23 July 2014

Gambia: 20 Years of Energy Sector Transformation

20 years on, the country's energy sector still remains a high priority in the development agenda of the AFPRC/APRC administration, cognizant of the fact that no meaningful development is possible in the absence of a vibrant energy sector. Since assuming the responsibility of leadership on 22nd July 1994, the government has and continues to invest massively in this critical sector over the past twenty years, with the acquisition of new generators and building of new power stations at Kotu, Brikama and other parts of the country.

These investments are dwarfed by the ever-increasing request for electricity for both domestic and industrial uses. Notwithstanding, the government under president Jammeh continues to pursue policies and strategies to expand electricity generation to ensure more reliable and affordable electricity supplies for domestic and industrial use.

To this end, the visible number of power generation and distribution projects since the advent of the 22nd July Revolution has been embarked upon with the collaboration of the government and development partners.

These projects include the West Coast Region Electrification Project, the Venezuela project which entails the installation and rehabilitation of transformer stations, conductors and distribution panels with the first phase commissioned and operational.

The Rural Electrification Expansion Project, which has also been high on the government's development agenda, also formed part of the strategies to ensure that electricity supply reaches every Gambian across the length of the country. Its objectives, among others, are to improve Power Generation, and Transmission systems in the rural areas. However, the Brikama Power Project, financed by the government of The Gambia is producing electricity into the network; the International Development Bank funded Brikama (II) 20 Mega Watts Power Supply (Wartsila) has increased NAWEC Power Generation capacity from Brikama. The US$6 Million Energy Development and Access Expansion Project being supported by OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) is also on course. The scope of the works for this important project includes; design review, material procurement, construction, installation and commissioning of a 32 Km 33 KV line, 33/1 1Kv Feeders and low voltage networks to ten villages (Bafuloto, Makumbaya, Kubarikko, Galoya, Kubuneh, Kunkujang Jattaya, Mandinari, Kerewan, Darusalam, and Daranka). The contract was signed with Global Trading Group N.V and construction.

The Gambian leader and government have always been passionate about energy generation, production, and expansion. It has taken the challenge to increase the installed capacity across the country. Kabada Electrification project

Cognisant of the importance of electricity in the day-to-day lives of the rural people, the government under the visionary leadership of President Jammeh has come up with projects that seek to fulfill the long awaited pledge made by the president to the people of The Gambia. Among them is that the locals of Kabada area in the Lower River Region, who never dreamt of having electricity at their doorsteps during the 400 years of British rule and post-Independence government. The project includes the extension of the medium voltage from Soma and the installations of 3 by 50 Kva transformers for the electrification of four villages (Sare Musa, Missino Sano, Bajonki, and Sambunbu).

Today, people in Koina, Basse, Farafenni, Soma, Bansang, Janjangbureh, just to name a few are enjoying electricity supply, thanks to the visionary and dynamic leadership of the Jammeh administration. To further ensure availability, affordability and sustainability of energy supply to its citizenry in general, the government promotes diversification of energy sources. To this end, government has approved the Renewable Energy Law in December, 2013, which provides incentives for both local and foreign investors to invest in The Gambia's energy sector. This is evident by the increased number of foreign investors in the country today, coupled with the conducive environment created by the government. In their quest to further extend services to other rural communities, the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) had not long ago unveiled two brand new generators, earmarked for NAWEC's rural electricity expansion project, which is expected to cover 44 more communities in the provincial across the country. The dual generators of 2.7 and 2.9 megawatts, respectively will be stationed at Farafenni and Basse, as part of NAWEC's rural electricity Phase 2 Expansion, costing US$20M.

Officials said it is the first time that NAWEC is sending heavy fuel generators to rural Gambia and that 24 hours electricity is assured once the generators begin operation. It was also disclosed that an extra US$10M has been secured for the Bansang Electricity Expansion Project 2, which NAWEC officials said will soon be unveiled.

The overall objective, officials pointed out, is to reduce the number of power stations in rural Gambia so that electricity becomes more cost-effective and more sustainable. The Energy minister, Dr. Edward Saja Sanneh at that occasion underscored the importance The Gambia government attaches to the energy sector, and noted that the provision of higher capacity engines will further strengthen the stability of electricity in the country.

The Energy minister maintained that the extension of electricity to an extra 44 communities in rural Gambia is a barometer of government's commitment to have higher coverage of electricity across the country. He thus saluted the Gambian leader for providing what he called 'space' that has given NAWEC the opportunity to expand and strengthen the coverage across the country. "With this reliable energy to begin in the rural areas and as we are striving for this Vision 2016, I think providing electricity to those places will encourage investment or the creation of agro-businesses and using technology in meeting our food self-sufficiency drive," he opined, adding that in the long run, it would help the country to meet its poverty reduction MDGs targets goals.

For the managing director of NAWEC, Ebrima Sanyang, a lot of achievements have been registered, recalling that rural electricity Phase One was first launched in 2006 to 2007; and that it has given opportunity to reform the whole rural electrification set-up. This, he said, was however not working well until when government intervened to secure six power plants with brand new sets. Sanyang disclosed that this has helped transform the lives of rural Gambians, to the admiration of most people outside the country.

