of 100% rate (Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index, 2016). This has led to a high number of students creating a shortage of teachers in the process. The small teacher-student ratio has decreased accountability and increased the rate of dropout.
The health services have been improved in recent years despite the fact that it has remained at the bottom of the global ratings. There has been an increase of 867 health facilities that are fully operational making the infant mortality to reduce slightly (Alie, 2015). The prevention and treatment of malaria have been intensified with over 300,000 treated nets availed to those living in the malaria-prone areas (Alie, 2015). The drugs have similarly been made available and affordable to all. For those living with HIV and AIDS, the Anti-retroviral drugs have been provided beside centers to cater to them. The rate of the outbreak of epidemics such as cholera and typhoid has been significantly reduced due to the increased sanitation and water access. There has been a slight improvement of 35% and 49% (Alie, 2015) of sanitation and safe drinking water respectively.
Vulnerability to Climate
The climatic conditions in Sierra Leone have been changing in the past years with the temperatures rising and the rainfall being insufficient over the years. The annual temperature has been increasing at 0.80 c with nights being scorching (McSweeney.et.al, 2016). Since 1960, rainfall has been decreasing over the years with parts of the country suffering from occasional droughts. The trend of rainfall reduction has been experienced throughout the region, and it may be perceived as a long-term change. The average annual temperature is projected to increase by 1.00 to 2.50 C by the year 2060 (McSweeney.et.al, 2016). These changes in temperatures may make the country prone to cholera outbreaks in the years to come, especially in the coastal areas. It is also projected to experience flooding due to the rise of the sea level before 2090.
Access to Water
Water access in Sierra Leone has been enhanced in the post-war years after the war but most of the water supply out of service. For more efficiently, the water supply in the country has been devolved to the local council. The water supply target at the national level has been set at 70% with the latest water coverage being estimated at 49% with the highest percentage of coverage being in the urban area at 70% and rural area at 26% (Water and Sanitation Program, 2011). It is, however, believed that the quality of water supplied is still of poor quality and its improvement would help in lowering the waterborne outbreaks.
Access to Electricity
Sierra Leone just like her neighboring countries is experiencing power shortage with access to this source of energy being reserved for a few in the country. Most of those with electricity access is in urban areas where the industries are located. It is estimated that the three large mining companies take the greatest share in the power supply ranging from 650 to 850 MW. The firms have been advised to decentralize their operations to other parts of the country so that the public can take advantage of the investment in private power generation and supply (Department for International Development, 2016). The country has a population of 6.4 million and fewer than 10% have access to any form of power (Department for International Development, 2016). The coverage is sparse with the national grid covering the Freetown and the suburbs of the Western area rendering services to about 40% of the residents (Department for International Development, 2016). In the countryside, the electricity supply is practically inaccessible.
Sierra Leone is a country with the majority of its population living below the poverty line. Most of its population lives for less than $1.25 per day, and this only shows one side of poverty. The headcount poverty stands at 20.9% points higher compared to the income poverty (United Nations Development Programme, 2015). This means that those lucky to live above the poverty line may still suffer in another way, like living conditions, education, and health. The intensity of deprivation in Sierra Leone about multidimensional poverty is recorded at 53.0% (United Nations Development Programme, 2015). The high poverty index is the result of the continued civil strives that have hindered the country to develop, leading to a lack of employment among the youth.
Relationship with International Organizations
International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been a dependable partner in the development and reconstruction of Sierra Leone. After the country suffered the double tragedy of drop in the prices of iron ore and the Ebola outbreak, IMF waivered its debt and increased its financial support. After the third and fourth review of the board in late 2015, the IMF approved the disbursement of $46.14million to the Republic of Sierra Leone as an extended credit facility with the plan to be disbursed in three phases (International Monetary Fund, 2015). The country was also given the waiver for all of its previous arrears due to the prolonged period of conflicts that the country has witnessed in the past years. The funds allocated to the country are meant to help it in the development agenda as the country works to reach economic stability. The support has also targeted the price stabilities enabling the state to withstand the pressure of inflation. The IMF has pointed out that Sierra Leone is still in the situation of debt distress and given its fragile fiscal position, its financing needs will have to be met mostly by concessional loans and grants.
The World Trade Organization
The world trade organization (WTO) has been the leader in terms of assistance to African countries especially the least developed countries such as Sierra Leone. The WTO has initiated several projects in Africa that are aimed at ensuring that even the poorest countries in the sub-Saharan can benefit from the world market. Accra Agenda for Action and the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness is the framework upon which the WTO has strengthened the foundations and institutions of trade in countries like Sierra Leone (The World Trade Organization, 2013). The program has been beneficial to 48 African countries with Sierra Leone being one of the recipients of the $155 million allocated in 2011 (The World Trade Organization, 2013). The organization has also sought to promote the leading sectors of the beneficiary countries where Sierra Leone has received support to develop tourism.
