Powering Liberia through Generator Sets

Monrovia, Liberia June 2013. I arrived in the capital of one of the beautiful cities on west coast of Africa. I had previously visited Monrovia and was making my second and perhaps most important trip. I came to launch ACIPP West Africa, the organisation I work for. My house was in Paynesville, a suburb in the east of Monrovia. In Paynesville, you could pin-point my accommodation to “Lone Star Gas Station”.  My first night was without electricity – not that I had a problem not having power but I understood that after more than 30-years of “small” and “big” conflicts, Liberia was a country where the most “taken for granted” things are luxury. Electric cables and poles do not exist; indeed, during the Charles Taylor war as they like to refer to it soldiers and rebels alike just threw grenades into the dam and destroyed transmission lines; some just just shot rounds into electric poles. Ten years after the end of the war, Liberia is yet to meets its infrastructural deficits – key are  water, electricity and roads.

View a "street" with no power cables

View a “street” with no power cables

This write-up will focus on electricity. I believe this is the KEY to regenerating the Liberian Economy. In my accommodation at Paynesvillle, there are no electric poles. Indeed, the few I have seen were to carry main transmission cables and even those do not have the cables on them. If you live along the main roads, you MIGHT be lucky to have electricity. According to Al Jezzera, only 0.58%  of residents of Monrovia have electricity. One can imagine the rest of the country if this is the statistic for the CAPITAL. Half the country runs on barges and the other have on candles, lanterns and generators.

My concern is the later – Powering Liberia on generators! Enter Darrell W. Garway:

Darrell Garway is a young man in his late 20’s that is working in 4 locations (including the University of Liberia) supplying electricity to more than 45 households and over 20 businesses. Darrell works with a couple of 5KV generators and 2 other helpers – his friend (on volunteer basis) and his girl-friend.

He explains how he begun, what he does and what support he needs: listen to the audio here.

In one year, he is supporting more than 45 households and another 20 or so businesses. His work contributes to children and whole communities in Urban Monrovia to have entertainment in the evenings; for students – to study without the hazard of inhaling Co2 from lanterns and candles. Other young people can print, scan, email, and do a host of other things in the University Community where he supplies electricity by day.

This is a high tension electric pole behind former President Taylors' house in Monrovia - without cables!

This is a high tension electric pole behind former President Taylors’ house in Monrovia – without cables!

However, the likes of Darrell remain unsupported across Liberia. He can not access credit to expand his business; there are no advisory services that he can reach to help him brand, market and legitimise his business. Small government funds for such innovation are inaccessible to Darrell and others like him. Banks will not support him.

Power Board

I believe for Liberia to move forward, it needs young people like Darrell to do things like he is doing to provide a positive outlet for the donor dependent and corrupt governance structure in the Liberia. But more importantly, this write-up is to connect him to groups, individuals and organisations that want to support such entrepreneurial people in Liberia.

It is my believe in people like Darrell that make me trust that, West Africa can be better!

NB: For people willing to speak with Darrell, please email him directly at: darrellgar_way[at]hotmail.com

S. Eyram Tsike-Sossah holds an Msc Political Science from the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of Youth and Local Governance: Youth Participation in Local Governance: Bringing Youth to Decision Making in Sierra Leone

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