In recent years, attempts have been made to: (i) increase the capacity of the professional wing of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and its role in coordinating all trade and business matters across the economy; (ii) make SLIEPA more functional and proactive in the promotion of investment and export opportunities; (iii) reduce interest rates to promote agriculture and small-scale business operations and the general development of the private sector; and (iv) promote PPPs in the provision of public services.

The MTNDP sets out a growth agenda, which aims to develop a value-added export sector. The GoSL is currently developing a National Trade and Investment Strategy, which will set out further details on this, along with its other investment-related goals and broader strategic vision to make Sierra Leone Africa’s first Zero-Carbon middle-income economy by 2040, with competitive advantages in key sectors such as renewable energy, eco-tourism and organic farming. In March 2019, supported by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, an Inception Report on “Developing a National Trade & Investment Strategy to Support Economic Diversification, Competitiveness & Continental Integration” was published. This is the first deliverable of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in its project to design a National Trade and Investment Strategy geared towards “promoting and developing a robust and competitive private sector via a transparent trade regime; building capacity and infrastructure to increase participation in global trade; competitiveness; consumer protection; aid-for-trade (AfT) capacity; private investment, and migrant remittances”




The country had an overall ranking of 163 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, down from 160 in 2018 and 148 in 2017. Although the country’s overall score (48.74) increased slightly (+0.15) in 2019 from 2018, the lower ranking is indicative of comparably more rapid improvement in scores in other countries. The report places Sierra Leone above the ranking of neighbouring Liberia.

Much higher than its overall ranking were Sierra Leone’s 2019 rankings in the categories of “starting a business” (55), where it ranked well above Ghana (108), Cameroon (92) and Nigeria (120); and “protecting minority investors” (89), where it was ranked on a par or above many developing country markets in sub-Saharan Africa as well as other emerging investment markets outside of the region, such as Vietnam (89) and the Philippines (132). Lower rankings included infrastructure-related criteria, such as “getting electricity” (178) and “registering property” (167) and “dealing with construction permits” (182).

At the domestic level, there are few specific restrictions, controls, fees or taxes on foreign ownership of companies in Sierra Leone. Foreign companies can own Sierra Leonean companies (including outright) subject to certain registration formalities being completed.

An exception to this general rule applies to investments in mining of less than US$500,000, which require a Sierra Leonean holding of 25%. Foreign and domestic investors are treated the same under the law regulating this area. Investors can also use foreign technical and unskilled workers in their businesses situated in Sierra Leone.

Changes brought in by the 2014 amendment to the Companies Act clarified the authority of the Corporate Affairs Commission to register share transfers and the approval of the Commission must be sought before a transfer of shares takes effect.

SLIEPA provides investors with information on how to register their businesses and assists with obtaining relevant licences and permits from the appropriate government department or agency. The GoSL has indicated that it intends to simplify this process by introducing a “single application point” within SLIEPA, and thereby provide a one-stop shop for investors and exporters seeking approvals, but it not yet known when this route will be available.



Sectoral restrictions

As detailed in Key sectors, there are no sectoral restrictions on foreign ownership of Sierra Leonean assets or businesses (save in relation to foreign ownership of land).


2019 Tax Rates are set out overleaf (figures calculated using an US$/SLL exchange rate of 7000).


Corporation tax for resident companies

  • Basic rate: 30%
  • Mining companies: 30%
  • Capital gains: 30%
    (Subject to a minimum chargeable threshold of Le3.6m (US$514) per annum or per transaction)
  • Goods and Services Tax: 15%
    (Applicable on most goods and services supplied by a registered business. The GST is subject to exemptions for exports of goods (excluding minerals) stores on vessels and aircraft leaving Sierra Leone and various exempt supplies including fertilizers, water, books and newspapers, education, pharmaceuticals, some passenger transport, crude oil and hydrocarbon products, land, local agricultural produce for manufacturing, buildings, public works and machinery; and for businesses with an annual turnover of less than Le350m (US$50,000))
  • Rental income: 10%
    (Subject to an allowance of 20% for repairs and maintenance and a tax free threshold of Le3.6m (US$514)
  • Dividends: 0%
    (Dividends received by a residentcompany from another resident company are exempt from tax)
  • Interest: 15%
    (Interest on government development stocks is exempt from tax)
  • Royalties: 25%
  • Natural resource payments: 25%
  • Payments to contractors: 5%
    (A taxpayer engaging the services of a sub-contractor will be held liable for all unpaid taxes, interests and penalties of that contractor)



Corporation tax for non-resident companies

  • Basic rate: 30%
  • Mining companies: 30%
  • Capital gains: 30%
    (Subject to a minimum chargeable threshold of Le3.6m (US$514) per annum or per transaction)
  • Goods and Services Tax: 15%
    (Subject to exemptions for exports of goods (excluding minerals) stores on vessels and aircraft leaving Sierra Leone and various exempt supplies; and for businesses with an annual turnover of less than Le350m (US$50,000))
  • Rental income: 25%
    (Final tax for non-resident companies)
  • Dividends: 10%
    (Final tax for non-resident companies)
  • Interest: 15%
    (Final tax for non-resident companies)
  • Royalties: 25%
    (Final tax for non-resident companies)
  • Natural resource payments: 25%
  • Payments to contractors: 10%
    (A taxpayer engaging the services of a sub-contractor will be held liable for all unpaid taxes, interests and penalties of that contractor)




Two World Bank affiliated risk insurance agencies operate in Sierra Leone: the African Trade Insurance Agency and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. Both agencies provide various kinds of insurance (including against political risk) to investors, suppliers and lenders.

