Sierra Leone plunged into darkness over unpaid $40 million debt


Sierra Leone, a West African nation, has been plunged into darkness as its capital city, Freetown, experiences power cuts. The cause of these power cuts is an unpaid debt of approximately $40 million owed to Turkey’s Karpowership, one of the world’s largest operators of floating power plants.

The decision to switch off the electricity supply was made after the debt accumulated over time, as the Sierra Leonean government subsidises more than half the cost per kilowatt hour charged by Karpowership.

Sierra Leone plunged into darkness over unpaid $40 million debt
A view of Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), in Gulnar district of Mersin, Turkiye on June 14, 2023 [Serkan Avci/Anadolu Agency]
Minister Kanja Sesay, speaking to Reuters, explained that the government had to increase its subsidy because it charges consumers in the weak local currency, Leone, which has been performing poorly against the US dollar, the currency in which the power provider is paid. As a result of this financial burden, the government has been forced to spend more on subsidies, resulting in the accumulation of the outstanding debt.

To address the issue, the Sierra Leonean government has established a commission to review consumer electricity tariffs. This move could potentially lead to a doubling of the tariffs, placing an additional financial burden on the citizens of Sierra Leone.

Karpowership has been supplying electricity to Sierra Leone’s state power utility under agreements signed in 2018 and 2020. The company has also entered into similar agreements with other African countries facing challenges in their electricity supply. However, Karpowership has not yet commented on the current situation in Sierra Leone.

According to the information provided on their website, Karpowership has been providing Sierra Leone with approximately 65 megawatts of power generation capacity since 2020. This amounts to around 80 percent of the country’s total electricity needs.

Sierra Leone plunged into darkness over unpaid $40 million debt
Sierra Leone plunged into darkness over unpaid $40 million debt.

The power cuts in Freetown have significant implications for the daily lives of its residents. Electricity plays a critical role in powering homes, businesses, and essential services such as hospitals and schools. Without a reliable source of electricity, the functioning of these institutions is compromised, which can have severe consequences for the well-being and economic development of the country.

Karpowership has not yet issued a statement regarding the aforementioned development. As stated on its official website, the company has provided approximately 65 megawatts of power generation capacity to Sierra Leone since 2020, and has been responsible for supplying 80 percent of the country’s total electricity requirements.

According to Sesay, the cessation of Karpowership’s services has resulted in a 13 percent reduction in electricity supply to the capital, leading to the implementation of electricity rationing measures that have left homes and businesses without power for several hours each day.

Karpowership is one of three sources of electricity for the city, alongside the country’s hydro dam and power from an interconnection with Ivory Coast that also serves Guinea and Liberia. Sesay has noted that Karpowership’s services are particularly crucial during the dry season, when water levels at the hydro dam are low, and that reliance on the company is reduced during the rainy season, which is currently at its peak from May to November.

Abubakar Momoh
Abubakar Momoh is a distinguished West African correspondent for Who Owns Africa and an alumnus of the esteemed University of California. With exceptional skills and deep understanding of the socio-political landscape of the West Africa region, Abubakar consistently delivers thought-provoking and insightful reports. His commitment to journalism and his relentless pursuit of truth have earned him a well-deserved reputation as a trusted and influential voice in the field.


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