Infrastructure has contributed significantly to the growth of West African economies during the past decade. In Sierra Leone, infrastructure added only around 0.51 percentage points to the per capita growth rate over 2003-07. Similarly to other countries in the region and the rest of the continent, the boost to historic growth came predominately from the ICT (Information and Telecommunications Technology) revolution while power-sector deficiencies and poor roads held back growth. After nine years of peace, economic activity is flourishing at every level in Sierra Leone. Political stability, high government accountability, good governance standards, and streamlined tax reform helped Sierra Leone to become a bright success story, turning the country into the easiest and quickest place to start business in West Africa. Sierra Leone's image in the eyes of investors is strengthened as the country ranked as one of the top five countries in Africa for investor protection. Looking ahead, the country faces a number of critical infrastructure challenges. Perhaps the most daunting of these challenges lies in the power sector, the poor state of which retards development of other sectors. Access to power is very low, at around 1 to 5 percent in urban areas, and is nonexistent in the countryside. The country's installed power-generation capacity is around 13 megawatts per million people, which is lower than what other low-income and fragile states have installed. The entire existing power infrastructure is concentrated in the western part of the country, and even with the functioning of the Bumbuna power plant, only half the suppressed demand for Freetown, let alone that for the rest of the country, is being met. Regardless of recent reduction in tariffs, Sierra Leoneans still pay some of the highest tariffs in Africa. In 2010, Sierra Leoneans paid three times as much for power as did residents of African countries that relied on hydropower. Making investments in more cost-effective power generation options is therefore an important strategic objective for Sierra Leone, without which further electrification will simply be unaffordable for the wider population.

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Published on 01/01/2011

Volume 2011, 2011
DOI: 10.1596/1813-9450-5713
Licence: CC BY-NC-SA license

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