The U.S. established diplomatic relations with Sierra Leone in 1961, following its independence from the United Kingdom. The U.S. and Sierra Leone enjoy a warm and cordial relationship. The two countries are linked by the history of slavery in the U.S., an institution that would send a large number of African slaves from present-day Sierra Leone to the then-colonies of Georgia and South Carolina. Today, thousands of Sierra Leoneans and their descendants reside in the United States. Notably, many descendants of former slaves still reside in the same region and have maintained their unique culture known as Gullah. Further, nearly two percent of Sierra Leone’s population is of Krio heritage, a group of freed slaves historically known for returning to Sierra Leone beginning in the late 1700s from Great Britain and North America.
In early 2014, the United Nations hailed Sierra Leone as a success story due to its remarkable post-conflict transition following a brutal civil war (1991-2002), which destroyed the country’s infrastructure and hampered its political, social, and economic development. But Sierra Leone’s positive trajectory was interrupted in May 2014 when the deadly Ebola epidemic struck and quickly overtook the country’s fragile health care system. Over 14,000 Sierra Leoneans contracted Ebola with more than 3,900 deaths. The economy, which had experienced a high growth rate before Ebola, contracted due to the epidemic and global drop in prices for its major iron ore exports. The epidemic was declared over in November 2015. Since, the government launched an ambitious recovery plan that has received significant donor support. In 2020, Sierra Leone was selected to develop a Millenium Challenge Corporation compact after continued improvements on the MCC scorecard.
Sierra Leone has several major public universities, including the University of Sierra Leone, Njala University, University of Makeni and Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology. The academic year consists of two semesters: September through December and February through June, with final exams conducted in July. The U.S. Embassy located in Freetown offers guidance on visa, housing and security issues. The American International School of Freetown offers educational programs for dependent children in grades K-8 who accompany the Scholar.