Blog on fieldwork visits to FACIM 2023 and sites in Maputo

19th February, 2024

We arrived in Maputo on August 30, and the next day met with our work package partners Carlos Shenga and Lorraine Howe of Centre for Research on Governance and Development (CPGD). We took a taxi to their office in Marracuene, a town 30 km north of Maputo. Following a morning meeting over coffee to discuss plans for CESET WP 2, Carlos and Lorraine accompanied us to the grounds of Feira Internacional de Maputo – FACIM 2023, an annual expo fair. The event has run for 58 years since the late colonial period.

Currently sponsored by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce through the Agency for the Promotion of Investment and Exports (APIEX), FACIM is a multi-sectoral trade fair, billed as “showcasing the country’s potential for production and export while promoting business and investment opportunities in the various segments of economic activity.” It serves as a platform for exchange and cooperation, with activities including exhibitions halls and booths, seminars, promotion sessions, contact exchanges, and local foods – we had an excellent lunch of grilled fish, salad and chips.

We were interested in observing which countries were present; for instance, other SADC countries such as South Africa and Malawi had exhibition booths, but India did not. France and TotalEnergies, the French multinational oil and gas major and key actor in Mozambique’s offshore gas reserves, whose production has been disrupted by ongoing unrest in Cabo Delgado province, had a minimal presence. We had opportunities to speak to entrepreneurs, domestic producers, investors and business representatives, including emerging renewable energy (RE) companies and conventional energy and mining firms.

As part of WP 2, we are interested in how energy transitions are presented and justified as part of national-level plans, including through narratives, images and discourse. Our research aims to explore and unpack the dominant narratives, including those focusing on transition pathways, and whether (and how) community-led and off-grid energy projects fit in to these broader national development objectives, with Mozambique as a case study.

Caption: Entrance to the Zambeze Valley Pavilion (Pavilhão do Vale do Zambeze), FACIM 2023

We visited the Energy Pavilion (Pavilhão de Energia), observing the many displays, what the presenters were highlighting in the booths, and how they may envision certain energy futures for the country.

Caption: Electricidade de Moçambique, E.P. (EDM), the state-owned electricity provider, displaying street lighting equipment

Caption: Fundo de Energia (FUNAE), a Mozambican public agency charged with financing and implementing renewable energy projects, displays materials in the Energy Pavilion

An explicit aim for a diverse energy mix was apparent in the pavilion -- a push for supplying natural gas, and alongside this, support for renewable energy (RE) technologies, both grid-connected and off-grid solar, and large hydroelectric installations – long a key feature of the country’s energy mix. Founded in 1997, FUNAE held a visible presence but so did several private firms that have begun operations in the country in recent years, aiming to expand the market for off-grid energy technologies, including Solar Works and Ignite Power. Accordingly, we observed a mix of market logics along with state-led development, top-down and bottom-up approaches, with different implications for users and residents.

 Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), a major state-owned company, was also present. Its display stressed the critical importance of the HCB dam to national development through its generation capacity, massive reservoir, power stations, transmission lines and its contributions in the past 15 years, including electrifying primary schools, health clinics, and rural administrative posts while generating revenues for state coffers.

Across the hall, we viewed details, plans and maps of smaller-scale renewables and installations including Mocuba solar power station, an operational, utility-scale 40 MW solar plant in Zambézia province, in the central coastal region. A public–private partnership project developed by a consortium with EDM and Norwegian investors (including the private firm, Scatec Solar), Mocuba sells its electricity to EDM under a 25-year power purchase agreement (other grid-connected solar power stations promoted in this exhibit included Dondo, Lichinga and Metoro).

In recent years, the Government of Mozambique has positioned the country to become an important generation hub within the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), central for sourcing an expected increase in regional energy demand in the coming years. The government also has a stake in continuing global demand for gas amid shifting pressures on energy security in Europe, for example.

Caption: A display from Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (ENH) shows the extent of offshore and onshore gas operations ranging from production to distribution to export and domestic consumption.

This display featured a map of incipient gas distribution networks in Maputo-Marracuene (with 321 consumers only), and a second in Inhambane province, centred on Vilankulos (with 2,260 consumers). Whether there are plans in place to expand the Maputo-Marracuene network was not specified.

ENH also included details and diagrams of several gas-fired electricity generation plants – Temane, Gigawatt, CTM, and CTRG – which have sprouted up near Ressano Garcia on the border with South Africa, along with development corridor that links Maputo with Gauteng province, SA for transport, trade and regional integration. An expanding geography of energy infrastructure was in evidence here.

We viewed FUNAE’s map of electrified districts, and nearby a display from Vulcan Mozambique, a coal company recently operating in Tete province. After the withdrawal of Rio Tinto (UK), in 2014, and Vale (Brazil), in 2021, from coal operations in Mozambique amid uncertainty in global markets, Indian firms purchased two major mining sites. Vulcan, a subsidiary of Jindal Steel and Power, replaced Vale, which until then had been a key player in the sector. Growing resource needs in India mean that Indian firms and investors eye untapped thermal and coking coal reserves that are plentiful in Tete. Despite the Indian government’s commitment to promote and invest in clean energy, in 2022 coal accounted for 70% of power generation in India, while renewables counted for only 12% (see Ellis-Petersen in The Guardian, 15/11/2022).