Five years ago, switching on the lights with electricity from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant was only a dream. But, after being heavily damaged during the civil war, the Government of Liberia, under President Sirleaf’s leadership, launched an ambitious plan to restore the facility. And now, with support from the U.S. Government and other international partners – including Germany’s KfW, the European Investment Bank, and the Government of Norway – Liberia is turning a dream into a reality.
On Thursday, December 15, the first turbine at Mount Coffee will begin producing 22 megawatts of electricity that will bring the people and businesses of Liberia more reliable access to power. And, by this time next year, Mount Coffee will be fully completed with four turbines providing a total of 88 MW of electricity – four times the power the utility currently provides.
Access to power can change lives and unlock opportunities. It means students and their parents can be connected to the world through the internet, it means hospitals can treat patients with better equipment, it means streetlights can make it safer for women and girls to go out at night, and it means businesses can thrive. In fact, a recent survey found that one in four businesses in low-income countries say that access to power is their top constraint.
That is why the U.S. Government through its Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) supports the goals of President Obama’s Power Africa effort to bring millions of people across Africa access to electricity. And that is why MCC’s investment in Liberia is the largest Power Africa investment in Liberia to date.
The Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant is yet another example of what the United States and Liberia can achieve together, and with our partners. As Deputy CEO of the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation, I am thrilled to be in Liberia with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield to mark this important milestone. The United States is proud of its partnership with the people of Liberia – moving beyond our work together to fight Ebola to support the nation’s recovery through economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. As President Barack Obama said last year when he met with President Sirleaf, working in partnership with each other, “we want to accelerate as much as possible a return to Liberian growth and development.”
MCC is a unique U.S. agency committed to reducing poverty through economic growth, and our investment in Liberia aims to tackle the country’s greatest obstacles to widely shared growth: reliable and affordable electricity. Currently, the cost of electricity in Liberia is among the highest in the world, and only 4 percent of the population has access to the electrical grid.
Connecting homes and businesses to affordable and reliable electricity is a priority for the Liberian Government, and it is one of the surest ways to drive sustained economic growth.
MCC is also making a concerted effort to make sure local communities benefit from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant. As part of its investment, MCC is providing support to those around the site and building or repairing infrastructure like bridges and roads that will maintain the close links among communities in dam-affected areas.
Together with the Government of Liberia and our international partners, our $147 million investment in the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant as part of our $257 million compact sends a clear message that Liberia is open for business. The United States is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Liberia to support a growing and thriving economy that helps lift people out of poverty.
Nancy Lee is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.