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Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique: Socio-Political Factors in Conflict-Laden Urban Areas

In Mozambique, where armed conflict is resurgent, achieving energy access can support economic development and the eradication of extreme poverty. This project aims to understand the social and political conditions that constrain universal energy access in urban areas in Mozambique, focusing on the underlying conflicts related to energy provision.

According to the Global Tracking Framework, 1.05 billion people worldwide did not have access to electricity in 2014. The figures for access to clean cooking are even more discouraging. Over 3 billion people still lacked access to clean fuels and technologies in 2014. Current strategies for improving energy access focus on increasing investment and extending electricity and fuel supply networks.

Despite having up to 10% growth per annum in the period from 2003-2012, Mozambique is still very poor by most standards. It also has some of the lowest electrification rates in Africa, with the national grid currently reaching about one fifth of its 23 million inhabitants. The Energy Strategy developed by the Ministry for Energy and Natural Resources (MIREME) aims to reach 50% grid connectivity for the population by 2023. Improving energy access can support economic development and the eradication of extreme poverty. However, dominant strategies focus on investment, rather than in understanding the actual constraints for energy demand.

Mozambique has abundant fossil fuel and hydropower resources and a nascent renewable energy industry. There are also business models, such as the prepaid electricity system, that enable poorer people to access energy in urban areas in unprecedented rates. What then explains the persistence of energy poverty? Why do some populations lack reliable sources for basic needs such as lighting, cooking and heating water?

Previous research demonstrates that extending the electricity grid is not a sufficient condition to guarantee energy access. Energy access is also limited by wider structural issues, from regional differences in access to energy to the political economy of energy resources. Vulnerable people concentrate in informal settlements in urban areas, where lack of services is compounded with limited livelihood opportunities and exposure to health and environmental risks.

Achieving universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy requires dealing with socio-political constraints. The revelation of undisclosed loans and debt, the worsening conflict between the ruling party FRELIMO and the former rebel group RENAMO, and the pronounced drought in the south and centre regions of the country all challenged development prospects in Mozambique in 2016. The country faces a growing debt burden that will affect future generations.

These conditions frame uneven geographical patterns of energy access in Mozambique. They also shape the political economy of energy investments, in relation to decisions about the location of new energy generation projects and access to energy by local populations affected by conflict. Finally, these conditions result in management practices in service provision and energy use which may be associated with instances of symbolic and material violence and the reproduction of inequalities in service provision.

This project brings together an interdisciplinary team from University College London, Oxford University, the University of York and Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, to investigate the social and political conditions that shape energy access in Mozambique. The project follows a methodology of knowledge co-production, combining traditional quantitative and qualitative methods with processes that integrate the knowledge of infrastructure managers and communities through participatory and co-design workshops.

Principal Investigator: Dr Vanesa Castan Broto, University College London

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Project part of

Sustainable Development 2016 Programme

This programme funds researchers in the humanities and social sciences working on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and generating evidence on the challenges and opportunities faced in developing countries.

International

We foster international collaboration in the humanities and social sciences, and promote the sharing of international perspectives on global challenges.

Other projects in this programme

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