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Electric Worlds / Mondes électriques

Creations, Circulations, Tensions, Transitions (19th–21st C.)


Edited By Alain Beltran, Léonard Laborie, Pierre Lanthier and Stéphanie Le Gallic

What interpretation(s) do today’s historians make of electrification? Electrification is a process which began almost a hundred and fifty years ago but which more than one billion men and women still do not have access to. This book displays the social diversity of the electric worlds and of the approaches to their history. It updates the historical knowledge and shows the renewal of the historiography in both its themes and its approaches. Four questions about the passage to the electrical age are raised: which innovations or combination of innovations made this passage a reality? According to which networks and appropriation? Evolving thanks to which tensions and alliances? And resulting in which transition and accumulation?

Quel(s) regard(s) les historiens d’aujourd’hui portent-ils sur l’électrification, processus engagé il y a près de cent cinquante ans mais auquel plus d’un milliard d’hommes et de femmes restent encore étrangers ? Le présent volume rend compte de la diversité des mondes sociaux électriques et des manières d’enquêter sur leur histoire. Il actualise les connaissances et témoigne du renouvellement de l’historiographie, dans ses objets et ses approches. Quatre points d’interrogation sur le basculement des sociétés dans l’âge électrique jalonnent le volume : moyennant quelles créations ou combinaisons créatrices ? En vertu de quelles circulations et appropriations ? Selon quelles tensions et alliances ? Et produisant quelles transitions et accumulations ?

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The Akosombo Dam and the Quest for Rural Electrification in Ghana

← 316 | 317 →

The Akosombo Dam and the Quest for Rural Electrification in Ghana



In January 1966, Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah inaugurated the newly independent country’s most ambitious development project, the Akosombo Dam across the Volta River. The dam created a hydroelectric power plant, which fueled an aluminum smelter and provided electricity to urban centers and adjacent countries. The Ghanaian government, supported by foreign experts, had cast the Volta River Project in terms of modernization as the engine of rapid industrialization and electrification. Although there were no immediate plans to provide electricity to rural areas, official statements and press reporting created expectations that the whole country would soon benefit from the wonders of Akosombo. Addressing such unfulfilled promises, successive governments, military and civil, were compelled to pronounce their intention of extending electricity to the country’s rural areas and northern regions, which had remained beyond the grid. One response was to install diesel generating plants that had become redundant in the towns connected to grid yet operated at great financial cost. Providing access to electricity became a way of using technology to achieve political goals, such as shoring up support in rural communities. The chapter tracks the popular expectations and meanings of electricity in Ghana since the early 1960s. Drawing on the underused archival records of the Electricity Company of Ghana, and on oral research, the chapter examines the politics of rural electrification. It shows how mid level bureaucrats and engineers engaged with and implemented controversial policies of electrification. Chiefs, town development committees, and other community leaders expressed their desire for electricity. They linked access to electric power with hopes for economic development and for stemming the rural to urban migration of their youth, and framed their requests in terms of citizenship. In the late 1980s, J. J. Rawlings’s military government launched a comprehensive national electrification scheme to popularize his regime and to win a national election campaign. Interviews conducted in villages recently connected to the grid provide insight into the meanings of electricity for those whose lives shifted from the proverbial darkness into light. For them, electricity did not become the panacea for their economic woes. Rather, this technological innovation enhanced existing inequities. Electrification had a gendered impact in the organization of daily routines, as men and women had very different ideas of how the new commodity should be used and how it could make a difference in ← 317 | 318 → their lives. Government officials, the paper argues, used electrification as a tool for nation building, while community leaders proved their effectiveness through petitions for connection to the national grid. By unpacking the technopolitics of Akosombo power in Ghana, the chapter contributes to a new body of scholarship that explores the history, politics, and culture of electrification in Africa.

Keywords: hydroelectric power plant, dam, modernization, rural electrification, development, gender, nation building, technopolitics, Volta River Project, Ghana, West Africa



In 1967 Queenmother Anomesi of Golokwati wrote “on behalf of the women’s folk” to General Joseph Ankrah, the chairman of the National Liberation Council.1 The NLC was the military regime that had ousted Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s founding president, the previous year. At Golokwati, people were celebrating, because their village had been selected as a site for a diesel generating plant, which was to supply electricity to the towns of Kpandu, Hohoe, and Jasikan in the Volta Region. Ghana had an abundance of idle generators since the completion of the hydroelectric Akosombo Dam, which fed a new power grid, in 1965. The people of Golokwati were not only convinced to enter “the dawn of a brighter era” but confident that they would soon have “completely recovered from the slough of depression” left by Nkrumah. Queenmother Anomesi assured Ankrah that the Golokwati elders had reserved a large field, “free of charge and free from all litigation,” for the plant. Anomesi hoped that the NLC would launch more development programs in the Volta Region, which had been neglected by the old regime’s “contemptible fortune hunters.”2 This letter stands for many petitions addressed to government, as it conveys a heightened desire for electricity, generated by the construction of the Akosombo Dam, while placating the big men of Ghana’s revolving civil and military regimes.

Ghana was in a state of electricity fever in the mid-1960s. After witnessing the construction of the enormous Akosombo Dam, the country was ready for an ample supply of cheap power. Akosombo, the country’s most ambitious development project, had created a plant with 528 megawatt ← 318 | 319 → (MW) capacity, which provided cheap electricity for the smelter of the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO) and powered 500 miles of transmission lines that connected the population centers and mining areas of southern Ghana (Figure 1). Although there were no immediate plans to provide electricity to rural areas, official statements and press reporting created expectations that the whole country would benefit from Akosombo.

Figure 1. Map of Ghana with Akosombo Dam site, VALCO aluminum smelter at Tema, and original power grid


Source: Volta River Authority Annual Report 10 (1971), courtesy of VRA. ← 319 | 320 →

Thanks to Akosombo, Ghana became one of the few sub-Saharan African countries with a large power plant and grid.3 Only South Africa developed a grid already in the 1920s and provided thermal electricity at cost to its mines, industries, railways, and European settler population.4 This chapter tracks the politics and experiences of electricity in Ghana since the 1960s. Drawing on the archive of Ghana’s Electricity Company, it examines policies and petitions for rural electrification in the decade after the completion of Akosombo, when the country possessed an abundance of electricity. Military and civil governments promised to extend the grid or at least provide local generation. Yet most people in rural areas remained without electricity. Only in the late 1980s, did the populist government of J. J. Rawlings make a commitment to expand electricity to the majority of Ghanaians by launching the National Electrification Scheme. Different regimes relied on the technology of electricity generation and transmission to pursue their political goals and legitimize their rule. Such “technopolitics,” as Gabrielle Hecht has argued, are closely linked to attempts of nation building and shaping of national identity.5 By 2014, electricity access rates in Ghana hovered above 70 percent, higher than elsewhere else in West Africa.6 This figure, however, does not mean reliable electricity, since frequent power outages have become the norm in Ghana. ← 320 | 321 →

Rural Ghanaians phrased their efforts for access to electrical power as claims to citizenship. The availability of electricity became a yard stick of how Ghanaians measured their inclusion into the nation, a sign of partaking in the promised modernity of the independence era.7 The chapter’s final section, based on oral histories, documents the struggle within two rural communities for access to the grid during the 1990s and 2000s. The outcome was uneven and gendered. While men, particularly elite men, enjoyed electricity in their leisure activities that made them feel modern, women expected that electricity should support their economic endeavors. Yet, the absence of reliable power quickly dampened such aspirations. Electricity became just another expense that drained limited resources with few benefits.

