Sector Overview

The transport and communications segments are the mainstay of the country’s infrastructure sector. It comprises roads, harbours, airports and ICT sub-sectors. A well-developed transportation network is critical to growth and development and sector suffered huge damages and deterioration after the civil conflict and due to lack of funding to carry out significant investments in repairs, maintenance and new developments. That is why the Government of Sierra Leone is putting such a huge emphasis on developing our infrastructure. Sierra Leone has been spending about $134 million annually on infrastructure in recent years and about $66 million is lost each year to inefficiencies.

The past decade has seen dramatic changes in the telecommunications segment; while in the past 5 years major steps have been taken towards implementing a comprehensive plan that is underpinned by private sector inclusion in infrastructure investment and operations.


The rehabilitation of road infrastructure has been central to reviving economic growth and providing the opportunity to earn livelihoods, both through increasing access to markets and directly in road construction. The World Bank provided support to the Government in the implementation of a Transport Sector Project, which introduced a model of road construction and maintenance that incorporated private, small and medium-sized enterprises in road maintenance and enhanced institutional capacity in the management of the road sector. As a consequence of this project, the domestic road contracting industry has been strengthened. The official public road network totals about 11,000km, comprising about 8,000km classified in the National Road System and approximately 3,000km of local networks and unclassified roads and tracks.

Ports and Harbours

portsThe port, with the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, is the country’s most important gateway for trade and commerce. It features one of the finest natural harbours on the West African Coast, with a large and well-protected anchorage on the River Rokel estuary, more than 1km of continuous berth and large amounts of fenced land allocated for operations. The port is 10metres deep at high tide and 7metres at low tide, and has an overall length of 1,067metres. It has 6 berths, 4 large warehouses and a container stacking area of over 31,000 square metres, which has been resurfaced. More than 257,000 megatons of general cargo passes through the port annually. In addition to the QEII port, there are two smaller ports at Nitti, used exclusively for the export of Rutile and bauxite mined in the Bonthe District and the Pepel port, used for the export of Iron Ore mined in the Northern part of the country.


Sierra Leone has one international airport, located at Lungi, across an estuary from the capital city of Freetown. The airport is a previous Royal Air Force station in the West African region. It is a fairly small airport, with one runway and a single passenger terminal. It has gone through several refurbishments over the past 10 years. There are smaller air strips in various locations around the country, many of which are in either poor or fairly usable states. These air strips were previously used for internal air transport before the civil war.


The telecommunications sector in Sierra Leone is one of the most liberalised sectors in the economy. Previously operated as a monopoly by the state-owned Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company (SIERRATEL), the sector began getting new entrants in the late 1990s, when the initial mobile licenses were issued. The country’s first mobile phone license was awarded in 1994. In mid-2002 the Government commenced issuing ‘Generalised Licenses’ for value-added telecommunications services, opening up the market to regulated competition. The mobile sector has experienced rapid growth since then; a total of 10 mobile phone licenses have been issued and there are now six (4) GSM networks that have commenced operation, with another 2 about to commence.

Recent Sector Developments

A number of positive strides have been taken by the Government in the various sub-sectors, with a view to improving the overall conditions and to provide a solid foundation for wider economic activities. Some of these developments are summarised as follows.


Government of Sierra Leone has entered into two contracts with private sector organisations to improve on the infrastructure and quality of services at the airport:

  • An £8 Million contract with a UK-based construction company for the complete refurbishment of the airside infrastructure of the airport
  • A Concession Agreement with France-based company for the provision of ground handling services and management of the cargo warehouse
  • An international tender process for the supply, installation and commissioning of Navigational Aids and Communications Equipment for the airport is ongoing

In addition to the above interventions at the Lungi International Airport, the Government has set up a Planning Committee to examine all aspects of the design, planning and operation of a new international airport that is to be located on the mainland, around Mamama, in the mid-west of the country.


The Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) has recently gone through major reforms in its operations, which saw the divestiture of operating functions to a private sector body, while the Ports Authority plays the role of a ‘landlord’. This development is expected to enable much greater involvement of the private sector in front-line and back-up cargo handling and storage functions. The Government signed a Concession Agreement with a private sector organisation for the operations of the container terminal; the concessionaires, through its subsidiary have already started. There is also an international tender process for the supply and installation of the navigational aids at the sea port is ongoing.

Sierra Leone: International IP volume Forecasts on the National Fibre Backbone

Source: Sierra Leone Cable Company (SALCAB)

Roads and Road Transport

Various types of road projects have been executed, many of which have been completed in Sierra Leone. A number of policy and regulatory reforms have taken place in the roads and road transport sector. These are as follows:

  • There has been a separation of the Road Maintenance Fund from the Sierra Leone Road Authority. The functions of road planning and budgeting vested in the newly established Road Maintenance Fund.
  • A new set of Road Traffic Regulations were developed in 2011 to address the lapses in the 1960 and 1964 Road Traffic Regulations.
  • A Road Safety Commission has been established in line with international best practice.


1. The Sector Relatively Underdeveloped

  • The country has a relatively weak infrastructure, including roads, airports, harbours, and communications infrastructure; this creates a huge space for investments.
  • The limited domestic capacity in the local construction industry, relative to the demands of emerging infrastructure projects, creates opportunities for foreign investments in developments as well as contracts.

2. Large number of projects in pipeline

  • There is significant priority to infrastructure projects, within the current growth and development agenda.
  • There are potential projects in various sub sectors including roads, fibre optic cable engineering, airports and harbour projected.

Investment Opportunities

Sierra Leone’s road transport sector offers a number of investment opportunities in terms of direct investments and public-private partnerships. The following are some unique opportunities:

Road Construction

In light of the Government’s road construction and rehabilitation programme, there are opportunities:

  • For road construction companies to participate in the construction and/or maintenance of over 3,700Km of roads, which have already started.
  • The medium term road construction programme is estimated at over US$800 Million, of which about US$300 million are already funded and are in various stages of implementation.
  • There are a number of notable projects that are in various stages of design and tender, as summarised below.

Source: Sierra Leone Roads Authority

 Riverrine Transport

  • There are opportunities for private sector participation in the construction of jetties to support transportation of commuters along the Freetown coastline, as vehicle traffic continues to increase.
  • There are opportunities for transportation services for mining (e.g. iron ore) or agricultural (e.g., sugar) products from their production areas to the main coastal ports.

Road Transport

  • There are PPP opportunities to develop and implement a road transport master plan that is based on a mass transit system that uses buses for transport of persons and light cargo.
  • An ongoing road transport study for a mass transit system in Freetown is being completed and it highlights numerous opportunities for private sector participation in the investment and operations.


The Government is promoting Public-Private partnerships for the development of various forms of air transport infrastructure. There are opportunities:

  • For private sector participation in the design, construction and operation of an international airport in the Mamamah area, in the mid-western part of the country.
  • For the reconstruction and operation of small air strips and helipads in key commercial centres and mining areas, to enable small air transport operations for certain segments of the market.

International Shipping and Ports

The first stage of the Government’s strategic plan of privatising the operations of the container and other sections of the existing port has been executed. Opportunities exist:

  • For private sector participation in the expansion of the port to capitalise on the natural advantages of Freetown’s natural harbour and strategic global location between Africa, Europe and the Americas, to transform the existing facility into a regional trans-shipment hub.
  • The development of new harbours to support the emerging oil sector to serve as an oil service base.


The Government is finalising a divestiture strategy, which will see the participation of the private sector in the assets and operations of SALCAB, the SPV that is the landing party of the ACE sub-marine fibre optic cable network.

The Government has also concluded feasibility studies for national fibre optic backbone, with a network of approximately 1.02 Million metres linking major towns and cities around the country as well as the neighbouring countries of Guinea and Liberia. Investment opportunities exist:

  • For participating in the tenders for contracts to be awarded for the construction of the national fibre optic backbone of over 1,000 Kilometres of fibre optic cables nationwide
  • To provide bandwidth and activated services in the areas of voice, data and video an increase penetration levels.