Can Sierra Leone’s economy grow in spite of these intertwining factors?

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently released a report on the economic realities of Sierra Leone, saying that the country’s citizens will experience a 4.3 percent growth in their economy. However, it is easy to express some doubt over this analysis, after all, the country is just recovering from the effects and economic shocks caused by the Ebola virus disease outbreak in 2013. The IMF team that determined the economic growth of the country in 2016 was led by John Wakeman-Linn during their visit to Freetown from March 15 to 29, 2016.

During the visit, the IMF team met with several country financial representatives as well as President Ernest Bai Koroma, Minister of Finance, Dr. Kaifalah Marah, and Minister of State for Finance, Patrick Conteh. Members of the private sector, civil society, and development partners were also present.

Wakeman-Linn believes that although the country experienced an economic downgrade due to the spread of the Ebola virus disease and the slump of the Leone, the economy will bounce back in 2016. Beyond that, the IMF is of the view that in subsequent years, the country can maintain a certain economic growth standard only if some factors do not resurface. “Over the medium term (2017–19), growth could average 5 percent owing to expected improvements in the external environment and implementation of a wide range of post-Ebola recovery initiatives in key sectors,” Wakeman-Linn said.

According to the report from the IMF, iron ore mining is also a contributing factor to the projected economic growth in Sierra Leone. However, there seems to be a factor the IMF is not considering here. The report says there is a likelihood that Ebola can return to the country, if this happens, there is every likelihood that iron ore mining workers (an area that is supposed to drive economic growth for the country) may not be able to stop vulnerability to the virus. 2013 reports from SNL Metals & Mining show that mining workers are highly susceptible to the virus.

Credit - SNL
Credit – SNL

It follows therefore that if after the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Sierra Leone free of any fresh cases of the virus, one does come up, the economy could once again be affected as both factors (ebola and iron ore mining) are linked to each other in this case.

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