The Akosombo Dam and Nkrumah’s Dream

The Volta River Project, initially a colonial project conceived during the interwar period, was to harness Ghana’s electric power to process local bauxite into aluminum in the service of the metropole. Nkrumah, when becoming head of government under British rule in 1952, sought to transform the Volta project into the engine of the country’s modernization and industrialization. Although a Preparatory Commission declared the project economically sound and technologically feasible, British capital was reluctant to finance it. After independence in 1957, the Cold War context came to the project’s rescue. The U.S. government got involved. Kaiser Engineers of California redesigned it, reducing cost. The smelter would merely process imported instead of locally mined bauxite; the creation of an integrated aluminum industry was postponed. The Akosombo Dam was the product of U.S. technological expertise and funding.8

Despite the project’s reduced size, Nkrumah continued to cast the Volta project in the language of modernization. This also applied to the 80,000 people who were to lose their land and homes due to the dam. The resettled population was promised a better life in 52 new towns with modern amenities. Nkrumah outlined Akosombo’s potential, when seeking the National Assembly’s approval of the Master Agreement between ← 321 | 322 → Ghana and VALCO – the U.S. company to run the smelter. Although most electricity was allocated to VALCO, the Electricity Division would extend power beyond the initial grid.9 Nkrumah promised: “The abundant supply of electrical power will bring light to thousands of homes in the countryside where darkness now prevails.”10 The metaphor of turning darkness into light was the most powerful argument for rallying support.

A small celebration marked the beginning of power production at Akosombo. Readers of the Ghanaian Times not only learned that Ghana “made a great landmark in her industrialization programme as Osagyefo the President turned on a switch” but that the “power house began sending the country’s first hydro-electricity to Tema, Accra and other parts of southern Ghana.”11 Such reporting created vast expectations. Five days later, the traditional council of Senya Beraku inquired whether “in view of the recent opening of the Akosombo Electricity Power,” the transmission lines could be extended to their “ancient and historic” coastal town.12 Eddie Ampah, MP of Asebu for Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP), felt an entitlement for his hometown of Moree, east of Cape Coast, to be connected. Ampah boasted of having conveyed to his electorate “Osagyefo’s dream” of generating “abundant flow of electricity for use throughout every dwelling place in Ghana.” Since this dream had become reality, it was “imperative” for the Electricity Division to “strive tooth and nail” and provide Moree with power. The Asebu Local Council was prepared to contribute “hard cash and communal labor.”13 None of these requests led to an immediate connection to the Volta grid.

The Evening News, the CPP organ, spelled out how the grid would power the new industrial center in Tema, aid hospitals, schools, and factories. These benefits would be extended to “many towns and villages.” Bringing electricity to rural areas would lead to new industries, which would “check the drifts to town by school leavers and others in search ← 322 | 323 → of work.”14 Akosombo was to mitigate the rural to urban migration, a great concern of policy makers.15 A widely circulated publication of the Volta River Authority featured visuals of transmission lines and pylons, accompanied by the caption, “Power is the key to progress in Ghana.” It promised plenty of electricity to the more prosperous south, covered by the grid, “and in due course for the rest of Ghana too.”16

Waiting for Light

The coup that swept Nkrumah from power in February 1966 did not end the popular quest for electricity. In spite of regime change, government agencies continued nourishing hopes. Addressing students at the Accra Local Government Training School, P. Boi-Amporful, public relations officer of the Volta River Authority (VRA), declared that “the full benefit” of Akosombo could only be realized “when electric power reache[d] every home in Ghana.” VRA recommended for people in rural areas to “embark on building with cement concrete blocks, or burnt bricks, as swish buildings were not good enough for installing electric power.”17

The redundant diesel generating plants in cities now connected to the grid created additional expectation. The Daily Graphic announced that some of the smaller generators, including their technical staff, were to be moved to parts of the country that did not benefit from Akosombo.18 The image of idle diesel units led to jockeying for the possibility of local generation. Running these generators was an expensive endeavor, since their electricity was not allowed to cost more than Akosombo power. Rural electrification, based on local generation, would never pay for itself.

The NLC regime encountered difficulties to cope with expectations, especially in the disadvantaged north.19 A student association, referring to the 80,000 people who had lost their land and homes in the Volta Basin, noted that the entire country had made sacrifices for building the ← 323 | 324 → Akosombo Dam. Yet to the students’ “amazement,” the north had not benefited from the dam. The chief engineer replied that it was neither technically nor economically feasible to extend transmission to the north due to the small demand.20

Some petitions requested the extension of Volta power to places close to the grid. The chief of Begoro, a town in the mountains of Akyem Abuakwa above the Tafo substation, asked for a connection. Reasons mentioned were the size of the town and its educational institutions, including training colleges, middle schools, and a clinic. The chief deplored the “lack of electricity” as a “great handicap” for development.21 The Electricity Division, supported by a foreign loan, was working on extending the grid to increase its revenues. A Daily Graphic announcement that eleven towns were to receive Volta power triggered more requests.22 There was confusion about the reach of Akosombo power. The regional office in Ho complained about misleading press reports. The office missed instructions of how to reply to “numerous requests from communities in the [Volta] Region.” Frustrated, the officer pressed for a national plan and quipped that “both the rural communities and the Regional Office” were left “in the dark on this subject.”23

There were two reasons why regional offices were inundated by requests from rural communities. First, “the old regime,” as the Kumasi office noted, had made “unconsidered promises” to supply “every town and village with electricity as soon as Akosombo was completed.” Second, it had become known that the extension of Akosombo power to cities had resulted in generating machines “falling out of commission.” These idle plants could “be made available to towns and villages without electricity,” most of whom had started “making voluntary contributions towards the provision of local schemes for electrification.” The Kumasi office, flooded with petitions, did not received any guidance about the available assistance for “these rural enterprising people.” Kumasi asked whether the Electricity Division had ← 324 | 325 → plans “for supplying power from Akosombo or from redundant generators to the remote parts of the country.”24 Coming up with a consistent policy of how to expand access to electricity to rural areas proved to be challenging for the NLC and subsequent governments.

