Freetown: City report

Working Paper 16

Joseph M Macarthy

June 2024


Freetown’s political economy is influenced by local and national-level politics, which is firmly linked with the country’s weak systems of governance and decentralisation. This is rooted in Sierra Leone’s long history of ethno-regional divisions between the two leading political parties and the rentseeking behaviour of politicians and other elites. This undermines the functioning of city systems responsible for the delivery of services and infrastructure across a range of development domains, thereby making the city less socially inclusive, equitable and productive.

The study uses the ACRC’s holistic framework to analyse how power is configured at the national and city levels and how the three components of politics, systems and development domains interact to influence urban development in Freetown. This approach seeks to provide new insights to politicians, city officials and other key decision-makers about the systemic challenges they face, how this is linked with the city’s everyday politics, and the implications for development. Analysing Freetown’s political economy allows us to fill in important gaps in research on the politics of development in Freetown and address the scarcity of prior studies on core city systems (energy, housing, water, waste management, sanitation, health, education and transport).


Politics, insecurity, city systems, domain, informality, development, governance, political tensions, rents, devolution