The Government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and the World Bank Group have signed an agreement in the tune of US$74.2 million in Liberia.
Out of the said amount, US$64.2 million will go directly to the funding of Liberia Electricity Sector Strengthening and Access Project (LESSAP) as well as the Recovery of Economic Activity for Liberian Informal Sector Employment (REALISE) project in the amount of US$10 million.
The ceremony, which took place on Monday, April 12, at a resort in Sinkor, was signed by Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., on behalf of the Government and the World Bank Liberia Country Manager, Dr. Khwima Nthara.
The signing was attended and witnessed by several implementing agencies of government, including the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler E. Murray; D. Zeogar Wilson, Minister of Youth and Sports; representatives of the Rural Renewable Energy Agency and the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment, respectively.
World Bank Liberia Country Manager, Khwima Nthara, who spoke at the signing ceremony, told the Liberian officials that the importance of both projects cannot be over-emphasized.
He said with regard to energy, “we are all aware of how much remains to be done to ensure universal and affordable access to electricity in Liberia in spite of the progressed be made in recent years.”
Currently, only seven (7) percent of the population has access to grid electricity with twenty (21) percent having access to off-grid sources of electricity, the World Bank Country Manager said.
According to him, for those who have access, tariffs are very still high. It is very difficult to see how the Liberian economy can be transformed without a bold approach to solving the energy problem.
“That is why we at the World Bank, together with other development partners, decided to approach this problem systematically and boldly,” Nthara added.
He continues: “We have recently supported the Ministry of Mines and Energy in developing a national electrification strategy that has shown that providing reliable and affordable electricity to all of Liberia by 2030 is technically feasible and economically viable.”
To do that, Nthara said, it will require scaling up of efforts in grid expansion and intensification by the Liberia Electricity Corporation, and piloting innovative approaches in off-grid space through leveraging private sector participation by the Rural and Renewable Energy Agency.
“We at the World Bank also decided to approach our Board with a proposal for the bank to support Liberia over the long haul. And we are pleased that the Board approved our proposal for what is known as a Multi-Phase Programmatic Approach (MPA).
“In particular, we laid out to the Board a three (3) phase program of support over a period of 10 years with the objective of increasing access to sustainable, reliable and affordable energy in the country towards the goal of universal access to electricity by 2030. This is the first time the World Bank has approved such an approach in the energy sector, anywhere in the world,” he said.
He said: “What we are signing today is the first phase of this multi-phase approach. Under this first phase of the MPA, we are mobilizing a total of US$64.2 million as follow: US$30 million in IDA resources (of which US$15 million is in grant and US$15 million in IDA credit), US$29 million of funding from the IDA Scale-up Window (SUW) in the form of an IDA credit, US$2.7 million of grant resources from the Japan Policy and Human Resources Development Fund (FHRD), and US$2.5 million of grant resources from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program Multi-Donor Trust Fund (ESMAP).”
According to him, the grant resources mobilized under the Multi-Donor Trust Fund are specifically for electrification of health facilities as part of building resilience to covid-19.
For his part, Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr, lauded the World Bank Group on behalf of President George M. Weah for its continued support to the country.
Minister Tweah said the whole idea of the bank approving a new approach to the energy sector financing in Liberia demonstrates that the bank is committed to the country in ensuring development financing in a new and creative way.
He said: “This is a demonstration of the Bank’s strong commitment to Liberia. The approved package of support will be a big boost to our Covid-19 recovery efforts and our vision to transform the economy through infrastructure development.”
Minister Tweah also called on other partners to emulate a good example of the World Bank that will enable a lot of Liberians to get access to a loan in the country.