Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in Sub Saharan Africa with a poverty rate of 54%, and just 7% of the population (450,000 people) earns more than $5 a day. Sierra Leone’s economic activity was severely impacted by the Ebola epidemic leading to a loss of £2.2 billion. The country has a large underdeveloped, informal private sector with a severe skilled labor deficit. Only 62% of the working age population participates in the labor market and just 10% receive wage employment. Further, the rural poor predominantly work in the informal sector and most are subsistence farmers; women represent ~50% of smallholder farmers. While agriculture development is widely considered one of the fastest ways to raise incomes, market failures are constraining growth and poverty remains particularly acute in rural areas.
Acumen has observed that a range of market level barriers and ecosystem challenges impede enterprise development in Sierra Leone that narrow the funnel of investable businesses, including adequate available legal and audit support, tax and regulatory challenges, availability of working capital and critical talent gaps. To address these challenges, Acumen is partnering with Invest Salone by building the capacity of early stage companies in Sierra Leone to become investment-ready; catalyzing investment capital into these companies, and providing technical assistance to support companies to scale, improve investment-readiness and attract additional capital.