Lighting the Way in Liberia and other Conflict-Affected Countries
The lights are burning bright again in Liberia, where 14 years of civil war devastated nearly all the country’s infrastructure.
Particularly hard hit by the fighting, which ended in 2003, was the power sector overseen by the state-owned Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC). Liberia’s power stations were destroyed, with practically every piece of LEC’s equipment—from generators to cables—picked clean by looters and sold for scrap.
In 2006, Liberia’s government launched an ambitious plan to reconnect homes and businesses to a reliable power supply. In 2008 it sought IFC’s advice on increasing private sector participation in the sector, which needed massive investment and skills transfer to re-emerge.
Marsia Thorpe and her four children share a single room in Monrovia. Before being connected to the national grid, they paid about $3 a day for power from costlier sources. Thanks to MHI’s work with LEC, they now only pay about $5 a month. “My children can enjoy studying under light,” Marsia said.“Electricity has really improved our lives and I have a freezer and sell ice and cold water, which helps pay my electricity bill and the children’s school fees.”
The result: an IFC-facilitated PPP between LEC and Canada’s Manitoba Hydro International (MHI). The 2010 agreement calls for MHI to manage LEC for five years, totally rebuilding its capacity to run a modern power system. The European Union, Norway, USAID, and the World Bank are all giving nearly $80 million in grants for systems expansion.
Plans call for 20,000 new connections in Monrovia, many for low-income families. About 3,000 homes and businesses are already connected, and LEC’s overall performance has improved.
“This project has been a major undertaking,” said MHI’s Shahid Mohammed. “When we started work, there was practically no electrical equipment or skills in Liberia. We are building local expertise to bring power back to ordinary Liberians.”
Helping fragile countries in Africa rebuild is a priority for IFC, which launched the Conflict Affected States in Africa (CASA) Initiative in 2008 to help coordinate its private sector development activities in Burundi, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.
IFC and its donor partners Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway are working to help set the conditions for growth in countries recovering from conflict, with a focus on supporting the development of smaller businesses and helping improve the business environment.
Sweden and Denmark provide additional support to CASA’s activities in Liberia and South Sudan respectively.