FREETOWN, January 17, 2014 – Less than 10% of Sierra Leone’s six million residents has access to electricity, and its cost is one of the highest in the sub-region. The electricity distribution network has been in a severely dilapidated state, technical losses have been high, and the optimal capacity of the national grid is 35MGH.
These challenges in the energy sector account for sparse electricity coverage and unreliable service, which exacerbate citizens’ poverty conditions and have a negative impact on the productivity of firms. But a new electricity reform effort recently launched by the government and supported by World Bank projects aims to change that.
“Such energy sector utility reform will help establish a solid management and organizational structure for the national electricity distribution utility while the government’s electricity reform is underway,” said Yusupha B. Crookes, World Bank country director for Sierra Leone.
Crookes and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Kaifala Marah, recently signed agreements that support the establishment of two state-owned enterprises; a $40 million Energy Sector Utility Reform project to oversee electricity generation and transmission, and a $12 million Public Finance Management Improvement and Consolidation project to improve budget planning, accountability, and oversight of government finances.
The recently-signed agreements also sets the stage for the release of multi-million dollars in IDA credit to help Sierra Leone reduce poverty and expand economic growth by establishing a strong national electricity distribution utility with better technical performance, financial viability, and improved electricity delivery to the country.
Crookes emphasized how important the energy project is to Sierra Leone’s transformation and the crucial role of fiscal discipline in ensuring the effective implementation of projects.
“There can be no development without electricity,” he said. “This projects focus on achieving efficiency and stability in electricity delivery will boost access to social services, improve health and education and help establish new economic opportunities throughout Sierra Leone.”
Marah agreed. “Electricity is the backbone to development and the government is committed to providing uninterrupted electricity supply by 2017 especially in the city and regional headquarters,” he said. Referring to the effective public finance management concerns, the Minister assured the World Bank team that the funding will be properly utilized. “Prosperity comes with discipline.”