Working towards a Smart Energy Path: Experience from Benin, Mali and Togo
Benin, Mali and Togo – are three West African countries which have participated in the project ‘Energy, Eco development and Resilience in Africa (EERA)’. This project offers lessons to other countries on approaches that can be taken toward a ‘Smart Energy Path’. This strategy aims to meet peoples’ energy needs in an environmentally sustainable, resilient way and is guided by a participatory decision-making process. Energy is critical to the lives and livelihoods of people in developing countries, essential for everything from cooking, heating, lighting, refrigeration, grinding grain and pumping water to transportation and communication. However, energy services are often of very poor quality in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in Togo only an estimated 9% of rural and peri-urban health centres have access to modern energy services, and only 24% of upper secondary schools and 2.5% of primary schools in rural areas are electrified. In 2010, less than 4% of the rural population in Benin and Togo, and less than 6% in Mali, had access to electricity. Benin and Mali have established agencies that are responsible for rural electrification, but Togo has yet to create one, as planned in its new energy policy. A renewable energy agency was established in Mali in 2015. Given their remit, these agencies would be well positioned to support decentralised electricity supply in rural areas rather than extending the national electricity grid, which fails to serve over 90% of the rural population in each country. The energy system of West African countries is highly vulnerable to climate change.