22 May 2013 – Cote d’Ivoire was once the most economically advanced country in west Africa and that extended to the supply of electricity, with the country able to export surplus power to its neighbours. However, blackouts have come as a rude shock in Cote d’Ivoire recently, as even during an eight-year political crisis that split the country and triggered two wars the last of which ended in 2011, outages remained so rare that hardly anyone owns a generator.

The mines and energy minister, Adama Toungara, has said gangs stealing cables have caused the recent disruptions in Cote d’Ivoire. "There are no blackouts to speak of in Ivory Coast." Yet, plans to invest some US$40 million into revamping electricity grids represent the first upgrade in 20 years.

With shortages rippling across to Togo, Benin, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso – all of whom feed off Ivory Coast’s grid – urban youths across the region are turning to social media to vent their frustrations as infrastructure creaks beneath a rapidly expanding population.

The popular pressure across the region to improve electricity infrastructure provides impetus to projects such as the 139 MW expansion of the Azito power station in the Ivory Coast being funded by the IFC. In Senegal, the IFC is assessing an investment in the 70 MW Tobene power plant, with a cost of US$150 million.