- Benin, Togo and Nigeria yesterday inaugurated a power cable linking the three countries' national grids and aimed at improving the insufficient electricity infrastructure in West Africa. Nigeria will increase its power exports and is expected to generate annual revenues of about US$ 14.4 million from the power interconnection.
The 70-kilometre power cable is joining the Electrical Community of Benin (CEB), which groups Benin and neighbouring Togo, with the regional economic powerhouse Nigeria. Nigeria, while having problems supplying its own citizens with stable electricity, is the also region's major energy producer.
The power interconnection will have an initial capacity of 80 megawatts, "which is due to be extended in the coming months," according to a Togolese government release.
A shortfall in electricity capacity and distribution infrastructure is seen as "one of the main limitations on sub-Saharan Africa's economic development," according to the same Lomé sources.
The event therefore was celebrated as a major developmental step forward. "This is an example of regional development where states unite to tackle the problems of underdevelopment, especially in the context of globalisation," Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told the inauguration ceremony, also attended by the Presidents of Ghana, Benin and Togo.
Around 80 percent of the electricity consumed in Benin is already imported, with the majority of this coming from Ghana's Akosombo hydroelectric dam. Ghana by now however faces major power supply problems and increasingly frequent outages and thus relies on greater imports and new hydroelectric projects to be commissioned in the near future.
But also Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with more than 140 million people, suffers from a shortfall in its own electricity capacity. Its electricity generation fell by half in January due to gas shortages at key thermal plants after vandalism and technical faults.
Despite large hydroelectric potentials, Nigeria still mostly relies on its vast oil and gas resources to produce energy. The construction of new facilities nevertheless has not kept pace with population growth and an expanded economy crying out for more power.
Even if Nigeria faces severe energy shortages, the federal government counts on being able to export rather large quantities of electricity to Togo and Benin. According to the Chief Executive Officer of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Godwin Osakue, the federal government of Nigeria could expect annual revenues of about US$ 14.4 million from the power exports to the two neighbour states.
Therefore, it had also been Nigeria that had paid for the bulk of investments needed in interconnecting the three countries. According to Mr Osakue, Nigeria had spent about US$ 25 million on the project, out of which about US$ 16 had been borrowed from the African Development Bank (ADB). The ADB had recognised the project as a regional development priority.
With the new interconnection, the large Nigerian electricity network is connected to the wider West African network. While flows mostly are expected to go out of Nigerian towards Benin and Togo - even being able to reach Ghana and beyond - supplies are also able to go the other way. One of the most important missions of the interconnection thus is stabilising power availability in the entire region.
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