Benin’s New Electricity Project Lights Up 13 Cities

Improved Access Boosts Economic Activity, Quality of Life

by Adenike Adeodun

Residents of Sèmè-Kpodji in southeast Benin are celebrating thanks to new street lighting. Fatima Hounkanrin, who runs a small shop, can now keep her business open well past dusk. “Before, there was no lighting, and we used to close when night fell. Now that we have electricity, we’re very pleased,” she said.

Sèmè-Kpodji, a lively town on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, is one of many areas benefiting from a new electricity project. Hounkanrin’s shop, which sells tomatoes, pepper, soap, drinks, and other household goods, stays open late into the night, boosting her income.

“We’re genuinely grateful to our benefactors for what they are doing for us. Some places haven’t yet benefited from the project, so we ask you to think of them because light drives development,” Hounkanrin added.

Another resident, Bertrand Éric Lokossou, expressed his excitement over the project. “Officials from the electricity company came to talk to us a few days ago. They told us there was a project underway to supply us with electricity,” he said.

Lokossou now has an electricity meter at home. “It was finished not long afterward, and we’re all very pleased. We’d like to thank the donors for the happiness they’ve brought us.” He added that requests for new electricity meters are processed quickly, marking significant progress for the community.

For Martine Padonou and her family, life has dramatically improved. They previously relied on stoves and solar lamps due to sporadic, low-quality electricity. Connection costs were also prohibitive. “We had to ask a distant neighbor to share his supply with us because we couldn’t afford the connection. It wasn’t easy,” Padonou said.

Frequent brownouts and constant power cuts plagued the family. “An elderly lady who lives with me hit her head following a power cut. She was very ill, and it cost a lot of money to look after her. Fortunately, the electrification project thought of us, and now we have a permanent supply with our own meter. Thanks be to God,” she added.

The Electricity Corporation of Benin, responsible for producing, distributing, and selling electricity, has added 40,000 new subscribers, including at least 51% women. Fatima, Éric, and Martine are among the first beneficiaries of the Sub-Transmission and Distribution System Restructuring and Extension Project. This project is funded by a $9.08 million loan and a $7.28 million donation from the African Development Bank Group’s African Development Fund (ADF), along with a $17.79 million loan from the French Development Agency. The government of Benin also contributed $3.68 million.

Launched in 2018, the project aims to increase electricity access in 13 cities, including Cotonou, Porto-Novo, Abomey, Bohicon, and Lokossa. Another goal is to improve electricity quality and reduce energy wastage, estimated at 23% in 2015.

By March 2024, the project had installed about 1,545 high-voltage and 1,378 low-voltage poles. Improvements to the 63/15kV substations in Akpakpa were completed, and power lines were constructed in Gbégamey and Cotonou, along with 63kV substations in Lokossa-Hagoumey. The project also strengthened and extended high-voltage/low-voltage distribution lines in Cotonou, Sèmè-Kpodji, Porto-Novo, Akpro-Missérété, Lokossa, Dogbo, Toviklin, Djakotomey, Klouékanmè, Abomey, Bohicon, and Zogbodomey.

Project coordinator Vissi Arnaud Adikpeto explained, “In time, the project will provide reliable electricity to the residents of the 13 cities and their surrounding areas, including schools, health centers, and commercial and industrial businesses. In the medium term, the work will mean that the Electricity Corporation of Benin has 40,000 additional new subscribers, including at least 51 percent women.”

Eric Prégnon, project manager at the African Development Bank, provided an update on the project’s status. “The civil engineering works on the substations are complete. All the foreign manufacturing equipment is ready, factory tests are done, and the equipment has been received on-site. Once the substations are operational, and the rest of the poles and meters are installed, the project will have achieved its objective.”

The new electricity project is bringing significant benefits to Benin’s communities, improving their quality of life and economic opportunities. As the project progresses, more residents will enjoy the advantages of reliable electricity, transforming their daily lives and fostering development across the country.

Source: ESI Africa

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