He added; "We wish to thank all those who rendered support to the project in those years until now. This is another milestone achievement in the energy sector of this country. This project is also to complement government's efforts in ensuring that we achieve our dreams that have been set for us as a people and as a country to ensure that we transform this nation as rapidly as possible into a city-state."

US$31.9 grant from Ecowas

The government of The Gambia and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in December, 2013 signed a US$31.9M grant agreement, earmarked for the former's energy sector. Reached at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan on the sidelines of the 71st Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of ECOWAS, the grant is provided by the ECOWAS Emergency Regional Programme for Improved Electricity Supply Facility (EERPIEF). The other two countries that benefited from the grant are the Republics of Mali and Sierra Leone, respectively, which received US$54.34M and US$21.8M. The project seeks to improve electricity supply within these three countries in the sub-region. The signing ceremony was witnessed by The Gambia's high-powered delegation, including the then minister of Energy, Teneng-Ba Jaiteh, who appended her signature on the agreement on behalf of The Gambia.

In the government's national development blueprint, the provision of adequate and uninterrupted energy supply to underpin development activity remains a major policy objective. It is an indisputable fact that the sector is being confronted with some challenges, but The Gambia stands out as a role model among many other African countries in terms of accessible and reliable power supply. About REP Research has indicated that the Rural Electrification Project in The Gambia started in 1993, just before the advent of the 22nd July Revolution when Electricite de France (EDF), prepared an electrification master plan for the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) and the rural areas, which basically envisaged the electrification of towns within 80-km radius from two proposed central power stations in The Gambia's rural centres of Mansakonko and Bansang. The project would consist of 6 power stations supported by 11kv transmission systems; and is hoped that it will form the basis for developing a national grid across The Gambia. The new project will extend power to new areas and consolidate supply in others.

Lahmeyer International (LI) was thereafter commissioned by NAWEC in 1997 to prepare an "Engineering Study" for economically feasible rural electrification projects, based on the EDF conclusions and recommendations of the 1993 master plan. However, it is an undeniable fact that it was during the 2nd Republic that the Rural Electrification became a reality to the people of country when the Government under President Jammeh launched the rural Electrification project in 2007, which built new power plants in all the major provincial towns. However, another feature of the project was the construction of extensive transmission and distribution networks in several villages and towns in the rural areas. Electricity services were significantly improved with most localities experiencing in excess of 12 hours of electricity per day, 6hrs in the morning and 6hrs in the evenings.

As part of the ongoing strides by the Jammeh administration to further enhance the livelihood of rural Gambians, the government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Energy and the National Water and Electricity Company (Nawec) in 2011 commissioned a state-of-the art power plant with a generating capacity of 9 megawatts, at the national utility company's power station in Brikama.

Officially commissioned by the president of the Republic, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, whose office was at the time overseeing the Ministry of Energy, the power plant was the first phase of a 30 megawatt power project that was expected to provide electricity to the West Coast Region (WCR) and the Greater Banjul Area. The first phase 9MW power plant was financed by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) at the tune of US$17.15 million.

It was part of the numerous efforts by the government of the Jammeh administration to add vibrancy to the energy sector with a view to ensuring that the vital electricity amenity is taken to the doorsteps of the citizenry for improved livelihood. The commissioning of this first phase project was described as a milestone in the energy sector that it is of the belief that there is a direct relationship between a country's economic development and the availability of electricity services to its populace. The electrification of the entire country is well on course and that would serve as a catalyst for increased productivity, improved health services, as well as viable economic activities, all of which contribute to rapid socio-economic growth and development.


The regulation of the electricity sector in The Gambia falls under the purview of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). Following the approval of the National Energy Policy in 2005, and the enactment of the Electricity Act, the electricity sector in The Gambia has seen significant improvements. The monopoly NAWEC (National Water and Electricity Company) earlier enjoyed in the generation of electricity ended with the opening of the generation market to the private sector. NAWEC, however still maintains its monopoly in the distribution and transmission sectors.

Electricity Generation

NAWEC still maintains its Kotu Power Station, which is the nerve centre of NAWEC operations as the major generating power house supported by a number of stand-alone power stations in the major provincial towns. The National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) is a company wholly owned by the government mandated to provide electricity and water to industries and Gambians. It has its origins from Gambia Utilities Corporation, which was the first public cooperation on electricity and water services in the year 1972, when the Gambia Utilities Corporation Act created the GUC.

GUC was formally dissolved in 1993 and the Utilities Holding Corporation (UHC) inherited the assets and management of GUC. The operations were outsourced to Management Services Gambia Ltd (MSG) initially, but in 1996 NAWEC was created as a public company registered under the Companies Act of 1955. NAWEC is involved in generation, transmission and distribution of electricity all over The Gambia. NAWEC operates several facilities for both power generation and water production and treatment at the following locations:

Its GBA Power Stations are Kotu Power Station, and Brikama Power Station, while the Rural Power Stations are in Barra, Kerewan, Kaur, Farrafeni, Soma, Bansang and Basse.


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