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Reasons for Power Outages in Benin

[All links lead to French text unless otherwise stated.]

Travailler à la bougie- Photo de l'auteur avec sa permission

Burning the midnight oil – Photo by the author with permission

Benin has again been experiencing power outages over several days.

Following a long silence, the director of energy production for the Benin Electric Energy Company (SBEE), Saturnin Yèdonou, denied all company responsibility for these latest power cuts on the national television channel.

According to Yèdonou, Nigeria, which provides some of Benin's electricity, is behind these cuts. Technical difficulties with their gas-fired power stations could be the cause

Selon le directeur, ces difficultés ont fait baisser la puissance d’énergie produite par le géant voisin de l’Est et dont dépend le Bénin. [..] Face à cette situation, le directeur Saturnin YEDONOU a invité les populations à comprendre que les désagréments qu’elles subissent sont une fois encore indépendants de la volonté de la SBEE.

According to the director, these difficulties have lowered the energy level produced by the giant neighbour to the East [Nigeria] on which Benin depends.[..] Faced with this situation, the director Saturnin Yèdonou asked people to understand that the disagreeable circumstances they are subjected to, are, once more, independent of the will of the SBEE.

Questions on the agreements with Nigeria 

If the energy policy is fragile this is mostly because the country depends to such a large extent on its giant neighbour. This according to the authorities responsible for the provision of energy to the people. The consequences of this dependency affect the economy and slow the activities of the Benin populace. TCN [en] lines from Nigeria and the VRA [en] from Ghana currently provide around 230 MW to Benin, which they have been selling to the country for tens of years.  

However, faced with the energy deficiency situation in Benin, questions could be asked about the limits of the economic relationship between Benin and Nigeria. The authorities are therefore urged to enlighten us as to the contents of this agreement. Rodrigue Tokpodounsi from Cotonou wrote the following on Jolome News: 

A bien y voir, la sortie tardive Saturnin Yèdonou n'apporte rien de concret. Car ce qui importe pour les Béninois, c'est de savoir jusqu'à quand va durer leur misère et quelles sont les dispositions que prennent les autorités pour les en épargner à l'avenir.

The belated reply from Saturnin Yèdonou brings nothing concrete. What matters to the people of Benin, is knowing how long their troubles are going to last and which measures the authorities are going to take to spare them in future.

The paradox

Let us find out a little more about the situation in Nigeria, on which Benin depends. More than 60% of Nigerians, that is around 100 million people, no longer have access to electricity and half of Nigerians living in rural areas have none.  

However, an entire country (Benin), depends on the Eastern giant for its energy needs even though Nigeria has obvious difficulty meeting the needs of its own population. This situation has continued for decades.

To refresh our memories, in Nigeria, the largest oil producer in Africa, this situation is explained by the fact that the infrastructure does not allow conveyance of electricity to the entire territory.

Nearly two thirds of the population live below the poverty threshold and those who have access to the electricity network are subject to daily power outages.

In the end, it seems that the energy situation in Benin is far from being sorted out.

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