On the Speech from the Throne(Part III)

22 October 2007 at 05:21 | 738 views

By Mohamed Boye Jallo Jamboria, Norway.

Electricity Now or Develop Never!

In my last comments on the all important first speech by His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma,the emphasis had been on the President’s pronouncment that a civil service review commission will soon be put in place to make the service better.

Some recommendations about decentralising the pubilc sector,meaning not only the civil service but all public sector managements, so that a more committed service with biological and /or moral obligations will be created.

Of course one very bitter fact was mentioned, and that ist if it had not been for the political marginalisation of the Tonkolili District the Bumbuna hydo project would have been completed and not with only a 80 MWA capacity but with a 350MWA as was the original plan.

Before any elaboration on these issues it is but worthwhile to borrow the ideas of one of Africa’s visionaries who cannot succeed because of parochialism ,as it is in Sierra Leone now,but whose one big project-THE AKOSOMBO DAM- is one reason why Ghana is enjoying relative stability even though she had been through very hard times .

Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah said in his 1961 speech,I Speak of Freedom:
“Although most Africans are poor ,our continent is potentially extremely rich.....
As for power ,which is an important factor in any economic development ,Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world,as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America.Yet so far,less than 1% has been developed.This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty,scarcity in the midst of abundance.”

The Akosombo project was born in the same decade as Bumbuna and today most of Ghana has electricity and rural development is a reality as there are no pull factors drawing the population to centres of better infrastructural growth,electricity being the first infrastructural factor of growth if not development.

Next are the facts and vision in that statement ,though of course ,Nkrumah was advocating for a United States of Africa in that speech-a "crime" for which he was removed by an externally ochestrated coup d’etat-but is the same idea that the African Union is trying to implement piece by piece.

The key reason for that quotation is that it fits the Sierra Leonean SCENERIO AS IT IS TODAY.

Along the escarpment zone running North-South ,signified by the Magbosi hills for travellers along the Taiama-Mile 91 road, are water falls that would have been developed as mini projects on the basis of the DODO DAM in Kenema and which would have provided the whole country with electricity and may be there would have been some for export.

Sierra Leone as of now needs about 400MWA of generated electricity for all parts to be sufficiently supplied and the overall power generated is just about 25-30 MWA.

Since the last APC there had been work on the Bumbuna and up to the time of the start of the war it was on the way to completion but why is it not completed?

Simply put,lack of both political and administrative will and above all pettiness in the sense that one reason for the delay after SALCOST started work was the discovery of gold veins and the unofficial mining of it with the connivance of some top politicians and civil servants in all the governments from President Momoh’s to Kabbah-TYPICAL OF THE MENTALLY ENSLAVED MINDS THAT HAD BEEN RUNNIG THAT COUNTRY-SEL U BIRTHRIGHT FOR KOKOEBEH!!!WHY NOR FOR MINE DE GOLD FOR ALMAN BENEFIT?

However this issue(the gold mining issue) is not within the scope of this paper,it will be addressed later .
The point here is that Sierra Leone has the potential for take off but then,like was said in the last issue,there has always been a lack of will to do what has to be done because of the non-existence of a unified Sierra Leone-

What we have is a three-in-one Sierra Leone:we have Salong,SaLone and Rokiamp.Every public servant has to take note of that and save his skin from unforseen circumstances-which is why I have been advocating decentralising the pubilc service.

So taking the cue from Osagyefo’s visionary statement and the potentials and importance of electricity and looking at Akosombo,(Nkrumah’s actualisation of that statement),if PRESIDENT KOROMA will make any meaningful impact it must begin with ,like he said ,giving very high priority to the power situation in Sierra Leone.

This does not mean he is going to provide food for all with electricity or any of the required social services but electricity will provide the key to the beginning of development and it will attract foreign investment that is so much needed for the creation of employment.

There are a lot of firms and induviduals who want to go to Sierra Leone to invest-one positive side of the war was Sierra Leone and her resource potentials became known worldwide ,especially after the film BLOOD DIAMONDS.

What slowed down foreign investment was : (1) loss of confidence due to huge monies being pput into the economy between 2000-2005 and no reflection of that on the general living standards of the people.

(2)Fear that the governance mode of the last govenment made the reasons for the war still present and more acute,which is why the international community was impressed by the relative peace during the elcetions.

(3) Investors worry about the lack of power in the country in general.This ,of course is going to be a slow down factor for some time to come and it’s all the more reason why the new government must see that Bumbuna is completed latest 2009 and that new feasibility studies for two or more mini hydro projects are commenced in the shortest possible time.

Also research should be encouraged in biomass fuel such as the by product from the Magbass sugar plant-SASSMAN.In stead of using it to kill the people slowly because of its very high alcohol content, it must be refined to produce LPG for cars.

