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Sierra Leone, Bumbuna Hydro Power

Expanding the Bumbuna Hydro Power Plant will add 339MW of power to Sierra Leone's national grid; dramatically improving access to power for homes and businesses


According to the World Bank, the most daunting of Sierra Leone’s infrastructure challenges lies in its power sector. The country's limited power generation capacity constrains development in other sectors. Access to power in Sierra Leone is extremely low; around 7% of urban households have access to modern power and many rural areas have no access to power. The country’s power generation capacity is lower than that of most other low-income and fragile states, with the vast majority of existing power infrastructure concentrated in the western part of the country.

When civil war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1975, work on an 87m-high hydroelectric dam on the Sell river, near the Bumbuna Falls, was brought to a standstill. With the return of peace, Sierra Leone took a major step in developing its own hydro power capacity when the 50 MW Bumbuna I Hydro Power Plant began supplying power to the capital city, Freetown, in 2010.  The project had taken thirty-five years to complete.

Bumbuna I has significant potential for expansion and planning for this expansion is now underway.  A private sector developer, Joule Africa is developing Bumbuna II, which would increase the current generating capacity of Bumbuna I by 339 MW. Bumbuna II will be structured as a public-private partnership (PPP) and as such, the Government of Sierra Leone will need to play a key role in designing the project, determining how Government assets will be used in the PPP, setting up a legal and regulatory framework for the project, and negotiating a PPP contract that is both bankable and in the country's interests.

Technical Assistance Support through PIDG

To make sure that the project is prepared in a timely and bankable fashion, EAIF, as a potential lender to the project, mobilised Technical Assistance Facility (TAF) funding for the project.  TAF will make a grant of £250,000, through EAIF, to support the technical assistance and capacity building that the Government has requested and to act as a responsible and well-informed counterpart in the development of the Bumbuna II transaction.

Specifically, TAF funding will partially cover the costs associated with hiring an experienced project manager to assist the Government. Located in the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources in Freetown, the role of the project manager will be “hands-on” support, to provide the necessary assistance to the Government so that its responsibilities and work to bring the project to financial closure is performed using best practice and on a timely basis, and that the interests of Government are adequately protected. Good project management of the PPP process on the part of the public authority is one of the most important ingredients in ensuring the succesful delivery of a PPP project.

Initially contracted for two years, the project manager will:

  • assist in negotiations of the joint government-developer project implementation group
  • ensure project preparation is on time and on budget
  • make sure that project costs and timings are reasonable
  • ensure that engineering, social, environmental, financial, insurance, and other project risks are properly handled.

Expected Developmental Impact

  • The expanded Bumbuna II plant will provide cheap, reliable power, improving the business environment and supporting economic growth and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone.
  • The expansion is expected to result in an increase of 600% in the power capacity of Bumbuna – from 50MW to 389MW.
  • Expected savings of over $2 million per month on diesel imports alone as businesses and residences switch over from diesel generators
  • The  project supports Sierra Leone’s current Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), also known as Agenda for Change: 2008-12, which emphasises the need to develop the country’s power generation capacity in order to stimulate economic growth.
  • The project will help to build capacity in the development of public/private partnerships, facilitate private investment, promote co-ordination in delivery of technical assistance and will deliver affordable power to the poor.