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Sierra Leone's Middle Class - Interim Survey Results

1. The monthly average  income of our respondents is between Le725,000 and Le6,178,901 ($151 to $908, an average of $1800 to $9600 per annum)

2. The middle class make up about 18% of the Sierra Leonean population, according to African Development Bank (AfDB) data.  Of this over 7% are in the floating  class.

3. They are moderately educated – 32% have obtained tertiary education or have studied in an institution of higher learning.  They want to educated their children well and would send their children abroad for education if they could afford to.

4. More than half of them (57%) work in the public sector.  Of respondents working in the private sector about 15% are self-employed.

5. Most of our respondents so far live in rented accommodation (75%) and the average household size is 5 with an average child population of 3 versus a national average of 6.  The urban areas have fewer children in general.

6. More than 60% intend to move house, half of that number to a newly completed self-owned apartment and half to a newly rented apartment.  Almost 40% of our sample have no intention of moving house soon.

7. The average number of cars per household is 0.4.  Around 3% of middle class Sierra Leoneans has a car that is less than 5 years old (these mostly government/NGO owned status cars) and about 7% of our sample has two cars or more.  The vast majority of car owners have second hand cars aged 15 years and above.  Car ownership remains well below levels seen in Zimbabwe and Nigeria, among others.

8. The Sierra Leonean middle class has a poor saving culture, are largely uninformed about the savings interest rates and don’t expect to morrow money from a bank in the near future.  If they had funds, they would rather travel abroad.  Very few hold mortages and/or credit cards (1% of our sample), though many respondents expect to apply for a credit card in future.  As with many emerging market, the consumer lending sector is greatly under-developed.

9. From the responses so far, principal sources of information are the radio and the television. Thirty three percent of our current respondents have internet access but less than 1% shop online at least once a month.  Obviously there is much scope for internet shopping to thrive if the necessary infrastructure is put in place.

10. Most respondent shop in the open markets (82%) compared with 73% of respondents in the Nigerian survey. At least 35% of respondents also shop in the supermarkets and about 5% dine out at least once a week.

11. 6% of our respondents have travelled abroad, although up to 19% of households have at least one person with an international passport.  Guinea is the most favoured travel destination, followed by the UK and the US.  Compared with the data for Nigeria, 15% of the total sample had travelled abroad, with UK being the clear favourite destination.

12. The key concerns over the next 12 months for the segment who have so far respondent to this survey are electricity and corruption (25%).  Very few respondents cite crime as a key concern (1.2%). Many respondents (69%) are optimistic about the future of Sierra Leone.  

13. 89% of respondents describe themselves as religious or spiritual, and many of them ascribe their optimism to their faith in God.  The rating for this dimension in the Nigeria survey had 93% of respondents who describe themselves as religious.