The Electricity Corporation and NLC Policy

In 1967, the NLC established the Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG) as the successor of the Electricity Division.25 The ECG was expected to conduct its affair on sound commercial lines. At the inauguration, Issifu Ali, NLC commissioner for the Ministry of Works and Housing, mentioned a plan for rural electrification that privileged the south and Ashanti. Many Ghanaians, especially those in the northern regions with no access the Volta grid, felt overlooked. The Sunyani regional office reported about being “bombarded by chiefs and leaders of villages and towns and Development Committees asking why the Brong Ahafo Region was conspicuously omitted.” Sunyani stressed the economic importance of Brong Ahafo where most of the country’s cocoa, timber, and foodstuff was produced. It reminded the NLC about the “embarrassing” end of the Bui Project and suggested releasing some of the fourteen generating plants sitting idle in Kumasi.26 The Bui Dam on the Black Volta had been part of Nkrumah’s Cold War strategy of straddling both superpowers. Against VRA advice, he had invited the Soviets to design a second large dam at Bui to electrify the north. By 1966 Soviets engineers had initiated preconstruction, yet Bui was abandoned after the coup.27 The Bolgatanga office urged the NLC to prevent a situation in which the people of the Upper Region would continue walking “in darkness” and not seeing “the great light from Akosombo or any other source.” ECG should either move generators north or make more effective use of plants operated by other government agencies.28 ← 325 | 326 →

The NLC was forced to decide on a policy. The principal secretary of the Ministry of Works and Housing requested from ECG managing director E. Q. H. Acquah a detailed plan, as there was “considerable pressure from all angles” for the supply of electricity to rural communities. Acquah responded with a frank assessment. Laying out the history of rural electrification, he recalled a 1961 report that had recommended placing diesel generating plants in 53 towns beyond the grid. For “financial reasons” this proposal had been shelved. Assuming that 70 percent of the original cost represented investment in imported material, and considering inflation and exchange rates, the project would have cost 11.5 million new cedi ($16.1 million).29 Acquah explained that most of the bigger generating units, like those from Kumasi, were too large to be transferred to smaller centers. Whenever possible, they should be sold. The smaller generating stations would operate at a loss due to the high diesel cost and limited revenue. He considered “rural electrification even on a medium scale … not sound economics.”30

ECG lacked the means to launch a rural electrification program. Should the government wish to take such as step, as Acquah noted, it would have to create a special fund. NLC promised support, including a subvention to cover ECG losses on uneconomic generating stations brought into operations “for social and other reasons.”31 In spite of high costs, NLC recognized the political necessity and public expectation to launch a moderate rural electrification program. In this case of technopolitics, rural electrification acquired national priority. The implementation of the NLC policy was slow. Funds were allocated in 1968 to establish small generating plants in Bechem (Brong Ahafo), Suhum (Eastern Region), Wiawso (Western Region), and Wa (Upper Region), with Wenchi (Brong Ahafo) and Yendi (Northern Region) as possible additions for the following year.32 These six towns constituted the first phase of the rural electrification program. In addition to these generating stations, ECG sought to extend ← 326 | 327 → the Volta grid to the Akuapem towns of Mampong, Akropong, Larteh, and Adukrom (Figure 2).33

Figure 2. Map of Ghana with initial power grid and rural diesel generating stations


Source: Second Annual Report of Electricity Corporation of Ghana (1969), courtesy of ECG. ← 327 | 328 →

In August 1969, as Ghana was preparing for elections that led to the Second Republic, the Joint Houses of Chiefs entered the debate. Congratulating the government on establishing a Ministry for Rural Development, the chiefs requested health services, feeder roads, and electrification. They recalled the assurance of “the old regime” that the completion of the Volta project would not only bring electrification for the “whole country” but “cheaper electricity supply for all.” Yet since the start of power generation at Akosombo, only “commercial towns and mining areas” had received electricity. Addressing the fate of the resettlement communities, the chiefs commented that “even in certain areas where the inhabitants [had] terribly suffered as a result of the Akosombo Dam,” no provision had been made for “essential amenities to compensate the people for their great sacrifice.” Recently there had been an announcement about an agreement between the Ghanaian and the Canadian governments to extend Akosombo power to the neighboring countries of Togo and Dahomey (Benin). As “fathers” of the people, the chiefs critiqued the “injustice” committed towards Ghanaians. According to the saying “Charity begins at home,” electrification should first happen in Ghana.34 Following Nkrumah’s promise, the chiefs still expected cheap power. Nobody had explained that Ghana sought to export power to increase hard currency revenues.

The chiefs addressed rural to urban migration. While they welcomed the government’s decision to invest into agriculture, they felt that, without rural electrification, people who had “drifted” from villages to towns would “never return to help in the implementation of this laudable scheme.” Initiatives by “businessmen in establishing industries in their indigenous rural areas” would be hampered without the availability of electricity. The chiefs recommended for government “to raise a loan for the electrification of the whole of Ghana.” Ghanaians were frustrated since they expected lower electricity rates, as promised with Akosombo. Current rates contributed to the “high cost of living.” The chiefs urged reducing them, especially for low-income people, and expressed surprise that “certain foreign firms,” meaning VALCO, paid less for electricity.35 As the NLC regime relinquished power to a civilian government, Akosombo’s high hopes had not been fulfilled. Most Ghanaians were still waiting for light. Would the incoming Progress Party, committed to rural development in lieu of industrialization, be more successful with rural electrification? ← 328 | 329 →

Second Republic and Rural Electrification

The Second Republic brought K. A. Busia, Nkrumah’s old nemesis, to power. As prime minister, he accelerated NLC economic policies by granting loans to farmers and constructing feeder roads. He pursued a rigid Ghanaianization through the Aliens Compliance Order, expelling 150,000 West Africans.36 With a renewed focus on the well-being of the country’s rural areas, ECG faced accusations of neglect. In a letter to the chief executive of the Western Region, a regional manager explained how ECG had studied the cost of providing electricity to the five towns of Esiama, Kikam, Axim, Halfi Assini, and Sefwi Wiawso. But the NLC had failed to release funds:

Therefore, if you do not see E.C.G. lighting up our towns and villages it is not because of lack of interest or an improper sense of responsibility as you accuse us of. … We have done the preliminary survey and produced the estimates. We cannot do any more until we receive the required funds.37

The NLC government was blamed for the slow implementation of rural electrification.

Seeking an end to the funding shortage, managing director Acquah suggested a concrete solution. On behalf of ECG, NLC had entered into two loan agreements: one with the German Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW) in 1966 for DM 20 million ($5 million) to finance the reconstruction and extension of Accra’s distribution network; the other in 1968 with the International Development Agency (IDA) for a loan of $10 million to secure additional consumers for the Volta grid. Yet as “sub-borrower,” ECG paid the principal to government over a shorter time period than the latter’s obligation towards its lenders. Furthermore, government profited from the interest rate differential between borrower and sub-borrower. In the case of KFW, the differential was 3 to 5 percent, in the case of the IDA loan, 0 to 6.25 percent! ECG calculated that government had so far accrued a profit on these loans of 250,000 new cedi ($264,000). Acquah urged the government to put this money into rural electrification.38 He welcomed Busia’s personal interest ← 329 | 330 → and hoped his government would provide the necessary funding.39 The Easter Region, particularly Koforidua, Akropong, and Larteh, became the main beneficiary of a grid extension financed by the IDA credit. In Ashanti, towns along the lines to Kumasi, like Ejisu and Konongo, were connected.40

During the planning of the Volta River Project, Busia had been one of the few who expressed reservations. In 1953, when the Legislative Assembly debated the establishment of the Preparatory Commission, Busia questioned the project’s scale and warned about its “sociological implications,” particularly the “movements of population” and “submergence of old towns.”41 Busia recalled in 1971 with some vindication that he had argued for a “smaller generating facility requiring less investment,” which would “have served the needs of the country more efficiently.” He criticized Akosombo for mainly providing cheap power for VALCO.42

