The Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest nation of fewer than two million people is struggling to produce 75% of its energy needs leaving the mostly underserved people without electricity for days.
The West African nations needs about 150 megawatts to consistently supply electricity to business and households but the National Water and Electric Company (NAWEC), which has a monopoly over power supply can only generate 40 megawatts.
NAWEC says it is owed more than US$10 million by government agencies and businesses that were linked to the former government. It has vowed to release the names of such agencies and businesses.
Former President Yahya Jammeh’s village was also fully electrified and the village chief confirmed to Aljazeera that they never had to pay for electricity supply during Yahya Jammeh’s 22 year rule of the peanut exporting nation.
The below average power grid is costing the nation businesses, mostly in manufacturing, which could have employed thousands from its majority youthful population.
More than 13,000 Gambian youths applied for asylum in Europe last year. The majority of them perilously crossed the Meditereanean running away from former President Yahya Jammeh’s oppressive regime and in search of better economic opportunities.
They hoped being in Europe can get them jobs that will earn them enough to send remittances home to free their families from the perpetual cycle of poverty.
Jammeh was defeated in the elections in December and forced to flee the country. Renewed relations btween the EU and The Gambia saw more than €150 million in development aid given to the Gambia by the EU Commission. Most of it is to help create jobs for Gambian youths.
Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow in a speech in the island capital of Banjul says his government is working towards resolving the electricity crisis in the nation of less than 4,500 mi² to help attract foreign direct investments.
Gambia’s neighbor, Senegal has put up an industrial park outside it’s capital, Dakar to mainly attract Chinese manufacturers. It is modeling a pack that has brought shoe and garment-making factories to Ethiopia.
With a consistent power supply system, The Gambia will be on its way to the first phase of a government plan to woo Chinese companies shifting low-end manufacturing to Africa as wages in East Asia rise.
Gambia, now with a stable democracy, a navigable river and a port with access to the Atlantic Ocean ajacent to the Americas makes it a premier candidate for export-based industries.