In francophone West Africa’s largest economy, power producers are struggling to keep up with growing consumption. Economic growth has averaged around 9% for the past four years and electricity demand is rising by 10% a year. The industry needs $20 billion of investment in the power sector over the next 15 years, the energy minister said in 2015.
Electricity coverage in Ivory Coast is high by regional standards at almost 60% of the population, according to the World Bank, and the country is a regular exporter to some neighbors.
“It has an outstanding power sector,” said Christophe Jacquin, regional head of operations for U.K. power generation group Aggreko, which operates a thermal power plant in Ivory Coast. “It is best in class in West Africa.”
Electricity distribution in Ivory Coast is controlled by Cie Ivoirienne d’Electricite, or CIE, a unit of Eranove SA which is 56% owned by private equity firm Emerging Capital Partners and 19% by Axa SA, according to its website. Eranove also has a stake in the country’s water distributor, Societe de distribution d’eau de la Cote d’Ivoire, or SODECI.
“We must end the monopoly of CIE and SODECI,” President Ouattara said in a recent address to Ivorians via government-owned TV Radiodiffusion Television Ivoirienne. “I’m calling on all who wish to invest in this sector to do it so we can have a healthy competition that will allow to control the prices and bring the cost of electricity down.”
The country plans to double its power production capacity to 4,000 megawatts by 2020, electricity prices were scheduled to increase by 5% in January. But some customers saw rates rise by as much as 40%, according to a government investigation. That prompted Ouattara to cancel the January increases and call for a more competitive industry.