Because of long distances, it is often found too expensive to electrify isolated areas by grid. In the case of isolated areas close to neighbouring countries, however, it can in some cases be feasible to connect from the neighbouring country where the electricity grid might be closer. To overcome the high expenses and challenges of electrifying isolated areas, three projects have implemented cross-border electrification-projects in the northern, western and southern parts of Togo from Ghana and Benin respectively. The regional organisation, West African Power Pool, has led all three projects in collaboration with the national utility companies.
Impact is visible in the larger villages electrified by the project. These have experienced a significant increase in economic activities with more craftsmen and shops among the positive socio-economic effects of the cooperation across borders. The population in all villages achieving electrification have experienced improvement in living conditions and now enjoys a social life in the evening, lower risk of snake attacks because of streetlight and access to cold soft drinks and water. Furthermore, health centres report significant improvement in treatment, especially at night. Schools also report a higher student success rate through the ability to study in the evening either in classrooms, under illuminated posts or at home.
The three projects have to a large degree improved the quality life in the selected locations. Still, cross-border electrification lines have disadvantages: The main difference between localities served by the Togolese network and localities served by either the Ghanaian or Beninese network, is the duration of outages with the latter experiencing cuts for several days. Causes are difficult to place but can either be due to geography of border areas, where it can be more cumbersome to repair the grid, or because the utility companies in Ghana and Benin are less in a hurry to restore grid lines that supply Togolese clients than they are when it is their own clients that are without electricity. Whatever the reason is, the consequences of long outages are substantial for shops and craftsmen who can go bankrupt as a result of an unexpected electricity break for several days.
The good quality of works and the anticipation of future demand in the dimensioning of lines and transformers have guaranteed a stable and secure service for several years, and the three projects have proved that cross-border electrification can be a feasible alternative to off-grid electrification in isolated areas.