One month later, when the regional chief executive visited the Anum-Boso area close to Akosombo, the traditional council secretary echoed some of Busia’s critique. In his welcome address, the secretary remarked:

[It] is a pity that our people [who] have sacrificed much land, much time, much labor and much good wishes to make the building of the Volta Dam a success, do see the lights at night but do not enjoy the lights. We are therefore asking that we should be considered as a matter of urgency when the Government is implementing here a rural electrification scheme.43

ECG replied with its standard response that Anum-Bonso was not included in the current program but would be considered in the next phase.44 Although Busia’s government expressed its commitment to rural development including electrification, it was not in power long enough to implement most of its policies. ← 330 | 331 →

National Redemption Council and Rural Electrification

In January 1972, Colonel I. K. Acheampong ousted Busia in a military coup. The new government, called National Redemption Council (NRC), reversed many of Busia’s policies, prominently the devaluation of the cedi. The NRC, adopting a moral and revolutionary tone, embraced the socialist outlook of the Nkrumah era by distancing itself from Western powers, repudiating Ghana’s foreign debt, and nationalizing foreign-owned industries of mining, timber, and oil.45 Unlike Busia, Acheampong welcomed any opportunity to celebrate the Volta River Project. The state press reported extensively about Akosombo’s tenth anniversary.46 Similar to Busia, the NRC supported private farmers willing to increase their domestic food production through its campaign Operation Feed Yourself, and pursued agricultural initiatives like the fledging rural electrification scheme. This continued to be a difficult and under-funded endeavor.47

Government officials remained aware of penned up frustration about the lack of electrical power for over 90 percent of Ghanaians.48 The regional office in Tamale reported that the electrification program, started by the “ousted Progress Party,” had severely neglected the Northern Region, with the exception of Yendi where a generating plant had been installed. The officer warned: “Unless prompt action is taken to remedy the situation, we shall be blamed for not bringing this unfortunate state of affairs to the notice of the Government.”49 Addressing this issue, the regional office requested from the commissioner of Works and Housing to implement a plan that would supply electricity to major towns in the region over the next three years.50 ← 331 | 332 →

In December 1972, Acheampong inaugurated the Akosombo expansion program, which included two additional generators with a maximum capacity of 162 MW each, and a new transmission line that supplied Togo and Dahomey with Akosombo power.51 In Ghana, the main beneficiary was VALCO, which increased its power demand from 240 to 300 MW. The sale of Akosombo power to neighboring countries remained controversial. One Philip-Hector Agbeko questioned the decision made by the previous military regime to export electricity. In fairness, Agbeko noted, “Volta Power must necessarily be given first to the Volta Region in compensation to the many mishaps which befell during the construction of the dam.” Accusing the government of “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he deplored that Akosombo power was sold to run expensive diesel generators in rural towns. Evoking the project of nation building, he urged Acheampong to “supply the Volta Power for the people of the Volta Region,” as they had “demonstrated [their] unflinching support to the N.R.C., a regime now giving every Ghanaian the desires of dutifulness and patriotism.”52 The NRC, conscious of its popular standing, requested from government agencies progress reports for its first anniversary brochure. ECG complied by listing the completions of overhead lines, improved substations, and the modest gains of rural electrification.53

The ECG offered a detailed assessment on Ghana’s electrification to the Ministry of Works and Housing in 1973. Although Akosombo had an installed capacity of 912 MW, this enormous power potential was not fully used, due to a lack of load demand and due to high equipment and construction cost hindering grid expansion. The whole country, with the exception of VALCO, was merely using 128 MW, equal to the power output of one older turbine at Akosombo. ECG, in addition to purchasing the bulk of its power from VRA, operated twenty diesel generating stations in towns beyond the Volta grid. These stations were “not viable,” ← 332 | 333 → all “operating at a loss,” with the exception of Tamale that broke even.54 The report admitted:

[The] very high hopes generated around the country during the construction of the Akosombo Dam, that abundant and cheap electric power would soon be available to light up our cities, towns, villages, and hamlets [had] not materialized, much to the anguish and frustration of many, especially, those living in the rural areas.55

Still, the report emphasized the “importance of electric power in the industrial, commercial, and social development” of the nation. Previous governments had tried, “with some measure of success,” to realize a rural electrification program, which had been hampered by the country’s unfavorable financial position. The Progress Party government had appointed a “high-powered” committee, which had produced a policy document in 1971. It recommended the establishment of a separate rural electrification department within ECG and indicated funding sources, such as annual government allocation, ECG profits, interests on government loans to ECG, portion of VRA operating surplus, and foreign aid, for the acquisition of generating plants. The implementation of these recommendations were “over-taken by events,” meaning the 1972 coup.56

The report observed that the “per capital consumption of electric power [remained] a veritable index of a Country’s status of industrial, commercial and social development.” The ECG, with limited funds provided by previous governments, had completed Phase I of its program and, relying on its own funds, had electrified a number of towns. Yet rural generating stations had accrued estimated deficits of 795,000 cedi ($516,750) by June 1973. Finally, the report listed the accomplishments of Phase I and Phase II for the country’s electrification, established a list of criteria for towns and villages to be considered, and suggested a joint rural electrification scheme with the Water and Sewage Department.57 ← 333 | 334 → This sobering report showed the difficulties in extending electricity to the vast majority of Ghanaians, and the utmost failure to realize the promises made by Nkrumah and others during the construction of Akosombo. Still, it is striking how successive governments, aware of political pressure, continued to express their commitment to a rural electrification program even if they achieved only few results. It took another 15 years until Ghana began extending the Volta grid to the north, as part of a National Electrification Scheme.

The (P)NDC National Electrification Scheme

In 1987 the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) under J. J. Rawlings, the military government in power since 1982, launched an ambitious National Electrification Scheme with support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to provide electricity to all parts of the country. The VRA contributed to the scheme by extending the Volta grid from Kumasi to Brong Ahafo, the Northern, and the Upper Regions and by taking took over the distribution of electric power through its new subsidiary, the Northern Electricity Department, to northern consumers.58 At the inauguration celebrating the extension of the grid to the Northern Region, Rawlings evoked the legacy of Nkrumah and declared: “This occasion marks the fulfillment of a dream conceived so many years ago” (Figure 3).59 ← 334 | 335 →

Figure 3. Map of Ghana with northern extension of power grid to Tamale and Bolgatanga


Source: Volta River Authority Annual Report 28 (1989), courtesy of VRA. ← 335 | 336 →

A planning document took stock: By the mid-1980s, Ghana had about 250,000 electricity consumers, meaning that merely 10 percent of the population had access to power. The major cities of Accra, Tema, Takoradi, Kumasi, and Cape Coast accounted for 70 percent of these consumers. Excluding sales to VALCO and the exports to Togo and Benin, the per capita consumption of electricity was about 110 kilowatt hours, which was lower than in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire (217 kilowatt hours). Sales had grown steadily in the 1970s at an annual rate of 6.3 percent but slowed down starting in 1977 due to economic decline. In the early 1980s, sales dropped by a third because of drought, which caused VRA to reduce its hydro generation by more than 50 percent.60 Since the vast majority of Ghanaians lived in rural areas, and the bulk of the nation’s wealth was produced through agriculture, the rational of rural electrification was fostering socio-economic development.

