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Economic Recovery Assessment

July 2015 — By Mercy Corps

As Ebola cases in Sierra Leone have dropped, the country and policymakers have turned their eyes to the challenging task of economic recovery. While some people are beginning to bounce back from the crisis, others, including petty traders and youth, continue to face reduced sales and limited alternatives for replacing lost sources of income. With weak financial services and limited cash flowing through the economy, these groups, whose members operate at high levels of informality, are struggling to recover. Moreover, the challenges they face are largely ones that existed prior to the Ebola crisis. Youth make up roughly one-third of Sierra Leone’s population and depend heavily on petty trade for their income. Addressing the systemic issues they face is a fundamental requirement for long-term poverty reduction in Sierra Leone.

In this assessment, we compare Kenema, an agricultural economy hit early and hard by Ebola, and Western Area Urban (Freetown), the nation’s largest urban centre, to better understand how the crisis has affected different segments of Sierra Leone’s economy and assess signs of recovery. This assessment focuses specifically on petty traders and youth—two groups among the hardest hit by the economic crisis—investigating the short-term issues preventing a return to pre-crisis income levels and the endemic, deep-rooted constraints limiting economic growth.