Sierra Leone awaits the arrival of Manor River Union electricity

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 May 2020:

Intermittent eletricity supply has had a massive impact on Sierra Leone’s economy in the last ten years. Billions of Dollars have been lost in productivity and economic growth  as industry, public instititons and households suffered the perenial shortage of energy.

Although the current government has slightly improved supplies through a contract with the Turkish Powership supplying electricity off the coast of the capital Freetown, this comes at a huge cost.

Sierra Leone needs a miminum of 500 Megawatts of constant supply of electricity. The country’s Bumbuna hydro-electricity dam has a capacity of about 85 Megawatts. Due to technical difficulties the dam can only manage supplying just half its capacity at the  best of times.

Despite investments costing over $400 million and government’s plans to redevelop and expand the Bumbuna dam, little progress has been achieved.

The Manor River Union Electrification Project may well be Sierra Leone’s electricity lifeline, when completed, as Mabinty M. Kamara of Politico News reports: 

The long-awaited energy supply from the West Africa Power Pool Project (WAPP) is still on course to arriving in Sierra Leone, despite the coronavirus pandemic, say officials in charge.

This is the electrification project that aims to provide electricity to the four Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Guinea.

When completed, it will bring reliable and affordable electricity to the countries which have had a perennial problem with electricity, especially outside their capitals.

The engineer in charge, Paul Charles Saffa, says they are hopeful that with the current pace of the work, between September and late October this year, they would have completed the line from Ivory Coast to Yiben in Koinadugu in Sierra Leone.

He said none of the contractors have asked for an extension of the timeline of the project which involves a power transmission line of 225 KW, running through 1,303 KM with 11 substations across the four countries, for which Liberia will have four stations, Guinea two and Sierra Leone five. Ivory Coast is the host.

Engineer Saffa – the Country Manager of TRANSCO CLSG – Sierra Leone, who is  leading the project, told Politico that three of the five stations that are supposed to be in Sierra Leone have already been completed.

He said: “For Sierra Leone, we have five substations – one each in Kenema, Kono, Bumbuna, Fadugu (Yiben) and Kamakwie. As I’m speaking, the ones in Kenema and Bumbuna have been completed. For Kono, it’s almost complete, but because of the coronavirus, the experts can’t travel to do the installation. But we are hopeful that it will be fixed as soon as flights start coming in. For that we are very much ok with our deadline.

“The line that comes from the Liberia border (Mano) to Kenema is 50% complete. The line from our substation in Bumbuna town to the other substation in Fadugu (Yiben) is also complete; in fact we are thinking of commissioning it”.

Saffa said the timeline from Ivory Coast to Bumbuna was July. “So we are within our timeline except for this COVID 19 which has disturbed some parts of the project especially with the inter-district lockdown”.

The Sierra Leone line covers Pujehun, Kenema, Kono, Tonkolili, Bombali Koinadugu, Kambia and Karene, with a 530-km line that runs from the Liberia border.

Despite the delay, Engineer Saffa said that they have been able to continue some work in their operational towns within the COVID-19 guidelines – with support from the government.

He  added that of the 530-KM line, they were supposed to hand over 300 KM with over 70% of that done  with some work left to be done on the Liberia portion; and one other small portion between Kono and an unnamed town to connect the cables.

He assured that most of the materials needed to do the job are in country with few on the high sea.

“We don’t want to give definite deadlines due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, but I can safely say [that] with our current speed of work, we will have a good Christmas present,” he concluded.

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