The extension of electricity to the north, celebrated in the press, became a way for the PNDC government to “gain greater credibility and legitimacy,” as Rose Mensah-Kutin has argued.61 In 1992, Rawlings and his new party, National Democratic Congress (NDC), won a disputed presidential election. The national electrification scheme had shorn up NDC support in rural areas and across northern regions. The government made an effort to complete on-going electrification projects started with communal help. By 2002, all district capitals were connected to the grid. Towns and villages located within 12.5 miles of a grid substation gained access to Volta power, if they had erected poles and wired 30 percent of their houses. By 1999, 900 towns and villages had received electric power under this self-help program.62 Finally by 2005, all 52 resettlement towns were connected to the grid.63

The Experience of Electrification

Oral history is a useful methodology to learn about the meanings of electricity in people’s lives. I conducted interviews in the Kwawu village of Besease, which received Akosombo kanea (light), as electricity is called ← 336 | 337 → in Ghana’s Twi speaking areas, through the self-help program. Besease is a village with 3,000 people, located half a mile from the Nkawkaw-Kumasi road in the Eastern Region. The people do subsistence farming and cultivate cocoa and oil palms as cash crops. A lack of economic opportunity has led to out-migration. It was a long struggle to have the power lines extended to Besease. As the Volta grid runs along the main road to Kumasi, the people in Besease had seen the transmission lines for decades without receiving their benefits.

The PNDC established district assemblies in 1988 as a form of decentralization.64 When the chief of Besease, Nana Owusu Kyere, had become an assembly man, he sought to improve the local infrastructure. First priority was not electricity but clean water. He and his successor secured the digging of seven boreholes. Then he turned his attention to electricity, which was a slow endeavor, despite the closeness to the grid. Kwahu Praso, a small town to the north and once an important railway station, received priority. As the new power lines to Praso hung over their heads, the people of Besease had to fight for an extension of electricity. Nana Owusu recalled:

We helped ourselves… We organized communal harvest and realized about seven million cedi ($1,400)… We informed the district assembly and appealed to it, and the assembly helped by bringing the wires and poles here. When the materials arrived, we organized communal labor and erected all the poles. Then they pulled the wires on for us.65

During the communal harvest, each resident had to pay 10,000 cedi (about $2), those living outside of Besease 20,000 cedi each. There was a gendered division of labor, as the 86 year-old Akosua Agyeiwaa Brenya noted. Women carried stones and cooked meals; men dug holes and erected poles. When the power finally arrived, there were not enough meters, a frequent problem in rural electrification.66 Brenya commented on how the allocation of meters depended on party affiliation:

When the meters came, at first I did not get one. NDC was ruling. They said that the members of the NDC would have to be supplied before members of the NPP [New Patriotic Party] would be supplied… I even quarreled with them. I told them that my children had grown. I had no child who would suck ← 337 | 338 → my breast. And so if I slept in darkness, there was no child who would cry and would demand water in the night, which I would hunt myself. And so I would sleep in (darkness) until it would be my turn to receive a meter. Truly, Kufuor came [NPP president 2001-2009] and I got one.67

Nana Owusu acknowledged a shortage of meters. Public buildings like schools and churches received meters, as well as the chief and other “opinion leaders.” Some houses agreed to share one meter, which created controversy over paying bills.68

The arrival of electricity signified, as Nana Owusu emphasized, the end of “darkness.” Elders highlighted that they found their way easily walking to the toilet at night. The town was moving “forward,” as the availability of electricity led to small mechanized enterprises, such as the pressing of palm oil and the sale of “ice water.” The local barber switched to using an electric razor; the tailor exchanged the foot pedal of his sewing machine with an electrical motor. During funerals, Besease’s biggest party, out-of-town guests and the locals enjoyed a cold beer.69 Brenya and the assembly man mentioned that children could now study at night; they no longer competed with elders for the use of kerosene lanterns.70

The availability of electricity triggered a demand for appliances. Yet for many such goods remained beyond their financial means. Brenya explained that she only had one wireless radio. In the past she had spent money on buying batteries; now she connects her radio to the grid at less cost. Brenya praised the advantages of having a fridge to store food but admitted that she cannot afford one. The payment of the monthly “light bill” is a struggle. This was confirmed by Darteh who stressed that many farmers failed to pay their bills; some even lost their meters.71 The use of appliances is gendered, as Mensah-Kutin has suggested. There is a distinct male interest in audio/video cassette recorders and television sets for leisure, while women are more eager to acquire fridges and hairdryers, frequently as an income device.72 Wealthier people, especially men, have not only benefited more from electricity but are consuming new appliances. This has affected their sense of self and place. Nana Owusu commented: ← 338 | 339 →

Since the introduction of Akosombo one sits in one’s room and enjoys… even the other day I was saying that it seems as if I am living in Accra. This is because the light has helped me. I have TV, video, and in fact I have everything and so I am able to enjoy myself in my room. In the recent past none of these were available. This has improved the life of the people. People in Accra are enjoying TV, video and I am just like someone in Accra. It does not matter that I am in a village. The things that Akosombo kanea has provided for me are like living in a big town.73

Thanks to Akosombo, Nana Owusu feels connected to the capital city of Accra and to the world. He no longer needs to travel to experience a sense of urbanity. Darkness has been replaced by light.

In the resettlement town of Amate, located in the Afram Plains (Eastern Region), electricity arrived in 2003.74 The creation of Volta Lake had a tremendous impact on the climate in this border zone between savannah and forest. It has become difficult to make a living based on rain-fed agriculture. In the 1970s the NRC government, as part of its Operation Feed Yourself, had launched an irrigation project at Amate, making a difference for seven years. But since it broke down, farmers have been suffering. Togbe Kwame Soku, the local Ewe chief, resented the fact that the VRA had extended electricity to neighboring countries but failed to provide the resettlement towns, whose original residents had lost much due to the flooding. Soku elaborated how they had requested access to the grid for years to the point of giving up. His friend Hayford Ansong, assembly man from 1988 to 2000, recalled how the NDC government brought the poles to Amate in the late 1990s. Finally the NPP government, not much liked in Amate, connected the town to the grid. Although the residents received the coveted meters for the nominal sum of 20,000 cedi, the arrival of electricity did not lead to the anticipated economic improvement.75 Even Soku and Ansong, who were better off than most farmers in Amate, lacked the capital to use electric power for irrigation pumps or other machines. Ansong wished the government had provided loans that would have allowed him to achieve “prosperity” by planting irrigated tobacco and other cash crops. Soku explained that he had disconnected his fridge and television, since he rather used the money for his children’s school fees instead of paying electricity bills.76 ← 339 | 340 →

