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The Political Dynamics of Electricity Sector Performance in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire


The Political Dynamics of Electricity Sector Performance in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire

Frimpong, Mark Kwakye (2023) The Political Dynamics of Electricity Sector Performance in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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What factors drive variation in policy choices related to the electricity sector and, ultimately, in sectoral performance over time? This dissertation argues that differences in the form and intensity of competitive political pressures affect the choice and implementation of electricity sector policies and thus sectoral performance.

First, I explore bivariate relationships between commonly cited external factors – natural resource endowments, economic shocks, investment climate, droughts, and civil wars – and sectoral performance across Sub-Saharan Africa. The findings confirm associations between these factors and sectoral performance. Yet they indicate considerable unexplained variation in sectoral performance, which requires qualitative analysis.

Second, I analyze the politics of electricity sector management in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. In the 1980s and 1990s, these two countries faced similar economic and climatic crises that brought the electricity sector to its knees. Yet when the World Bank and the IMF pushed neoliberal policies as solutions for sectoral challenges, they responded differently. Liberalization and privatization policies moved forward more quickly in Côte d’Ivoire than in Ghana. Moreover, electricity sector performance differed in the two countries during 1990-2019. Electrification rates accelerated in Ghana, but they slowed in Côte d’Ivoire. Côte d’Ivoire improved the reliability of electricity supply more than Ghana. Electricity prices also reflected costs of service in Côte d’Ivoire but not in Ghana.

The comparative political analysis traces how different forms and intensity of competitive political pressures, especially coups d’état, electoral threats, civil wars, and risks of civil wars, affect the implementation of electricity sector policies and then sectoral performance in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. I argue that intense political competition encourages Ghanaian politicians to extend electricity access to rural areas to mobilize political support and to set artificially low tariffs to appease urban residents and swing voters. Politically motivated low tariffs, coupled with unpaid subsidies and governments’ failure to pay their own electricity bills, result in inadequate investments in power utilities and, in turn, recurrent power shortages and outages.

On the other hand, I argue that existential threats, mainly contestations over Ivorian identity and citizenship and civil war, slowed electrification programs with governments prioritizing regime and national stability. My study shows that (the risks of) civil wars crowd out ordinary concerns like electricity provision. However, when political life returns to normal, high competition drives governments to mollify voters by extending access to electricity and setting below-cost tariffs. Low competition allows governments to make policy changes they view as solutions for sectoral challenges but might defer short-term voter gratification. I demonstrate that low electoral threats encouraged the privatization of the state-owned electricity company in Côte d’Ivoire. In contrast, intense political competition discouraged ruling elites from privatizing the national electricity distributor in Ghana.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Political Science
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Frimpong, Mark Kwakye
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Political Science
Date:17 August 2023
Thesis Supervisor(s):Poteete, Amy
Keywords:Political competition, electricity sector management, electricity sector performance, Africa, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire
ID Code:992978
Deposited By: Mark Kwakye Frimpong
Deposited On:17 Nov 2023 14:35
Last Modified:17 Nov 2023 14:35
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