Picture credit: African Development Bank.

The African Development Bank’s $38 million Juba Power Distribution System Rehabilitation and Expansion Project is almost completed according to a release by the bank.

Juba, the capital of South Sudan, hasn’t had a stable and reliable electricity supply since South Sudan’s independence in 2011 and has always suffered from regular blackouts.

“Our company used to rely on a 1,500kVA generator and spent an average of $75 a day on diesel. We bought 45,000 litres of diesel monthly,” says Araya Hizkias, the owner of the Juba-based Aquana Water Company.

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Hizkias continued: “Now we rely on public electricity brought to us by this new network. We don’t experience random damages to our machines anymore and things are working easier. We are making more savings and expanding production.”

The network was partially commissioned by the Bank and the South Sudan government in November 2019. The installation has helped to restore electricity supply in the Central Business District of Juba. Street lamps light up most thoroughfares to ease the movement of traffic and pedestrians and help prevent crime.

Of the 20,000 ‘last-mile’ domestic and commercial consumers targeted in the project about 6,131 have so far been connected to the grid.

Funded through a combination of a grant from the African Development Fund (ADF), the concessional financing window of the Bank, and a concessional loan from the ADF-administered Transition Support Facility, the distribution project has lit up government offices, hotels, and factories and helped to power public services such as water, health and educational institutions.

The project, due to be completed at the end of  2020, will consist of a 145km medium voltage distribution line, a 250km low voltage distribution line and the installation of 145 new transformers. At least a total of 20,000 domestic and commercial consumers will be connected, with access to five new customer service centres.

“It was an embarrassment for Juba, the seat of government, not to have reliable electricity. Juba was once referred to as the city of darkness. This project has changed that and given the city a facelift. The network is reaching the common people, and it has improved small businesses and rejuvenated commercial activities,” said Jacob Deng, Director General, Planning and Projects at the South Sudan Electricity Corporation.

“It has also improved security,” he added. “Many businesses now stay open till late as a result of improved security. This is one of the best projects in the country.”

“The electricity supply situation in Juba was very bad. It comprised a small grid of 6MW covering parts of Juba. Demand was very high. Things are better now, covering more households. Work is still ongoing, but those connected so far are very happy,” said Michael Wani Aringo, a project engineer who has lived in Juba for 10 years.

“We used to light candles and other alternate energy sources. Most people who could afford them, owned generators. The disturbing noise of generators could be heard from many homes and business. We now have enough power for our appliances and businesses have picked up,” said Adak Costa Mapuor, another resident.

The Juba Power Distribution System Rehabilitation and Expansion Project is the Bank’s first energy operation in South Sudan and follows years of conflict in the country. The rehabilitation of the electricity sector will unlock economic potential to spur growth and development. The upgrade of the network will gradually be rolled out to other cities and eventually connected to neighbouring countries.