Also research into the relative use of Malankoh,-Palm Kernel oil— as an alternative diesel fuel.

Above all, encourage research into developing affordable and energy sustainable solar plants.

With electricity and energy in abundance small and medium scale industries will develop alongside large scale industries and a greater part of the employable population will get jobs and consequently a lot of socio-economic problems will solve themselves.

Also a very quick solution to this power problems but which may entail heavy capital outlay is the use of solar energy run in the localities by local power generation companies.

It can be done in one of several ways-there can be steam power plants ,like was the case of the old Blackhall road power plant in the east end of Freetown,that was run on steam generated from solar panels that heat up a boiler,or by the solar panels directly operating with very sustainable batteries to produce power that will sufficiently supply certain localities.

The advantage of this will be cheap power with less environmental consequences such as smoke and /or noise pollution.Further ,electricity generated from hydro or solar alternatives can, with proper environmental strategies, be recyclable and sustainable over very long periods of time with little costs for maintainance-which is what is needed in the circumstances that obtain now.

Why does Sierra Leone urgently need a national power grid?
There are several reasons for Sierra Leone to have a national grid now.First and most important is that of medium and long term employment generation.

There are investors who may want to invest in agro-based industrial projects but who look at the relative costs of production as unfavourable because of the high cost of production as a result of the fact that they will have to provide the plants and generate power within their areas of operation.

A fact that is most times overlooked is that what a single household with a power generating plant uses per month to buy fuel and on maintainance cost can pay almost three to six months bills if the power consumed comes from a central system that is accessed by a whole population,city or township.

The more consumers the lesser the cost per consumer, a fact from the principle of economies of scale.

If a national grid is put in place within the earliest possible time, more investment will be attracted and the private sector will contribute more in terms of lessening unempolyment ,revenue generation and even on the production and distribution of wealth, thereby making growth and development a reality in the near future.

Next is the effects on the demographic situation in terms of dittribution of population.Freetown,Bo,Kenema are as of now overpopulated and have overstreatched service sectors in the areas of water supply,health,schools to name but a few.

A national power network that serves the rural areas will take back ,naturally ,a lot of people to the rural areas as the key amenities that pulled them to the cities will be readily available in the rural settings,made possible by the availability of electricity.

Everybody will be able to have the basics such as TV,SATTELITE Parabol for those who can afford it or even NGOS and other benevolent person(s ) can have a parabol installed in the local community centres for everyone to be entertained and educated in the evenings or when they have time.

The consequence of this is a more enlightened population with a mind frame that will be ready for progress and which is au fait with global trends -a key to technology transfer.

Furthermore schools can access the internet and may in the near future make it possible for a DIGITAL SCHOOL system like in Norway to be developed making the cost of books obsolete and unnecessary in the medium and long term.Also this will create an interractive school system where pupils discuss and find solutions to their educational issues on chat log on systems.Also they can access any information from other parts of the world at little or no cost.The effect will be a more enlightened generation that will be mentally prepared for development.

Another consequence of power will be the instigation of local economic groupings and activities.The people in the rural communities will be able to come together as co-operatives,economic unions and provide certain relevant infrastructures and services.For example those in rice producing areas can form groups and buy a rice milling machine that will make their work easier and help to boost their production levels.Those in palm oil ,garrie and other such areas can do likewise.

In the end unemployment,social stress and similar ills will be reduced when the private sector becomes self sustaining.The long term efect is that quack politicians will cease to exist as it will become the business of those who want to serve not those who want to get- rich-quick and inversely the people will care less about politicians and there will be less vote buying ,rigging of elections and such situation.

Above all no one will want to know about a government of national unity or not as people will be able to sustain their lives without having to ask favours from politicians.The politicians themselves will have more time to effectively do their work as they wil have less pressure and visitations from their electorate.

In the long run MERIT will be the order of the day as there will be more alternatives to employment ,growth and development.One reason for nepotism,ethno- centric thinking and such ills today is the lack of options when it comes to employment or rather sustenance of one’s self and the overdependence on the pubilc sector for employment.A national power supply system will create the enabling environment for the private sector to take off.

A very serious consequence also will be effective revenue collection system as a national electric supply network can allow the whole financial system to be computerised and a database that will allow for proper monitoring of those who pay or don’t pay taxes,who opened which bank account and how much there is in each account will be developed-a fact of life in the developed world that makes people accountable.

Also this can easily allow the immigration authorities to monitor the goings and comings and know who is a citizen or non-citizen.

However all the above cannot be done in a day or a term of office of any government.That is one reason why the culture of handing over and continuity must from now on be part of the national modus operandi.

Development is a painful process and involves a lot of sacrifices.Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans must make that move and sacrifices now or will never if the present attitudes and behaviour are not changed.