Several women had similar reactions. Adwoa Fosuah, a 72 year-old farmer, noted that people had difficulties paying their bills. She would have preferred had the government improved the road and restored the irrigation project. “What is darkness?,” she is asked. “For all the time we have been staying here, we had no electricity. But we lived fine.”77 Fosuah reflected the frustration of having waited for power too long. In the meantime, the roads leading to Amate had deteriorated and the town lacked water. These two infrastructural problems were more urgent, especially considering the unreliability of power. Fosuah explained:

With the coming of electricity some people went and bought deep freezers to make ice water to sell. These laudable ideas were short-lived. In no time all the deep freezers got spoiled due to rampant power outages. Sometimes it goes off for a whole week, or more. When any of the poles, or cables, are damaged, and nobody takes the responsibility to call and report to the office in Mpraeso or Nkawkaw, it takes weeks before they will come and repair it. This makes the use of electric power here very unsafe and non-profitable. For that matter, neither the men nor the women have really benefited from the electric power that has been brought to us, except for watching TV.78

Nobody is advised to start a cold store in Amate, as the meat and fish would be rotten within one day during a power outage. The availability of electricity has not improved the quality of schools either, since teachers have remained reluctant to accept an appointment in Amate, due to lack of food and “other basic necessities.”79 Furthermore, as Salome Mirekuah noted, many people cannot afford to pay the monthly electricity bills. If her grandson had not pleaded with the ECG officer during his last visit, she would have lost her meter.80 Another elderly woman, Adwoa Animwaa, confirmed that many people who had received electricity could not pay the bills and have since been disconnected.81 All my interview partners would have preferred to receive first support for an irrigation system and then gaining access to the Volta grid. These testimonies show that only reliable electricity, without power outages, can improve people’s livelihood.

Nana Atuobi Yiadom, the korontihene (subchief) of Amate, had a more positive attitude. He stressed that they used to live “in darkness” ← 340 | 341 → but electricity “had brought some small changes” to their lives. Watching television, he could see now what went on in Accra. Still he concurred that electricity did not help with the economic situation of the town. Amate would have been better served had the government invested funds in refurbishing the broken irrigation project and fixed the road.82


In Ghana, the construction of the Akosombo Dam in the early 1960s created expectations that soon the entire country would benefit from an ample supply of cheap electricity. This did not happen. Addressing such unfulfilled promises, successive governments, military and civil, were compelled to pronounce their intention of extending electricity to the country’s rural areas and the northern regions, which had remained beyond the grid. One response was installing diesel generating plants that operated at great financial cost.

Research in the ECG archive has allowed a reconstruction of government policies that were formulated, discussed, and implemented by mid level bureaucrats and engineers. The archive reveals how chiefs, town development committees, and other community leaders made their case when they expressed their desire for electricity. They linked access to electric power with hopes for economic development and for stemming the rural to urban migration of their youth. They framed their requests in terms of nation building and citizenship. They would only consider themselves full citizen of Ghana, if the wonders of Akosombo, or at least a diesel generator, reached their towns and villages. The quest of electricity became part of technopolitics, deployed by government officials and engineers, as well as shaped by community leaders through their stream of requests for Akosombo power.

Oral histories conducted in two Eastern Region villages, recently connected to the grid, have provided insight into the meanings of electricity for those whose lives shifted from the proverbial darkness into light. For them, electricity did not become the panacea for their economic woes, especially not in the poor resettlement town of Amate. Also, when available, electricity has tended to enhance existing inequities. Those who had more could take advantage of this new commodity by purchasing a television, running a fridge, or even powering an electric pump or a grinder. However, only reliable electricity is a worthwhile economic investment, particularly for cold storage. For those with less, electricity did not make much of a difference in their livelihood. Some even ← 341 | 342 → experienced an increased sense of exclusion, as they could not partake in a modern world opened by electricity. This technological innovation had a gendered dimension in the organization of daily routines, as men and women had very different ideas of how the new commodity should be used, and should make a difference in their lives. Still for all, electricity meant light at night, even if it only shone from a street pole. For many, as they watched the football World Cup on television, they felt a sense of belonging to a larger community that incorporated the nation of Ghana but frequently reached beyond.

In 2008, as Ghana prepared for presidential elections, I traveled in a rural area not far from the Akosombo Dam, where the Krobo people, known as the country’s most productive farmers, are still waiting for electricity. Hand-painted signboards were displayed along the road with the inscription: “No Light, No Vote.” The distinction of having electricity has indeed become a key marker of citizenship.

1 Research was supported by the American Council of Learned Societies; the President’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities, University of California; and the Academic Senate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. I am grateful to the Electricity Corporation of Ghana and the Volta River Authority for providing me access to their archives.

2 G. A. Anomesi II, Queenmother-Golokwati to NLC Chairman, 21 June 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 132, Electricity Company of Ghana Archive (ECG-A).

3 In West Africa, prior to the Second World War, the use of electricity was only moderately widespread in Nigeria, which produced power by coal. In Cameroon, the French built a hydroelectric dam at Edea to fuel an aluminum smelter in the 1950s. Elsewhere, there was only limited local power generation. For a brief overview, see Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, “Electricity Networks in Africa: A Comparative Study, or How to Write Social History from Economic Sources,” in Sources and Methods in African History, ed. Toyin Falola and Christian Jennings (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2003), 346-60.

4 Leonard Gentle, “Escom to Eskom: From Racial Kenynesian Capitalism to Neo-Liberalism (1910-1994),” in Electric Capitalism: Recolonising Africa on the Power Grid, ed. David A. McDonald (London: Earthscan, 2009), 50-72; Renfrew Christie, Electricity, Industry, and Class in South Africa (Albany: SUNY Press, 1984). For a pioneering study on municipal electrification, see Mhoze Chikowero, “Subalternating Currents: Electrification and Power Politics in Bulawayo, Colonial Zimbabwe, 1894-1939,” Journal of Southern African Studies 33/2 (2007): 287-306.

5 For the term “technopolitics,” see Gabrielle Hecht (ed.), Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011), 3; Gabrielle Hecht, The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II, rev. ed. (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2009).

6 In Senegal access rates to the power grid is 50 percent; in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, and Burkina Faso below 20 percent. In Nigeria, 90 million people (55 percent of the population) do not have access to the grid; the widespread use of back-up generators suggests that the population without any electricity is smaller. South Africa has the highest electrification rate (85 percent) in sub-Saharan Africa. In Mozambique the rate is 40 and in Tanzania 24 percent. International Energy Agency, Africa Energy Outlook: A Focus on Energy Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa (Paris: IEA, 2014), 31-2.

7 For the expectations of and disillusionment with modernity, see James Ferguson, Expectations of Modernity: Myths, Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999) and James Ferguson, Global Shadow: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), esp. chap. 7. For a discussion of aspirations associated with modernization during the independence era, see Peter Bloom, Stephan F. Miescher, and Takyiwaa Manuh (eds.), Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014).

8 For the beginnings of the Volta River Project, see Stephan F. Miescher, “‘Nkrumah’s Baby’: The Akosombo Dam and the Dream of Development in Ghana, 1952-1966,” Water History 6/4 (2014): 341-66.

