Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has told the African Development Bank (ADB) Board of Executive Directors that only 2% of her country’s population is receiving electricity supply. The Board of Executive Directors of the ADB comprises representatives of all the member countries of the Bank, both African and non-African countries, who approve the Bank's policies and operations. The Deputies of the African Development Fund are the representatives of those countries that contribute to the Fund. They are the concessional window of the Bank, which lends money to least-developed countries like Liberia.
According to the Government of Liberia (GoL) most recent census report, the country has a population of about 3.5 million people. In a statement delivered by the Liberian leader to the Board of Executive Directors at the First Replenishment Meeting for ADF-133 in Tunis, Tunisia, Madam Johnson-Sirleaf disclosed that besides Côte d’Ivoire that is the only country in the Mano River Union (MRU) basin that probably reaches about 40% of their population with electricity, “Liberia is 2%,” while Guinea and Sierra Leone are 7% and 8% respectively.
“Liberia is a part of what we call the Mano River Union countries – la Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – which is a subset of ECOWAS, since we are all part of the ECOWAS family. All of our four countries – some 40 million people – can be considered fragile because we’ve all been part of a regional war, one way or the other, and today we have these alliances across borders. Côte d’Ivoire, of course, is much further along in terms of GDP, in terms of development; the other three countries, having not been functioning for many years or involved in conflict, are behind. Today, the four countries are working hard to establish regional integration and cooperation as the only means whereby each can prosper,” President Johnson-Sirleaf said.
She stated that the MRU countries are all what she calls natural resource countries, however, she pointed out that the four countries are lacking in those basic requirements that will enable them use those natural resources to be able to foster development.
Said president Johnson-Sirleaf: “You still cannot, today, drive from Freetown to Monrovia on decent roads or from Monrovia to Côte d’Ivoire on decent roads. Some work is being done on that, but we really want to see a particular emphasis on these countries because of the interconnectivity, and they’ve started.”
Listen to President Jonson-Sirleaf: “We’ve got the West Africa Power Pool that’s starting, as I mentioned; we’ve got the CLSG, the interconnection of lights that I also mentioned. Those are ongoing, but much more is needed in terms of transport, much more of the power in each of our countries. Côte d’Ivoire is the only one that probably reaches about 40% of their population with electricity. Liberia is 2%, and Guinea and Sierra Leone are 7% and 8%.”
She informed the ADB Board of Executive Directors that although the Liberian government has made a lot of progress in reconstructing Liberia’s economic and social infrastructure, including the country’s road and power systems, “I say power system with tongue in cheek because when only 2% of your population is covered by power, and you’re paying 54 cents per kilowatt hour, that’s hardly something to boast of.”
However, President Johnson-Sirleaf averred that: “you have to take everything in perspective, when in 2006 the country was totally black, there were no lights at all, not even the capital city, except through personal power generation. It’s come a long way, but still a long way to go.
She further told the ADB Board of Executive Directors that her administration met a collapsed economy, dysfunctional institutions, destroyed infrastructure, and virtually a people with little hope in the future, adding that: “Your institution, the ADB, was one of the first to have the confidence that Liberia, indeed, could come back. President Kaberuka visited in 2007, and he started the process – working with others, of course, with many of our other partners, to start the process of recovery, the process of rebuilding.”
She then praised the Bank for its support to Liberia, especially in the areas of job creation, civil works, public works capacity building, governance, the ADB’s work with the GoL in its financial management systems among others.