Land ownership

Foreign investors cannot own land outright in Sierra Leone but can take leases for terms of: not more than 55 years with an option to renew for a further term of 21 years (in most cases); or 99 years when the land is used for mining purposes (see Policy And The Legislative Framework section for further details on the land regime and ongoing reforms).

Repatriation of profits

After the payment of taxes, profits earned by foreign investors may be freely transferred abroad. This includes dividends paid to a parent company incorporated outside Sierra Leone. Investors are also able to freely repatriate funds received from the liquidation of a business and awards from the settlement of disputes. Transfers of repayments of principal and interest on arm’s length third party loans contracted outside Sierra Leone and registered with the Bank of Sierra Leone are also allowed without restriction, subject to the payment of any withholding tax due.


There is no history of unlawful expropriations of property belonging to foreign investors in Sierra Leone and the law provides protection against them taking place (see Policy And The Legislative Framework for further details).

Technology transfer

There are no technology transfer requirements applicable to foreign investments in Sierra Leone. Investors are not required to invest in manufacturing, research and development, or service facilities in Sierra Leone in order to secure approval for major procurements.


Visa requirements applicable to foreign citizens vary depending on the purpose of their travel. A “Landing Visa” is required for entry into Sierra Leone unless the individual concerned is a citizen of a country which is a member of ECOWAS. Members include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.

A work permit is required for foreign individuals who wish to work in Sierra Leone. Visas and work permits may be obtained from Sierra Leonean diplomatic missions abroad. Visas can also be purchased at Lungi International Airport on arrival however it is advisable to obtain the relevant visa before travelling.

Consistent with the GoSL’s focus on building its tourism industry, the MTNDP identifies plans to provide visas on arrival, reduce visa costs for target markets and to review the comparatively high costs of travelling to Sierra Leone.

GoSL approach

There is currently no standardised approach to FDI and foreign investors may find themselves dealing primarily or exclusively with a single ministry, which can present challenges for investors carrying out due diligence and cause delays where other ministries or stakeholders become involved at a later stage.

Nonetheless, dialogue between the GoSL and foreign investors is encouraged and the GoSL is striving to create a business-friendly regulatory reform agenda that includes commercial land reform and which facilitates fast-track decision-making processes for exporters and investors. SLIEPA provides “investor aftercare” to support established investments and build long-term relationships with foreign investors in Sierra Leone.

Proposed GoSL initiatives (see the Key Legislation Affecting Businesses In Sierra Leone section) seek to improve the country’s investment climate.

Interaction with local communities

Investors in large-scale and potentially disruptive investment projects should be aware of the impact their investment may have on local communities in the areas affected. Foreign investors must be sensitive to the tension that can arise in cases where the effect of the investment on the local community involves, for example, relocation, forced evacuation, land degradation, and lack of community benefit and community participation. Consultation and engagement with local communities during the entire investment process (including before and after implementation) in cases of large-scale investment is therefore key to building a successful long term investment and avoiding tensions. Investors are advised to contact SLIEPA when exploring the investment opportunities, in order that SLIEPA can assist, including in identifying potential joint venture partners and facilitating community engagements and/or sensitization.


Many of Sierra Leone’s professional classes left the country during or as a consequence of the civil war. However, a wide range of organisations are working on developing Sierra Leone’s human resources. The GoSL has placed human capital development at the centre of the MTNDP, which recognizes that the country can only transform the economy in a sustainable way, achieve middle income status and reduce poverty if the GoSL invests in human capital.

In 2008, the Office of Diaspora Affairs was established to respond to the need to build capacity within the GoSL MDAs. Although the Ebola crisis affected the return of talented members of the diaspora to the country, such movement is likely to resume and gain pace in the medium term. The “Connecting Diaspora 4 Development Programme” for Sierra Leone, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is aimed at engaging Sierra Leone professionals who are in the diaspora and residing in the Netherlands and other EU countries about development and capacity building in the health, agriculture and education sectors of the country. The programme, which builds on the work of the Temporary Return of Qualified Nationals (TRQN) project which preceded it, concluded in March 2019 and has seen diaspora professionals undertaking assignments and utilising their experience and skills in a variety of sectors.

The GoSL has recently reviewed the management and operation of the Office of Diaspora Affairs and concluded that its mandate should be realigned with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in order to make it more relevant to Sierra Leone’s developmental needs. The GoSL intends to establish a Directorate for Diaspora Affairs within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to fulfil this aim.

Environmental Considerations

Sierra Leone is currently one of the lowest polluting countries in the world and is host to a large amount of biodiversity and wildlife. Environmental matters may be given weight in the decision-making process on the allocation of land and the potential for environmental damage of intended land use may be taken into consideration. There is a move towards increased environmental governance and management of forest resources and investors will need to be conscious of protecting biodiversity hotspots and fragile ecosystems.

The GoSL is developing a strategic vision to make Sierra Leone Africa’s first zero-carbon middle-income economy by 2040 and, as part of that vision, is focusing on economies such as renewable energy, eco-tourism and organic farming.

The MTNDP recognises the need for environmental protection and GoSL has identified four broad policy considerations: (i) environmental governance; (ii) managing forest resources; (iii) ecosystem conservation, and (iv) environmental education. Since April 2018, the GoSL has centralised governance of the environment sector. The Environment Protection Agency Act is being reviewed by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and the Environment. The GoSL also reports that it has intensified the monitoring of industrial establishments for compliance with environmental laws and regulations.