9 Kwame Nkrumah, “The Volta River Project: National Assembly, 21 February 1961,” in Selected Speeches by Kwame Nkrumah, Vol. 2, ed. Samuel Obeng (Accra: Afram Publications, 1997), 37-38. The Master Agreement gave VALCO very favorable conditions, see Ronald Graham, The Aluminium Industry and the Third World: Multinational Corporations and Underdevelopment (London: Zed, 1982), 198-246.

10 Kwame Nkrumah “Volta River Project: To the National Assembly, 25 March 1963,” in Selected Speeches, Vol. 5, ed. Samuel Obeng (Accra: Afram Publications, 1997), 22.

11 “Kwame Sees his Dream Become Reality,” Ghana Times (GT), 18 Sept. 1965, 3; “Kwame Turns On Volta Power,” Daily Graphic (DG), 18 Sept. 1965, 1, 3.

12 Traditional Council’s Office to Principal Secretary (PS), Ministry of Works, 22 Sept. 1965, Box 47, 565/Vol. 8, No. 67, ECG-A.

13 Eddi B. K. Ampah Jr., MP, to Electrical Engineer, Cape Coast, 13 Oct. 1965, Box 47, 565/Vol. 8, No. 68, ECG-A.

14 A Nationalist, “Volta River Project: What it Stands for,” Evening News, 13 Dec. 1965, 2.

15 For a scholar’s response, hoping for the “success of plans of industrialization” that will “greatly change the nature of life in Ghana’s towns,” see John C. Caldwell, “Migration and Urbanization,” in A Study of Contemporary Ghana, Vol. 2, ed. Walter Birmingham, Ilia Neustadt, and Emmanuel N. Omaboe (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), 146.

16 Keith Jopp, The Story of Ghana’s Volta River Project (Accra: Volta River Authority, 1965), 59. The Volta River Authority, established as a public utility company in 1961, took charge of electricity generation and transmission in Ghana.

17 “VRA power should reach all homes,” DG, 19 March 1966, 1.

18 “New Body to Sell Volta Power,” DG, 25 Nov. 1965.

19 Ghana’s north, less developed than the south, served as the labor reservoir during the colonial period.

20 Association of Northern Students Overseas, London to the NLC chairman, 26 Sept. 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 10, Nos. 53-54, ECG-A; Chief Electrical Engineer (CEE) to PS, Ministry of Works and Housing, 9 Feb. 1968, Box 47, 565/Vol. 10, No. 65, ECG-A. For the hardships endured by the resettled population, see Stephan F. Miescher, “‘No One Should Be Worse Off’: The Akosombo Dam, Modernization, and the Experience of Resettlement in Ghana,” in Modernization as Spectacle, 184-204.

21 Nana Antwi Awua III, Benkumhene Akim Abuakwa, Begoro, to CEE, 7 Jan. 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 74, ECG-A. A subsequent report noted that 1,202 prospective consumers would benefit from a connection, see Electricity Division, Koforidua to Managing Director (MD), 19 Sept. 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 144, ECG-A.

22 See the request from Fomena, Adansi (Ashanti Region) referring to DG (15 March 1967) that the Obuasi mining area would receive Volta power: Fomena Improvement Association to MD ECG, 16 March 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 85, ECG-A.

23 Regional Office, Ho, to PS, Ministry of Works and Housing, 30 June 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 111, ECG-A.

24 Regional Office, Kumasi, to PS Ministry of Works and Housing, 23 March 1967, ECG-A Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 124, ECG-A.

25 Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG), First Report and Statement of Accounts 1967/68, 1, ECG-A Box 524. NLC Decree 125, 20 Jan. 1967, established the ECG; Executive Instrument 59, 29 June 1967, transferred all assets and liabilities of the former Electricity Division to the ECG, as of 1 July 1967.

26 Office of the Regional Committee of Administration, Sunyani, to PS Ministry of Works and Housing, 8 July 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 117, ECG-A.

27 See Stephan F. Miescher and Ddzodzi Tsikata, “Hydro-Power and the Promise of Modernization and Development in Ghana: Comparing the Akosombo and Bui Dam Projects,” Ghana Studies 12/13 (2009/2010), 26-8. For Soviet development strategies, see Alessandro Iandolo, “The Rise and Fall of the ‘Soviet Model of Development’ in West Africa, 1957-64,” Cold War History 12/4 (2012), 683-704.

28 At Navrongo, the Department of Community Development and Social Welfare had an electric plant that could supply the whole town, as this department only used “an infinitesimal fraction” of the generated power. Upper Regional Office, Bolgatanga, to PS Ministry of Works & Housing, 24 July 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, Nos. 118-19, ECG-A.

29 The original cost had been 3.5 million pounds ($9.8 million). The Ghana pound was at par with the pound sterling (£1=$2.80). In July 1965, the cedi was decimalized to equal 100 old pennies, with no alteration to the external exchange rate, C1=$1.17. In February 1967, the currency was again decimalized, to the equivalent of ten old shillings, or £0.5, the unit of currency became the new cedi (NC); the exchange rate against the dollar became, NC 1=$1.40. In July 1967, the cedi was devalued to worth $0.98.

30 MD to PS Ministry of Works and Housing, 10 Oct. 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 10, Nos. 4-6, ECG-A.

31 MD to PS Ministry of Works and Housing, 10 Oct. 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 10, Nos. 4-6, ECG-A; NLC Office to PS Ministry of Economic Affairs, 22 Jan. 1968, Box 47, 565/Vol. 10, No. 50, ECG-A.

32 PS Ministry of Works and Housing to MD, 2 Dec. 1968, Box 47, 565/Vol. 11, No. 15, ECG-A.

33 PS, Ministry of Works and Housing to PS, Ministry of Economic Affairs, 30 May 1969, Box 47, 565/Vol. 11, No. 61, ECG-A. Adukrom was only added after Air Vice Marshall M. A. Otu lobbied for his hometown: Otu to MD, 21 June 1967, Box 47, 565/Vol. 9, No. 125, ECG-A.

34 Resolutions by Joint Houses of Chiefs, 1 Aug. 1969, Box 47, 565/Vol. 11, Nos. 85-88, ECG-A.

35 Ibid. For VALCO, see Graham, Aluminium Industry, 198-246.

36 See John D. Esseks, “Economic Policies,” in Politicians and Soldiers in Ghana, 1966-1972, ed. Dennis Austin and Robin Luckham (London: Frank Cass, 1975), 37-61. Tony Killick, Development Economics in Action: A Study of Economic Policies in Ghana, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2010), 340-2.

37 Regional Manager, Takoradi, to Regional Chief Executive, Sekondi, 13 Sept. 1969, Box 47, 565/Vol. 11, No. 89, ECG-A.

38 MD to PS, Ministry Public Works, 6 Dec. 1969, Box 47, 565/Vol. 11, Nos. 123-25, ECG-A.

39 Regional Administrative Office, Western Region to MD, ECG, 28 Dec. 1969, Box 47, 565/Vol. 11, Nos. 147, ECG-A.

40 See the overview of ECG projects undertaken 1968-70, CE to PS, Works and Housing, 20 May 1970, Box 47 565/Vol. 12, Nos. 141-136, ECG-A.

