“As we live without electricity, from 7 pm we feel as if we were living in a grave.” Joseph Honnon, Adido, Benin.
Pascal Maitre, one of the most famous photographers covering Africa, and Jean-Marc Gonin, seasoned reporter for the Figaro Magazine, have teamed up to document the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans deprived of any access to electricity: 70 % of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity.
“Africa cannot continue to enlighten other continents with its resources, remaining hidden in the dark.” Macky Sall, Président Sénégal UNO, 20/09/2016, New York.
Text excerpt “Living in Darkness” by Jean-Marc Gonin
In Benin, well-lit areas are only a few kilometres away from areas steeped in complete darkness. The village of Fanto with its 665 inhabitants is only ten minutes away from the national road 2 connecting Cotonou with the north of the country. During these ten minutes one time-travels several decades into the past, from the tarmac road with a power line running alongside it, supplying the residents with electricity, to the scrublands with the fields, where manioc, sweetcorn and sugar cane are grown. A cable connecting several pylons installed among the furrows leads to the brightly lit Catholic church, in which the believers attend evening mass. It is completely dark behind the place of worship. The dirt road with its many potholes and grooves is difficult to make out in the light coming from the headlights. It ends at a square with a few trees dotted around. The stalls of the evening market placed along the houses are lit by about a dozen paraffin lamps. Their flickering light enlightens the face of a cook preparing a steaming mush in a metal pot. Next to her an old woman offers some vegetables and fruit displayed on a wooden plank.
“We have been waiting for electricity for thirteen years,” complains 57-year old Houegagbo Ahossivou, who has been living in Fanto for 36 years. “We were promised to be connected to the grid in 2004.” When the sun sets at 6 pm the craftsmen have to stop working. Then it is also dangerous to be outdoors. Bandits jump out of the bushes at the roadside to snatch the motorbikes from their owners. “We neither have light nor a refrigerator,” says Ahossivou. “We cannot even store milk for the children, and if we want to preserve foodstuffs we have to dry them in the sun.” Last year two villagers died because they could not be treated properly. They had to be transported to the nearest hospital in Zinvié as there is no electricity in the local hospital. They did not survive the 45-minute journey.