Since the closure of the French Embassy in Freetown in 1996, the French Embassy in Guinea has also covered Sierra Leone. Since the 2014 closure of our Embassy office, France has had an honorary consul in Freetown. The Sierra Leonean Ambassador with jurisdiction for France resides in Brussels. Sierra Leone intends to open an Embassy in Paris. The joint visit of the Minister Delegate for Cooperation and Francophonie with his British counterpart in March 2001 was the first ministerial visit since 1996. President Ernest Bai Koroma led the Sierra Leonean delegation to the Élysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, which was organized in Paris on 6-7 December 2013. This was the first visit to France by a Sierra Leonean President.
In 2015, bilateral trade dropped by 20% to €40.8 million. After six years of a trade surplus between €10 million and almost €20 million, in 2015 France had a trade deficit with Sierra Leone of €13.4 million.
French exports fell by 56.6%, from €31.5 million to €13.7 million, mainly due to the almost 100% drop in sales of our pharmaceutical preparations, which accounted for almost half of our 2014 sales (€17.4 million). In 2015, nearly half our exports comprised mechanical equipment, electric, electronic and computer equipment (up 13%), 18.7% was agricultural and agrifood products (down 32.2%, with sugar becoming our fourth-largest export), 6.6% agricultural products (+349.3%) and 5.1% chemical products, perfumes and cosmetics (+26.3%).
Meanwhile, imports from Sierra Leone increased by 43.4%, climbing from €18.9 million to €27.1 million, with almost 30% made up of metallic minerals, up almost 140%. Almost a quarter of the remainder of our purchases comprised chemical products, perfumes and cosmetics, 9.7% transport equipment and 8% mechanical equipment and electric, electronic and computer equipment.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) and French presence
Since 2009, Sierra Leone has received major private capital inflows, with FDI stock tripling over the past five years. According to UNCTAD, FDI stock in 2014 was $1.4 billion with entry flows of $440 million (three times those of 2013).
Data from the Banque de France shows that in 2014, FDI stock in Sierra Leone rose to €57.6 million, up 42% on a year-on-year basis, with inflows estimated at €13.1 million. Our presence in Sierra Leone remains limited:
• As of 2006, Total, which is Sierra Leone’s second-largest fuel distributor, set out to modernize the fuel distribution network in the country and currently has 20 service stations in operation;
• In September 2015, Bolloré Africa Logistics, which since the end of 2010 has been holder of a 20-year concession for the container terminal at Freetown Port, signed an amendment to the concession contract planning an extension project (construction of a new, 270m long, deepwater platform) and the introduction of new equipment. Total investment is estimated at €120 million. Upon completion, the terminal capacity will be 750,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), compared to the current 90,000.
• The Matière company is seeking to undertake several road projects in collaboration with Senegalese company CSE. The consortium has just won a contract to upgrade the cross-border Bandajuma-MRU Bridge Road between Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Limited cooperation was mainly focused on the military field (teaching of French and courses in regionally-oriented national schools).The aim was to support Sierra Leone armed forces in their efforts for regional integration within the Standby Force of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The programme was closed in April 2016.
Updated: 10 June 2016