If you had $10 to donate towards a human development initiative, would you rather have it go to buy some rice, or some concrete?
The energy sector is the lifeline in the development of any nation and therefore access to reliable and affordable energy supply on a sustainable basis, particularly by industry, agriculture, and the commercial sectors, is an important catalyst for achieving high economic growth and poverty reduction. For the West African state of Sierra Leone’s less than 10% of total population has access to electricity, compared to 49% in Ghana, 46% in Nigeria, 96% in North Africa, 73% in Asia, 99% in China and a 76% global average.
For Sierra Leone the biggest single challenge is making the transition away from costly emergency electricity generation. Right now petroleum imports, the bulk of which are for electricity generation, account for 26% of total imports in Sierra Leone. The most obvious answer to this problem is the investment in hydroelectric capability. The Bumbuna Dam project of 2009 was a significant initial step; finished in 2009 it now produces 50MWh of electricity, sending regular electricity to most parts of Freetown.
While it is not the primary sort of investment most people think of when it comes encouraging human development, this effort towards hydro-electric infrastructure has dramatically improved life for thousands of people; returning life to a young generation of entrepreneurs.
Akimatu Turay is a perfect example of how the hydro-electric project is impacting the nations citizens. Turay runs a streetside stall selling biscuits, sweets, and cigarettes under a large multicolored umbrella. Two bare bulbs strung from a nearby building light up his wares. For 25 cents, he will charge your mobile phone.
Turay says since the powerplant was switched on, he has seen many changes. Business is much better. In the past, when there was very little light, he had to use a generator which cost him a lot of money. The lights still go off every now and again, but the money he saves on diesel, he says, he invests into his business.
Turay says his two lightbulbs are essential for attracting customers. And with an average income of $7 a day just from charging mobile phones, he is pleased with the new power.