Freetown is the capital and the nerve center of Sierra Leone. It is projected to welcome more than 535,000 residents in the next decade. Yet, despite its national importance, the city has become crowded, underserviced and vulnerable to natural hazards. It is neither delivering on its economic potential nor is it providing its citizens the services they expect. Crucially, the city is not managing its growth, and environmental risks. Crippling floods and landslides are, and will continue to be, a constant threat. Urbanization offers great economic opportunities, yet if not managed effectively cities and their people can succumb to the growing threat of natural hazards. Freetown is growing rapidly but is not delivering its potential. Purposeful and bold policy is needed from the incoming government.
This report argues for a balanced approach – reforming land-use and investing in infrastructure, strengthening city finances and investing in city capability, and finally, clarifying planning mandates and building-in resilience into the urban strategy. Overall this review argues that Freetown has been victim of neglect – the city has lacked purposive long-term policy: the city has become locked into low-productivity, is unprepared for natural hazards, and is increasingly a bottleneck to investment for the entire country. The result of this neglect is clear. The incoming Government is at a pivotal moment: a rare opportunity for proactive urban policies to transform Freetown into a city that works.