Kilowatts, megawatts and power: electric territorialities of the state in the peripheries of Ghana and Tanzania
Cuesta Fernández, Iván
Recent years have brought a resurgence of state-led plans to expand access to electricity over African polities. Nonetheless, and in line with deep-seated patterns of infrastructural and general abandonment by the centre, very few of those plans have seriously addressed poor, distant, sparse and scarcely endowed peripheral regions. Those rare instances have received scant attention in the literature, despite their precious value to single out key interactions between national electricity regimes and core-periphery political linkages. Addressing that gap, this thesis pays attention to schemes of peripheral electrification to better understand how African states govern their peripheries. To that end, it scrutinizes two schemes of electrification: northern Ghana from 1989 to 2012, and southeastern Tanzania from 2004 to 2015. The thesis argues that in northern Ghana central rulers embarked upon electrification against the odds of geographical determinism, guided as they were by political motivations, chief amongst them the extraction of narrow electoral rents. By contrast, in southeastern Tanzania central rulers endeavoured to tap into the abundance of gas, governed by a determination to advance business models inscribed in the national electricity regime. Ultimately though, the central rulers in Tanzania were forced to re-politicize electrification to appease the deep local resentment caused by the very extraction of gas flowing toward the capital. Both cases thus illuminate varying trajectories in the interplay between national electricity regimes and core-periphery political linkages, that shaped the territorial strategies of electrification. In addition, this thesis also offers two revelations. One first revelation is that sub-national units exert significant mediations in the linkages between core and periphery, via alterations of distributional settlements. This goes against a stream of literature that pays attention exclusively to vertical strategies engineered from political rulers in the centre. The second revelation is that over the long-term electrification alters the political linkages between core and periphery. This squares well with the predictions of theories about the infrastructural power of the state. All in all, this work affords an embryonic analytical elaboration on the strategies of territoriality in the electrification of regional peripheries in Africa. From a political geography perspective, this helps to illuminate how sub-national electrification can simultaneously redraw and reinforce long-entrenched political linkages between core and periphery.