Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 September 2015
When president Koroma took office in 2007, Sierra Leone was described as one of the darkest nations on the planet, with an intermittent daily average electricity supply of less than 15 Megawatts – barely enough to power the country’s public offices at day-time in the capital Freetown.
Eight years on and after a manifesto promise by president Koroma’s ruling APC to change this dark image by increasing the supply of electricity, more than 80% of households are today suffering from chronic shortage of power and clean drinking water.
Most areas of Sierra Leone are in a state of perpetual darkness – especially the East of the capital Freetown, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars in reviving what many Sierra Leoneans describe as the cursed Bumbuna Hydro-electricity facility in the north of the country.
This week, the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has approved a package of funding support for Liberia and Sierra Leone, totaling $300 million to help provide electricity in both countries.
According to report from the MCC in Washington, USA, the $257 million compact with Liberia and $44.4 million threshold program with Sierra Leone will complement the U.S. Government’s efforts to help both countries recover from the Ebola crisis.
Liberia and Sierra Leone combined have recorded the highest number of deaths from the Ebola virus since March 2014. More than 12,000 people have so far died of the disease across West Africa.
Liberia has not recorded a case of Ebola for over two months, whilst neighbouring Sierra Leone is recording an average of three new cases a week – a huge drop from the weekly average of 500 this time last year.
This week’s announcement by the MCC to award $44 million to Sierra Leone is seen as third time lucky – as Sierra Leone’s bid for the MCC Compact had twice been rejected by the MCC Board, because of corruption, lack of transparency and poor governance.
But Sierra Leone is today faced with another crisis, as the country struggles with the effects of flooding caused by heavy torrential rains.
Thousands of people have been left homeless and seven dead. Several public infrastructures – including road networks and electricity sub-stations have also been damaged. It is understood that repairs will cost more than $20 million.
The Ebola crisis has also had a major impact on the economies of both countries. It is estimated that as much as 40% has been wiped off their respective GDPs in the last twelve months.
Chief Executive of the MCC – Dana J. Hyde said: “The Board’s approval of new partnerships with Liberia and Sierra Leone comes at a critical time for these countries. MCC is proud to make investments that will help put the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone on a path to long-term, sustainable growth.”
MCC says that the compact with Liberia combines infrastructure investments with policy and institutional reforms that are expected to modernize the country’s power sector and strengthen its road maintenance systems.
The investment it says, will significantly enhance the U.S. Government’s Power Africa engagement in Liberia, and is expected to benefit at least 460,000 people over the next 20 years.
According to the MCC, the threshold program with Sierra Leone will support policy reforms and improve governance in the water and electricity sectors.
Less than 20% of households in Sierra Leone have regular access to clean water and electricity – key priority areas, which the Koroma government has seriously failed to address, after eight years in office and receiving over $1 billion in foreign aid.
The Board of the MCC reports that, by establishing independent regulation, strengthening key institutions, and increasing transparency and accountability, the program will create a foundation for the delivery of financially sustainable water and electricity services to the people of Sierra Leone, and limit opportunities for corruption in service delivery.
So what is in the MCC package for these two West African countries?
Liberia’s $257 million power and roads sector compact
This includes: Rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydroelectric Plant, critical power generation infrastructure that will provide up to 88 megawatts of additional power; support for the development of a nationwide road maintenance framework; and electricity sector institutional development and policy reform activities.
According to the MCC Board, the threshold program will provide up to $44.4 million to support policy reforms and improve governance in the water and electricity sectors in Sierra Leone.
It will establish independent regulation; strengthen key institutions, and increase transparency and accountability.
The program will seek to create a foundation to provide financially sustainable water and electricity services, and limit opportunities for corruption in service delivery.
MCC says that the partnership with the government of Sierra Leone comes as the country emerges from the devastating Ebola outbreak and seeks to regain eligibility for a compact.
MCC and the Government of Sierra Leone will now proceed to negotiations to finalize the terms of the threshold program agreement.
About the Millennium Challenge Corporation
MCC is an innovative and independent U.S. agency that is working to reduce global poverty through economic growth. Created by the U.S. Congress in January 2004, with strong bipartisan support, MCC provides time-limited grants and assistance to countries that demonstrate a commitment to good governance, investments in people and economic freedom.