Liberia: Pres. Weah’s County Tour Brings to Light Age-old Complaints of Concession Companies’ Failures on Corporate Social Responsibilities and the Unfulfilled Expectations
Monrovia – Visiting the TRANSCO CLSG’S substation in Yekepa, Nimba County, on the second stop of his nationwide tour this week, President George Manneh Weah expressed satisfaction with what he saw. “This is impressive,” the president said of the project using Côte d’Ivoire to distribute electricity to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
While the project comes with a lot of expectations and assurances from TRANSCO that the commissioning is on course for March, there are still some loose ends to be tied.
The Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) for example is yet to sign the Power Purchase Agreements(PPA) with Ivory Coast and the electricity agency is also expected to expand its network to connect more people online.
The Electricity Aspect
The PPA signing is essential for the start of the project and requires TRANSCO CLSG to sign with the various CLSG national utilities, as the parties generating electricity. Additionally, there is also a Transmission Service Agreement between the CLSG national utilities and the SPV
The PPAs between Côte d’Ivoire’s CI-Énergies and the three other national utilities, signed before the project comes into effect, will ensure the regional line will be put into use as soon as it enters service, generating revenue for TRANSCO CLSG. In addition, the financing agreements between the international financiers and the participating countries stipulate that, in the event that TRANSCO CLSG’s revenues fall short of covering the project’s debt service obligations, the four governments are responsible for making up the shortfall.
The PPAs should have been signed since 2016 under the CLSG Interconnector Project, for the sale of 81 MW from Côte d’Ivoire to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (27 MW each.
The benefits of the project, started during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, if completed before the end of the ruling party’s first six-year term, should give the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government a major boost heading into the 2023 General Elections.
The crux of the matter is that while significant progress is being made in the development of the West African electricity sector, Liberia still has one of the lowest access rates in Africa, with an access rate of 20% nationally, but only 1.3% in rural areas. Similarly, in Sierra Leone, the national access rate is only 20% (2.5% in rural areas) and, with existing supplies, there are power interruptions 183 days per year, of an average duration of at least 10 hours. Like Sierra Leone, Guinea also reports a large number of power outages annually, at 1962 outages per year due to breakdowns. Of the four countries, Côte d’Ivoire enjoys the highest national electricity access rate and also has the highest installed generation capacity, hence the plan to initially export electricity from Côte d’Ivoire to the other CLSG countries once the interconnector is operational.
Regionally, West Africa suffers from very low levels of access to electricity and the project’s goal is to balance regional energy generation resources and develop the hydropower resources in the sub-region, reducing the cost and increasing the supply of electricity to all the countries involved, thereby fostering regional economic growth.
This was accelerated as a priority project within the 2012 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)’s WAPP Master Plan for the Generation and Transmission of Electrical Energy. The CLSG countries are among the most fragile countries in the ECOWAS region and the economic development impact of this project is expected to be significant. When constructed, it will constitute the first interconnection of power systems ever among these four countries, an impressive achievement given that civil and political unrest was rife in three of these four countries until only a few years ago.
Concessionaires vs. Social Responsibility
Prior to his Yekepa tour, the President also stopped in Kokoya District, Bong County where he took issue with concession companies operating in the country for their failure to prioritize citizens’ interest and threatened to replace any concession company that will not live up to its social responsibility to the people.
While engaging citizens in Kokoyah, the President heard complaints by residents that Alph Logging Company and MNG Gold were allegedly working and extracting resources from the land without any concern for the wellbeing of the citizens.
The citizens contended that MNG Gold’s mining operation is getting houses in the vicinity to experience cracks while water sources are contaminated, and Alpha Logging Company too has reportedly failed to construct a bridge that will benefit both the citizens and the company.
The citizens also complaint about polluting water sources and cracking of houses in Korkoyah, the citizens highlighted some bad labor practices and “poor” mineral development agreement and corporate social responsibility of companies operating in Bong County evidenced by the Alpha Logging Company’s failure to erect a bridge, which the citizens claimed if erected, will be used by both the company and residents.
The citizens of Kokoyah District were seen with placards calling on President Weah to quickly intervene especially in the issue of houses that are said to be experiencing cracks as a result of mining operations carried out by MNG Gold.
For President Weah, the social responsibilities of concession companies are intended to address the social needs of the community in which they operate, and therefore any company reneging to improve the lives of the people will be replaced with new ones.
President Weah further described as ‘outrageous’ report from citizens that the multimillion-dollar company, Alpha Logging Company, “has threatened to discontinue operations if government compels it to construct a bridge.”
Said the President: “This is Liberia, and it is our responsibility to make sure that companies operating herein work in the interest of our people.”