Home News & Politics Sierra Leone’s Booming Cellphone Industry

Sierra Leone’s Booming Cellphone Industry

by Vickie Remoe


NOKIA 3210

You’re at Lumbley beach after a long hard day’s work. The sun is brilliant and the sky a breath taking blue clear for miles and miles. There’s some sand b/n your toes and you’re holding your shoes in one hand. In the other hand you’re holding two cells phone: one with a celtel sim and the other comium…any real home based saloner knows you need both. Ready to return home you head for your car….not a mercedez but an SUV.
Standing by the door you drop you “afback” on the sand covered shrubs. You get your keys out of your pocket and you have no worries or concerns…u just want to get in your car.
suddenly hands quicker than yours finger and fidget with your hand…..You try to prevent your phones from falling….wobble wobble….you lose the battle.
The next thing you know a young man is running down the street….good bye Siemens & LG.
You my friend have just been a victim of mobile manhandling.


Its a hot & dusty day in Freetown. You’re in the middle of town. Somewhere between Charlotte Street and Cafe De La Rose. You just left Guarantee Trust Bank where you had a business meeting with the Nigerian crew. Into your car you go. And then….ring Ring…you hesitate because it may be a flash….But…ring ring…its an actual call.
“Ah Sorie na you?” “bo i don tay way a day try for reach you”…”oh ok, u bin travel, ok ok”.
You get deeper into the conversation…..Little do u know that you have been spotted with your Motorola Razor…silver in color.
Two seconds later all you hear is a SLLLLAAAAPPPPP….as you alla “WHY WHY” you also drop your phone. It must be a nightmare, however the ringing in your ears from the slap reminds you that it is not a dream but you have just recieved the zero tolerance mobile manhandling method


Young fresh Fourah Bay College baby show heading to Mr. Kamara’s office at Bank of Sierra Leone. Just past NP gas station when her phone rings. Because she is a lady, she has a hand bag….pink at that to match her nail polish, t-shirt and lip stick. She answers her phone but it was a flash. Because baby show is fresh, she always has credit on her phone and therfore can afford to call her class mates who cant afford credt.
“hello?”. “Yes, did you just flash me”? “Mary, its you, i did not know. How are you? I’m fine. I just left campus about an hour ago. Mr Kamara wants to see me in his office. You know he just came back from United States. He said he brought me a gift” “I know I am lucky but he is a fool. He will never touch this body”.
As our baby show is spohtin….A man walks up to her. He “bonically” takes the phone out of her hand and slaps her across the face. As she holds her face and starts to cry, the man angrily retorts loud enough for passersby to hear “Enti ah don tell you fo dis phone. Na di sam tin…If a katch you wit me phone again a go gi u serious beat. Foolish… na di same false life business. Tinap na street da talk na phone. A day go na os….if a reach day befo u na problem.”
He walks off and disappears 2 seconds later.
The woman holding her jaw starts to cry out loud. As people approach her she tries to explain that not only did someone just slap her but her phone has been stolen by a man claiming to know her…..the man is no where to be found.
Baby Show has been robbed


What I just described are three fictional but very true ways in which cell phones have reportedly been stolen in Sierra Leone. There is a high demand for cell phones in Sierra Leone and as u know they are not manufactured there. The only way to get your hand on a phone if you cant afford one is clearly to steal one. I think the slap and steal routine is genius. There is the element of surprise, pain, and the switfness with which it all happens. We’re getting to the Nigerian standards of 419 creativity. I feel so proud. We have finally arrived. Anyhooo..i digress.

When I first went to Sierra Leone in 2003 I was soo surprised at the high use of cell phones. The most common phone then which is what i had was the NOKIA 3210. Then I rarely heard instances of stolen phones. People lost their phones etc….but having it stolen was something i had not heard off. Atleast not while walking in the street or parked in your own car. Four years later, the cell phone industry is booming there are phone models in Sierra Leone not readily available in US, people have ring tones, camera phones, phones with MP3 and sms capabilities etc. At last count their were 5 separate phone companies in SL but i’m sure there are more in existence now. For the average owner of a mobile in SL that means competitive prices but that also means that the probability of having your phone stolen has risen dramatically. And hence the hike in theft…more people can afford to buy minutes and so there is a higher demand for phones.

For young unemployed men in Sierra Leone this makes cell phones a great thing to steal. They too can benefit from the booming industry. I wonder if these young entrepeneurs (or theives) are working as an organized unit or as freelancers. Also do they steal for private use or for resale. Guess their is a research project here somewhere

The point of the matter is that we should see the rise in mobile thefts as an indicator of development. No really……i think Sierra Leone is definitely going places….we have a Booming Cellphone Industry

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