Sierra Leone is presently in a power supply state of emergency. It has taken an impressive three years of financial leakages under PAOPA to undo ten years of sound development planning under Tolongbo when the energy sector was resuscitated including its arch nemesis: electricity supply.
But as Freetown and the country continue to experience frequent power outages, we have been ushered into the era of the Bio Tiger!
Before now, the past APC government had a target. They were working under extreme pressure to accomplish a campaign promise to deliver Freetown from darkness and being labelled the ‘Darkest City in the World’. Western countries rate the effectiveness of a regime based on its accomplishments in the first 100 days in office. In under a 100 days, the Koroma led government delivered us from darkness into the light. The resulting economic boom was as predicted.
Before their deliverance from darkness, residents of the capital Freetown and most of the country desirous of regular power or electricity supply were required to buy a generator, or power plant for businesses. The most popular brand among the poor people of Sierra Leone was the 5KV Tiger generator. They were so popular they were labelled ‘Kabbah Tiger’. President Kabbah’s tenure in office was defined by the people’s overreliance on these generators.
It should be expected that sound economic planning by any other regime after President Koroma’s would include building on and surpassing this modern existential challenge. But this current regime is not known for sound planning, and has expectedly failed to do so. It is as if PAOPA was not prepared for taking power as they seem to do things in a haphazard willy-nilly manner, always lacking the procedures including monitoring and evaluation for accomplishing tasks. One would think of the imaginary Lungi Bridge project, the airport, the Midterm Census, COVID-19 induced State of Emergency, the Cybercrime Bill, nonpartisan local council representation, among others as things done without much planning and thought.
Coming with its own development focus, instead of channelling donor funding to this critical sector, New Direction is instead pumping it into sectors that can barely operate without regular power supply. The progress of the modern nation state is intrinsically tied to power generation and or supply. The mining sector that the economy is over reliant on is a power intensive operation for which our capacity is ill at will to satisfy, causing mining operations to spend millions of dollars a year on power plants, monies that should have been going to government coffers through EDSA. How are these new and old schools supposed to operate, with their computers, hospitals with their labs and operation tables, universities with their experiments, lectures and the like, without regular and consistent power supply?
Failing to subscribe to the system of continuity in governance, PAOPA has led us back in the direction of the Kabbah Tiger as power failure has become the order of the day. Today people and businesses are seeing new expenditure or spending sprees in fuel purchases as they are being forced to regularly have their generators on standby to switch over during the regular daily power failures across the city.
Welcome to the era of Bio Tiger. Despite the millions of dollars donor support to the energy sector, lack of political will and sound planning by this government has taken our developmental trajectory in this sector back to our days of darkness. President Bio has finally succeeded in creating a legacy for himself, albeit for all the wrong reasons. It is not uncommon to hear people referring to generators as ‘Bio Tiger’.
Although things look bad at present, there is still hope to take things to and past the accomplishments of the power sector under Koroma. What should elicit hope is the fact that the potential to attain our dream of consistent power supply is there; we just need the political will and well planned strategy including training, monitoring and evaluation. If Koroma could do, so can Bio.
While it is expected for each government to come up with its own developmental focus, the tradition is based on meeting national and nonpartisan developmental targets, from which focus should now be switched to accomplishing other critical areas. China for example has a 5 year national development plan that any regime coming after the current one is expected to accomplish regardless of its own focus.
Our energy sector requires such. Things have deteriorated far enough for the president to declare poor electricity supply a national emergency and take direct control of the Ministry of Energy. This direct stewardship of the ministry by the Office of the President should endeavour to set systems and outcomes in place including training of staff and procuring modern power generating and supply equipment and services. The President should not allow the Bio Tiger presently used to define his tenure to stick; such a legacy, we hope, is far from what he envisaged before he assumed power.