The US-sponsored Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) that restored electricity in post-conflict Liberia has finally closed after five years of operation in line with its mandate.
The compact was being administered by the Millennium Challenge Account established by the Legislature on October 23, 2015. The MCC invested US$257 million in energy and road projects, which yielded the rebuilding of the Mount Coffee Dam that was destroyed during the civil war.
The Millennium Challenge Compact is a five-year project initiated by the US Government with support from other countries including Germany, Norway and the European Investment Bank, to help poor countries alleviate poverty.
At the closing ceremony in Harrisburg on April 28, 2021, President George Weah in a statement acknowledged donors for their support to Liberia’s post-war development projects, especially electricity which, he said, is cardinal to the country’s industrial development.
He also acknowledged the roles of his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, for their respective roles that led to the ratification of the Compact in 2015 that brought the project to fruition.
The President emphasized that his administration is going to exert all efforts to sustain the project as the challenge is thrown to the Liberian people to sustain what the foreign partners have provided.
“We have always paid LEC’s bill and, in spite of the Coronavirus pandemic that hit the world including Liberia last year, we settled our bill with LEC in the tone of US$9 million. We have also decided to purchase meters and transformers to supply electricity to all communities in Monrovia and its environs, and I hope that this will help as the story about power theft is from this transformer business,” President Weah said.
The President also informed users of electricity to be mindful not to get in conflict with the law because the National Legislature has enacted a law against power theft, making it now a criminal offense.
President Weah’s statement followed remarks by US Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, who challenged the Liberian government to take steps to sustain the project by discouraging power theft and investing in the Liberian people to feel the presence of electricity in their own land and not continue to suffer as the case would be.
Several communities in Monrovia are without electricity due to either lack of transformers or the failure of the Liberia Electricity Corporation to extend power there. For instance, since the 72nd Community and others along the SKD boulevard began experiencing darkness last September due to transformer failure, there has been no restoration of electricity despite several attempts by the community members to stage protests to draw the attention of LEC and the government to their plight.
Providing an overview of the project, the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Account-Liberia, Monie R. Captan, acknowledged the contributions of the US Government and other partners who funded the project and made the implementation possible.
According to Mr. Captan, the project objectives are to reduce poverty and stimulate growth by alleviating binding constraints to growth, thereby encouraging economic growth leading to employment and income generation and subsequently contributing to poverty reduction.
On the electricity project, Mr. Captan recalled that, “Funding for the Mt. Coffee hydroelectric plant, the Compact covered 40 percent of the project cost, while the governments of Norway, Germany through its development bank KfW and the European Investment Bank, covered the remaining cost of the project. Additionally, the compact provided extended funding support for the operations, maintenance, and training of contractors for the hydro.”
He further mentioned the construction of the 5km Raw Water Pipeline; development and implementation of a training program for 500 LEC employees; rehabilitation and equipping of the LEC Customer Service Center as some of the activities the project targeted and implemented during the five-year period. Additionally, management support to LEC through the funding of a management services agreement and provision of materials to improve LEC’s electricity distribution, including specialized vehicles, poles, conductors, transformers, meters, tools, PPEs and spare parts with IT equipment and software are among the targeted areas supported with funds from the compact.
The project, according to Captan, also funded support for the establishment of the Liberian Electricity Regulatory Commission, through budget funding for 3 years covering salaries, office space, vehicles, furniture, IT and office equipment, management information system, training, and regulatory studies.
“In addition to these projects, MCA-L has implemented several Resettlement Action Plans and small infrastructure projects for Project Affected Communities. MCAL has also implemented a robust monitoring and evaluation plan, which provides important data on measurable indicators of the various projects,” Captan said.
He said since the project has improved the Liberian people’s access rate from 4 percent to 12 percent, with over 82,000 customers connected, and tariffs reduced from 57 cents to 35 cents per kilowatt-hour with the commissioning of the Mount Coffee Hydro.
Some United States Ambassadors and Congressmen, through a video link, also extended congratulations to Liberia for the electricity project under the Millennium Challenge Compact and expressed optimism that there are more in the pipeline to come because Liberia is a partner to the United States as history records.
Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield in a video message expressed her delight that Liberia has finally received what it had previously found difficulty getting. During her tenure as Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Greenfield recalled that she could see children studying under streetlights because they did not have electricity in their homes. “But now we can say that these children will no longer study under streetlights in the open space because their parents can now afford electricity in their homes,” said Ambassador Greenfield.
Others, including Senator Chris Coon and Congressman David Price, recalled participating in discussions and the Act leading to the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Compact and expressed happiness that Liberia, being a true partner to the United States with a strong historical tie, can benefit from the project to have electricity for its citizens.