International Development Planning Review

Electrifying urban Africa: energy access, city-making and globalisation in Nigeria and Benin

International Development Planning Review Ahead of print, 1–26.

Abstract

Electricity access has become a crucial issue in global South cities. While demand is growing, conventional grids are failing or insufficient, especially in Africa. Urban dwellers therefore have to develop a wide range of (in)formal infrastructures to meet their daily electricity needs. Building on recent studies on urban electricity in the global South, this paper aims to contribute to the debates on hybrid forms of electricity provision by analysing the diffusion of solar panels and generators in two cities, Ibadan in Nigeria and Cotonou in Benin. Although neighbouring and relatively similar, these two cities illustrate distinct daily electrical lives. In Nigeria, an electricity-exporting country, people face daily power outages. In Benin, a country that depends on Nigeria for its supply, there is electricity but it is difficult to connect to the grid because of connection costs. Based on an empirical study, the article shows that Ibadan’s inhabitants use generators as a complement to a conventional grid that is almost universal but unreliable. In Cotonou, solar energy is an alternative until they can connect to the grid. Generators and solar panels have become the material markers of urban Africa, providing information on inequalities in access to electricity.

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Rateau, Mélanie

Choplin, Armelle