West Africa’s coastal country Sierra Leone has a rural electrification rate of approximately 5.3%, one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. The country’s rural population is heavily reliant on unsustainable and unaffordable sources of energy such as disposable batteries, kerosene and candles to light their homes and supply energy to their electric devices. To make matters worse, the 2014-2016 Ebola virus outbreak severely affected the country’s already fragile economy and healthcare services.
This interview was originally published in African Power & Energy Elites 2021.
The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Energy developed a strategy for active participation and involvement of the private sector in the operation and maintenance of solar mini-grid systems through Public-Private Partnership arrangements. In March 2019, off-grid utilities provider Winch Energy signed a contract with the Ministry to provide electricity to 24 villages located in Northern Sierra Leone – in Koinadugu, Bombali and Tonkolili districts.
The objective of this Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP) rollout is to benefit the respective communities through additional business services (e.g. internet, refrigeration, printing, television, etc.), which will help to increase income within the locality and offer a better serviced trading centre to the surrounding local population. In addition, the project is aimed at encouraging productive uses of electricity and larger industrial loads such as milling and welding. These services will improve the socioeconomic situation in the locality as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability of the project. The project will also help provide robust infrastructure to the community health centres to assist with the country’s post-Ebola recovery.