Electric Power in Cameroon

Michael Giberson

Reforming an African electricity company requires tough love, persistence — and a little luck. Just ask Jean-David Bile, a civil engineer in the central African country of Cameroon. Bile runs AES Corp.’s electricity operation in Cameroon, a national grid that is chiefly powered by two large dams and was formerly fully owned by the infamously corrupt government of Cameroon.

Bile is rooting out corruption at the electricity company, cracking down on customer theft, improving the flow of electricity — and ending the practice of hiring people to satisfy the demands of politicians and traditional chiefs. His achievements don’t always endear him to his fellow Cameroonians.

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The story of AES’s involvement in Cameroon, told here by Pascal Zachary in EnergyBiz, sounds a lot like the story of the company’s efforts in Tblisi, Georgia.

I am a (very small time) stockholder in AES, so maybe I’m more interested in stories about the company that most. Still, I think the Paul Devlin documentary on AES in Georgia, Power Trip, is a great film for helping viewers to understand global capitalism. Of course “global capitalism” has a lot of stories, and AES’s extensive, expensive effort in Georgia is only one of them. It is, however, the best one I’ve seen told on film.

NOTE: I previously wrote about Power Trip, among other films, here: A liberal power trip: Real capitalism at the movies.