Cote d’Ivoire has an extensive national grid, which means most people live relatively close to an electricity line. At the same time, many households do not have access to energy, or buy electricity illegally to avoid paying a hefty amount upfront for a legal connection.
In the past few years, an International Development Association (IDA) project has supported Compagnie Ivoirienne d’électricité (CIE), a privately owned operator in the country’s power sector, to carry out a pilot campaign for “social” connections, which essentially subsidized first-time connection charges. That meant households only had to pay $40 to connect to the grid and paid the remaining cost with their bi-monthly bills cost over time. By doing that, the program eliminated the biggest obstacle these families face to get connected to the grid—an exorbitant first-time payment.
The pilot campaign connected 45,000 new households to the grid in less than two years. But to reach even more people, the utility needed to step up. The pilot offered useful lessons to roll out social connections at a massive scale.
Cote d’Ivoire’s bold new Electricité pour tous (Electricity for All) program takes into account lessons from the IDA pilot campaign. It offers households a connection for only $2 upfront and gives them the option of paying back the remainder over a period up to 10 years.
The utility also pre-finances in-house wiring to increase affordability for the poorest. CIE has recruited and trained new staff for the access program, grouped into 25 dedicated crews that have customized trucks and equipment required to install new connections efficiently.
Electricians have been trained and certified to follow the standards required for electrical wiring in homes. In the meantime, the government has also taken policy measures to address problems encountered in the pilot campaign. For instance, an opaque legal requirement for inspection of in-house wiring by a licensed inspector before the utility is allowed to connect a household has been eliminated.
Since the launch of the program in September 2015, 30,000 more connections had been installed country wide and growing. Observers were struck by the potential to scale up the pilot program and help six million people in the country get legal access to electricity for the first time. That’s 25% of the country’s population.