Types of Nonprofits in Sierra Leone

Cersai Stark

Cersai Stark

The various types of nonprofits in Sierra Leone have largely contributed to the nation’s growth. The sector’s participation in national development goes as far back as the early 1960s. This further led to the steady growth and increase in the number of NGOs in the 1980s.

NGO activities in Sierra Leone largely focus on promoting the economic and socio-cultural welfare of community groups.

However, the 1999 Sierra Leone crisis resulted in the mass exodus of expatriate employees of international nonprofits. National staff were left to handle the organizations within such a tense environment. This incident reinforced the need to have highly skilled national staff that can respond to abrupt events.

In this article, we will explore the various types of nonprofits in Sierra Leone. We will also consider their activities and impact on the nation.


Types of nonprofits in Sierra Leone
Types of nonprofits


  • Sierra Leone has over 71% of national nonprofits operation in the region
  • The sector lacks detailed and valid data on NGO activities in the country
  • The NGO Supervisory Committee also defines the requirements necessary for the efficient operation of NGOs in the country


What are the types of nonprofits in Sierra Leone?

Nonprofit activities in Sierra Leone can be segmented into three major categories. 

1. International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs): these types of nonprofits are known to operate in the country but have their international parent organization abroad. INGOs perform their businesses in multiple countries and are not under any government entity. These nonprofit organizations have played a major role in the development of global public policy. INGOs have strong establishments and are well coordinated.  They also employ effective mechanisms and functions on a wider scale. 

2. National Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): 

National NGOs function at the district level. These types of nonprofits are created within the country and have no parent NGO abroad governing their activities. 

National NGOs operate within the local boundary and work at the domestic level. These nonprofits are not authorized to carry out cross-border activities. Their code of conduct and functions restrict them to their domestic environment. National NGOs are guided by government regulations and they sometimes obtain funding from the government. 

3. Community-based Organizations (CBOs):

These types of nonprofits are local establishments that perform their roles within the community. Sierra Leone NGO Policy defines CBOs as a group of community members that function as independent non-profits conducting charitable acts. There are however no policy laws or regulations that specifically govern CBOs in Sierra Leone. 

The NGO Policy 2009 also excludes these nonprofits from the policy scope of the sector. The regulation affirms that community-based entities cannot register as NGOs. They are however allowed to register with local governments or the Ministry of Social Welfare. 

What is the regulatory framework for the types of nonprofits?

Sierra Leone, up until 2017, did not have specific laws that govern the activities of nonprofits. However, the Income Tax Act specifies the types of nonprofits exempt from paying income tax. NGOs that carry out income-generated activities must provide information on their roles to the income tax department for certificate exemption. Nonprofits who do not obtain this certificate will encounter issues when re-registering their organizations.

Resident employees are nonetheless required to pay income tax. Also, tax exemptions are not provided to donors or businesses making donations to nonprofits. 

The 2017 revision of the NGO Policy employs stringent rules for both NGOs and CBOs. This includes synchronizing their practices with the development policies of the government. Furthermore, all NGO registration is carried out by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development. These government bodies are also authorized to examine the financial data and activities of nonprofits. This largely defies the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The NGO Supervisory Committee also defines the requirements necessary for the efficient operation of NGOs in the country. 

How many nonprofits are in Sierra Leone?

Although Sierra Leone has thousands of NGOs operating in the country, there are no estimates on their specific numbers. NGO Explorer, however, records about 738 UK nonprofits in the country. 

Also, 71% of NGOs comprise national nonprofits while 28% are international nonprofits. This particularly reflects the ease of registering a national NGO in the country. Likewise, a large number of nonprofits, about 42 percent, carry out health sector activities. The education sector largely follows at 20 percent. 

However, most national nonprofits do not have the required human capacity to carry out top management activities. There is also an absence of personalized management structures and internal control systems among national nonprofits. Furthermore, NGOs in Sierra Leone have little to no proof of annual budgeting, strategic planning and financial control systems. 


Sierra Leone has an active and vibrant nonprofit sector. Also, the roles of the various types of nonprofits have evolved to become diversified. NGOs largely contributed to championing the nation’s independence during the period of colonization. The sector also participated in advocating the country’s shift from dictatorship to democracy. 

However, nonprofits in Sierra Leone lack detailed and valid data on their activities in the country. Also, there is limited information on the sector’s role and development. The thousands of organizations do not have a system in place to record their activities.

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