41 23 Feb. 1953, Gold Coast Legislative Assembly Debates, Session 1953, Issue No. 1 (Vol. 1) (Accra: Government Printing Department, 1953), 496, 498. See Miescher, “Nkrumah’s Baby,” 347-48.

42 Speech by Prime Minister K. A. Busia at the inauguration of the re-constituted VRA, 21 Oct. 1971, SD-R/60, Volta River Authority Archive (VRA-A).

43 Office of Regional Administration, Koforidua, to Sub-Regional Manager, ECG, Koforidua, 30 Nov. 1971, Box 47, 565/Vol. 14, No. 67, ECG-A.

44 Chief Engineer (CE) to Regional Administrative Office, Koforidua, January 22 1971, Box 47, 565/Vol. 14, No. 69, ECG-A.

45 Killick, Development Economics, 347-48.

46 “V.R.A. Celebrates 10th Anniversary,” supplement to DG, 22 Jan 1976, 5-8; “V.R.A. is 10 Years Old,” supplement to DG, 23 Jan. 1976, 5, 7-8.

47 By Dec. 1974, the ECG had a total of 138,184 consumers, among them 102,166 domestic users. These figures include a total of 3,116 rural electrification consumers, among them 2,150 domestic users. See ECG, Annual Report 1974 (Vol. 7), Appendix VIII, Box 526, ECG-A.

48 This figure is based on an estimated population in 1974 of 10 million and on 102,166 reported domestic users, and an assumed average household size of about 5 to 8 people.

49 Regional Administrative Office, Tamale, to Regional Manager, 17 Jan. 1973, Box 48, 565/Vol. 15, No. 25, ECG-A.

50 Regional Office Tamale to Commissioner, Works and Housing, 19 March 1973, Box 48, 565/Vol. 15, No. 81, ECG-A. Under the suggested program, Salaga was supposed to receive a generating plant in 1972/73, Damongo and Bole in 1973/74, Gamgaba and Savelugu in 1974/75, and Bimbilla in 1975/76.

51 Speech by E. L. Quartey, VRA chief executive, at commissioning ceremony of Akosombo expansion project, 21 Dec. 1972, SD-R/60, VRA-A. The cost of the Akosombo expansion and Togo-Dahomey transmission was 22.6 million cedi ($14.69 million), with over half provided by an interest-free loan from the Canadian government. See James Moxon, Volta, Man’s Greatest Lake: The Story of Ghana’s Akosombo Dam, rev. ed. (London: Deutsch, 1984), 247.

52 Philip-Hector Agbeko to NRC Chairman, 27 July 1972, Box 47, 565/Vol. 14, Nos. 119-118, ECG-A.

53 Ministry of Housing to MD, 26 Oct. 1972 and CE to PS Ministry of Works and Housing, 13 Nov. 1972, Box 47, 565/Vol. 14, Nos. 146-45 and 148-47, ECG-A.

54 CE to PS, Ministry Works and Housing (with Appendixes I-V), 11 April 1973, Box 48, 565/Vol. 15, Nos. 87-85 and 100-88, ECG-A. The losses were a frequent concern: the government provided no payments towards them until Dec. 1972: Facts on Rural Electrification (Phase I), Jan. 1973, Box 48, 565/Vol. 15, Nos. 33-29, ECG-A.

55 CE to PS, Ministry Works and Housing, 11 April 1973, Box 48, 565/Vol. 15, Nos. 87-85, ECG-A.

56 Ibid.

57 Ibid. The criteria for inclusion in Phase II included: district administrative centers; population size of one thousand and above; economic potential of the area; nearness to existing generating station, public, private, or VRA substation; and the presence of a Water & Sewage generating plant.

58 For related publicity, see P. Boi-Amporful to Louis Casely-Hayford, VRA chief executive, 12 Feb. 1988, REED/257, VRA-A. Interview with Louis Casely-Hayford, Tema, 16 June 2008.

59 Address by J. J. Rawlings at the Inauguration of the Extension of the National Grid to the Northern Region, 14 Dec. 1989, MSD/613, VRA-A.

60 Terms of Reference for the National Electrification Study, 21 June 1988, Box 49, 565/Vol. 23, Nos. 205-201, ECG-A.

61 Rose Mensah-Kutin, “Gendered Experiences of Access to Electric Power: The Case of Rural Electrification Programme in Ghana” (Ph.D. diss., University of Birmingham, 2002), 367. For early press reporting on the NES, see DG, 26 May 1989, and the extended analysis of the media coverage by Mensah-Kutin, “Gendered Experiences,” 204-29.

62 Mensah-Kutin, “Gendered Experiences,” 56-8. See Acres International, Asare Tsitu & Partners, and Ministry of Energy, Ghana, “National Electrification Project Feasibility Study” (Niagara Falls, Ontario: Acres International, 1992), VRA-Library, Akuse.

63 Interview with Louis Casely-Hayford, 16 June 2008.

64 Richard C. Crook, “Four Years of the Ghana District Assemblies in Operation: Decentralization, Democratization, and Administrative Performance,” Public Administration Development 14/4 (1994): 339-64.

65 Interview with Nana Owusu Kyere and elders, Besease, 23 July 2006, with the assistance of Kwame Fosu, and interview with Michael Okyere Darteh, Besease, 23 July 2006.

66 For unavailability of meters and requests for houses to be connected, see E. K. Kpekata, CDR secretary, Peki, to MD, July 1989, Box 49, 565/Vol. 24, No. 34, ECG-A. Also see Mensah-Kutin, “Gendered Experiences.”

67 Interview with Akosua Agyeiwa Brenya, Besease, 23 July 2006, with the assistance of Kwame Fosu.

68 Interview with Nana Owusu Kyere and elders, July 23, 2006.

69 Ibid.

70 Interviews with Akosua Agyeiwa Brenya, 23 July 2006 and with Michael Okyere Darteh, 23 July 2006.

71 Ibid.

72 Mensah-Kutin, “Gendered Experiences,” 368.

73 Interview with Nana Owusu Kyere and elders, 23 July 23, 2006.

74 For Amate, see Miescher, “‘No One Should Be Worse Off’,” 191-4.

75 Interview with Togbe Kwame Soku and Hayford Ansong, Amate, 2 Sept. 2005, with the assistance of Joseph Kwakye. There was corruption in the allocation of meters; see interview with Abena Animwaa, Amate, 3 Sept. 2005, with the assistance of Joseph Kwakye.

76 Interview with Togbe Kwame Soku and Hayford Ansong, 2 Sept. 2005.

77 Interview with Adwoa Fosuah, Amate, 3 Sept. 2005, with the assistance of Joseph Kwakye.

78 Interview with Adwoa Fosuah, Amate, 27 July 2006, with the assistance of Joseph Kwakye.

79 Ibid.

80 Interview with Salome Mirekuah and Beatrice Nyarkoa, Amate, 27 July 2006, with the assistance of Joseph Kwakye.

81 Interview with Abena Animwaa, 3 Sept. 2005.

82 Interview with Nana Atuobi Yiadom, Amate, 4 Sept. 2005, with the assistance of Joseph Kwakye.