The World Bank
Sierra Leone has had a good relationship with the World Bank and has received support over recent years. The World Bank has been at the forefront to ensure that the country recovers from the destruction caused by the civil war. It has been receiving $ 20-30 million annually with the focus on improving human development, reforms in the public sector, decentralization of services delivery, energy, and agriculture (Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index, 2016). This support has been beneficial to the revival of the county’s economy that has remained fragile for a long time.
Following the prolonged civil strife in the country, a high number of the youth were forced out of school, and this has left a large part of the population uneducated. With low literacy level, the job creation has been weak and the country being predominantly a producer rather than processing goods, it has rendered a high number of the youth jobless. Also, the vast number of young people have migrated to the urban areas leaving the productive rural areas to the aged who do not have the energy to produce enough crops that can attract investors to set up processing industries (Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index, 2016). The issue of unemployment will persist for a very long time if this trend of the youth moving to urban areas without adequate knowledge in the creation of new jobs continues.
The inflation level in Sierra Leone has been on the rise in recent years. The inflation rate has been recorded at 8.9% in August 2015. This trend has been witnessed due to the challenges experienced in recent times especially the small production in agriculture for the last half of 2014 and the disruption of its trading interaction with both Guinea and Liberia (International Monetary Fund, 2015). With the trend witnessed in its economy in 2014, it was projected that the country was to suffer further inflation which would reach 12% before the end of 2015 (International Monetary Fund, 2015). The country is still expected to experience further inflation due to the Ebola epidemic that has lasted longer than anticipated. Even though the country is making progress, the economy remains very unstable, and it will take a longer period before it gets back on track.
Sierra Leone has a favorable climate with good rainfall and vast land of almost 5.36 million hectares of land that is suitable for farming. Besides its ability to support a variety of livestock the food access in the country is still a challenge (Regional Department West II, 2009).The conditions allow us to grow a variety of crops such as the yams, millet, sorghum, maize, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, rice, and much more but due to the prolonged political instability, the population has not made good use of the arable land. Rice and cassava constitute solid food. The greatest percentage of the citizens remains malnourished as the country has been unable to produce enough food for everyone (Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index, 2016). This problem can be associated with multiple constraints such as land access issues, poor transport as well as post-harvest losses among other problems.
HIV and AIDS
HIV and AIDS epidemic has been considered heterogeneous, generalized, and mixed in Sierra Leone. The infections have been experienced among all groups and sectors with the dynamics of transmission being diverse. The prevalence of HIV and AIDS has been on the increase from 0.9% to 1.5% in 2002 and 2005 respectively (Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting, 2015). The prevalence rate has remained unchanged since 2008. This means that the country has the lowest registered prevalence level compared to other sub-Saharan countries that have expressed a prevalence of 2.3% and 1.0% in urban and rural areas respectively (Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting, 2015). It is estimated that 54,000 Sierra Leoneans are infected and living with HIV and AIDS with the number of children being around 5,000, while that of women is 29,000 (Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting, 2015). As per 2013, the prevalence rate was 1.7% for females and 1.3% for men. The mode of transition has shown that commercial sex workers have contributed to 39.7% of the infections (Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting, 2015). The government has formulated the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat (NAS) and other programs to ensure that the response to HIV and AIDS has been enhanced. The antiretroviral drugs have been made available for those infected as the government has continued to sensitize the society on the protection measures.
After an extended period of war, the country is getting back to making steps in development but at a very slow pace. The war destroyed the infrastructures and left the country ungovernable. In the recent year, Sierra Leone has made progress in trying to adopt democratic reforms that will enhance its development. After the 11 year conflict, the country marked a milestone in 2007 when Ernest BaiKoroma was sworn in as the elected president after defeating his opponent in the second round ballot (Regional Department West II, 2009). The 2012 election was also a success without any incidence of war reported, and this has shown signs of massive stride in the right direction. It is due to these democratic reforms that the country has attracted many investors and international organizations that have helped in maintaining its local and international relations. The country has always made tremendous efforts in setting up the institutions that have promoted reconciliation and helped the country in its efforts to focus on development and to heal from the past atrocities (Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index, 2016). Nevertheless, the high unemployment among the youth and the instability in the region makes the country still vulnerable to political instability.
It is evident that Sierra Leone is one of the least developed countries in the African sub-region. The country has had its share of prolonged conflicts for more than a decade, and this is the main reason for its poor development record in recent years. The socio-economic snapshot shows that the country still has a long way to go so as to attain a stable economy. The GDP growth rate has been hindered by the emergence of health issues such as the Ebola outbreak that have lasted longer than expected and in the process redirected funds meant for the development. The basic facilities such as electricity and water have been scarce with the rural households being unable to access them. Education has improved regarding massive enrolment but still faces the problem of teacher shortage. Sierra Leone has been a beneficiary of an international organization, in particular on the ground that it has suffered instability for the longest time compared to its neighbors. The WTO has been a champion for promoting its tourism in the international market, while the World Bank decided to waive its arrears and increase financial support. The social problems have been on the rise especially with the youth unemployment that has left the country struggling to achieve economic development. Political instability, as well as the high level of inflation, has been a part of the challenge.