Turning on the Lights in Freetown, Sierra Leone: Completing the Bumbuna Hydroelectric Plant, 2008-2009

In 2008, Freetown faced one of the worst energy crises among the world’s major cities, as two aging generators met less than 5% of the Sierra Leone capital’s needs. Residents had electricity for only two or three hours every few days, and businesses struggled with the high cost of maintaining private generators. To make matters worse, efforts toward a solution were creeping at a snail’s pace. Construction of a massive hydroelectric plant at Bumbuna, about 200 kilometers from Freetown, was far behind schedule because of mismanagement and political obstacles. President Ernest Bai Koroma assigned a top adviser, Victor Strasser-King, to get the project back on track by breaking through bottlenecks, facilitating coordination between ministries, and regaining the trust and confidence of the donor community to renew their support for the project. By closely monitoring progress through a system of performance tracking and personal inspection and verification of tasks, Strasser-King steered the project to completion in November 2009.
Jonathan Friedman drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in March 2011. Case published September 2011.
Sierra Leone
public utilities
project management
academic study tours
Focus Area(s)
Civil Service
Critical Tasks
Inter-ministerial coordination
Performance management system
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Sierra Leone
Case Studies
Jonathan (Yoni) Friedman