Bessi Marshall sits outside her home in near-total darkness. Around her, four young grandchildren huddle close, never venturing more than an arm’s length into the surrounding shadows. Despite living just a few houses back from the main road in Jallah Town, in central Monrovia, Marsha’s family has no electricity. The only light comes from a small cooking fire.
During the night, Marshall fears for her family’s safety. “I can’t sleep,” she says. “I stand at that window and am very afraid.”
In addition to security, Marshall, says that electricity – or current, as it is colloquially called – would let her children devote more time to their studies. In the evenings, one of her older sons, Sekou, goes to the main road to do his homework under a street light connected to the city’s electrical grid. But the traffic there is constant, making the area noisy and unsafe for younger children.
The family owns one small LED flashlight – a “China light”, as Liberians call them. But it doesn’t shine brightly enough to let everybody study at once, and Marshall complains that its dim-white glow is painful on her eyes.
“I pray to God for help, for us to get current here,” she says.
Only 0.58 per cent of the residents of this West African country have access to public electricity, according to a 2011World Bank report. Outside the capital city, public power is practically unheard of. Those who do have access to the Liberian capital’s electrical grid pay $0.43 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), likely the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of businesses and some private homes run on diesel generators that carry a price of $3.96/kWh.
Liberia’s energy sector was devastated by 14 years of civil conflict that only ended in 2003.Read more