Sierra Leone has made commendable strides in improving human capital development with the government demonstrating a strong commitment to enhancing the well-being and productivity of its population through significant investments in health and education, according to a new World Bank report launched today in Freetown. The report also highlights the prioritization of social protection interventions like cash transfers to extremely vulnerable groups as a notable intervention aimed at reducing poverty and building human capital.

The Sierra Leone Human Capital Review: Maximizing Human Potential for Resilience and Inclusive Development, provides critical insights into the country's efforts to foster human capital development and economic growth. The report examines the current state of health, education, and social protection systems in the country and offers recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of human capital investments.

"The future socio-economic stability and prosperity of Sierra Leone is intrinsically linked to the well-being of its people," said Abdu Muwonge, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone"This report provides a roadmap for the government and its partners to strengthen human capital, which is essential for Sierra Leone to achieve its full economic potential and improve the livelihoods of its citizens."

‘Human Capital Development’ is the first Policy Cluster in the Government of Sierra Leone’s Medium-term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019–2023 with increased financing of inputs in key human development sectors such as health and education. The new MTNDP (2024-2030) also prioritizes human capital development among its five key pillars, with food security as the main flagship. This increased commitment towards social sectors has resulted in improvements in health and education outcomes. For example, maternal and under-5 mortality rates, adult survival rates, as well as expected years of schooling have all improved since 2005. The Free Quality Education, launched in 2018, helped to reduce barriers to accessing education with the Education Sector Plan (2022–2026) laying out the core priorities and presenting a road map to achieving the country’s education goals. There have also been improvements in social protection coverage – the flagship social protection initiative, ‘Ep Fet Po’ cash transfer program, financed through the World Bank-supported Social Safety Net (SSN) Project, provides direct financial support to the most vulnerable populations, thereby contributing to the development of a more resilient and capable workforce.

However, Sierra Leone still faces challenges related to low human development outcomes, high poverty rates, and limited access to basic services, the report notes. The country ranks 151 out of 157 countries on the Human Capital Index (HCI). The HCI value is lower than the region’s average, indicating significant challenges in human capital development. The report highlights that only around two-thirds of today’s 15-year-olds can be expected to survive to the age of 60, and about one-quarter of the country’s children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Additionally, the HCI measure predicts that a child born today in Sierra Leone can be expected to be only 35% as productive when he or she grows up as the child could have been if he or she had enjoyed complete education and full health.

"The government of Sierra Leone has demonstrated a strong commitment to human capital. This report makes the case that one of the best investments a country can make is investing in its people,” said Ali Ansari, World Bank Senior Economist and one of the lead authors of the report. "A healthy, educated and skilled population is the cornerstone of Sierra Leone's journey towards a resilient, prosperous and inclusive future."

As policy priorities over the short to medium-term, the report emphasizes the need to: (i) prioritize investments in high-impact interventions for foundational learning, health, youth skills and employability; (ii) improve workforce management; (iii) prioritize investments in ensuring a minimum social protection floor for Sierra Leone; (iv) strengthen governance and implementation capacity; and (v) improve national and local level coordination in human capital development. The report also identifies several cross-cutting areas that should be prioritized, including: (i) building resilient and adaptive human development systems; (ii) improving food security; (iii) leveraging technology to enhance service delivery; and (iv) targeting human capital interventions to vulnerable groups, especially adolescent girls, women, youth and the poorest.

The Sierra Leone Human Capital Review is part of the World Bank's broader commitment to supporting countries in their efforts to build strong human capital as a foundation for inclusive growth. This is in line with WBG’s vision of creating a world free of poverty on a livable planet. The report's findings will serve as a valuable resource for policymakers, development partners, and stakeholders working towards a prosperous future for Sierra Leone.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The World Bank Group.

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