Trading with confidence: SMEs in Sierra Leone gear up to export cassava, cocoa and palm oil


The bifurcated nature of economy, with a few large mining enterprises accounting for about 90% of export revenues and a great number of SMEs in the agriculture sector dominating the labor force, renders Sierra Leone vulnerable to external shocks. Agriculture in Sierra Leone has the potential to be a key driver of future efforts to diversify the country’s export base and spur economic development. However, SMEs in the agriculture sector are more than ever confronted with limited ability to provide competitive agricultural products that meet the requirements and standards of target markets in terms of quality, health, safety, environmental protection and consumer protection. Moreover, they have limited knowledge of foreign markets and show unawareness of the benefits of international standards. The lack of an ability to ensure compliance with market requirement and the absence of locally, regionally and internationally accepted local evidence of compliance limits the ability of farmers and producers to exploit market opportunities.


Against this background, UNIDO has partnered with ITC to achieve the overall project’s objective of strengthening the competitiveness of Sierra Leone and enhancing its integration into the regional and international trading systems. The project, lasting from 2018 to 2022, aims to identify and use key levers for increasing productivity, value added and exports of SMEs in cassava, cocoa and palm oil value chains while at the same time, strengthening the national quality institutions to cater effectively to their needs.  A market driven and flexible approach will be embedded in the project interventions such that other value chains can benefit from the project activities and outputs. Moreover, a whole-of-government approach has been taken to strengthen institutional, technical and human resource capacities of quality infrastructure bodies to ensure that all SMEs in Sierra Leone have access to reliable and efficient quality infrastructure services.

Expected Outcomes

  • The performance, growth and contribution to industry, regional trade and exports of cassava, cocoa and palm oil value chains strengthened;
  • Improved business environment for trade and investment development at the regional and national levels.

Specific Interventions

The outcomes will be achieved through the following interventions:

  • Strengthening post-harvest handling practices as well as industrial upgrading through the cluster approach;
  • Enhancing product design/development, sector/product-specific marketing and sales development/market access, including for smallholders;
  • Improving quality management and quality improvement are achieved at SME level, including for smallholders;
  • Strengthening the operational and coordination capacities of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) pertaining to the competitiveness project;
  • Reinforcing the operational capacity of key support institutions and agencies;
  • Strengthening and expanding the National Quality infrastructure and related services and in particular that of the Sierra Leone Standards Bureau (SLSB) and the relevant regulatory bodies;
  • Supporting intermediary organisations in the provision of services to their members (producers, traders and  exporters) as well as their engagement in effective policy dialogue and advocacy with government;
  • Mainstreaming regional trade rules & MSME regulations into national policies and supporting their implementation;
  • Facilitating access to financial institutions;
  • Facilitating access to acquisition of equipment for selected beneficiaries.

For more information, please email:


Project Manager 



Call for Expression of Interest - Implementation of ISO 9001-2015 for enterprises in Sierra Leone

Under the EU-funded project of “Increasing Sierra Leone’s competitiveness through enhanced productivity and trade compliance in selected value chains”, UNIDO is inviting enterprises in Sierra Leone to apply for technical support in implementation of Quality Management Standard, ISO 9001:2015. UNIDO will offer training and technical support for enterprises with capacity, willingness and commitment to implementation.

The standard helps enterprises to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved. With ISO 9001:2015, enterprises can streamline operations and reduce costs, win more business and compete in tenders, become more resilient and build a sustainable and successful business.

Interested parties may learn more about the Call and submit their applications at the following e-mail addresses: and The call can also be found here. Deadline for applications is 10th of February 2020.

Facebook profile of the project.

Sierra Leone