Electricity Returns to Sierra Leone as Minister Resigns

Sierra Leone has finally restored electricity supply after enduring weeks of power outages, attributed to its settlement of a portion of the $48 million debt owed to a Turkish company. The country’s energy minister resigned amidst the crisis, assuming full responsibility for the situation.

The majority of electricity supply to the capital, Freetown, relies on a Turkish vessel anchored off the coast. Karpowership, the Turkish company, drastically reduced supplies to Freetown from 60 megawatts to 6 megawatts due to outstanding bills. However, the disruption had persisted for a considerable period before this action.

The power cuts had severe consequences, with residents enduring days without electricity, and hospitals facing operational challenges. Tragically, at least one infant reportedly died due to the lack of power, prompting medics to rely on mobile phones for illumination during procedures.

Fatmata Gassim, a second-year engineering student, expressed frustration over the prolonged power cuts, highlighting the difficulties faced in daily activities despite paying electricity bills.

In response to the crisis and the minister’s resignation, President Julius Maada Bio’s office announced that the energy ministry would now be under the direct oversight of the president. Karpowership, known as one of the world’s largest floating power plant operators, has faced similar issues in other African countries, including Guinea-Bissau, leading to temporary power cuts.

These power ships utilize gas to produce electricity, which is then integrated into the national grid. Despite recent improvements in electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, a significant portion of the population still lacks access to the grid, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).