Mozambique: Electricity Reaches only 17 Per Cent of Citizens

About four million Mozambicans (17 per cent of the population) now have electricity in their homes, compared to just 1.3 million in 2004, declared the country’s Energy Minister, Salvador Namburete, on Wednesday.

Answering questions in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on measures taken by the government to expand access to electricity, Namburete said that, over the past five years, 38 district capitals have been linked to the national grid, based on power from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi.

90 out of the country’s 128 districts were now on the grid. In particular, all 12 districts in Tete province (where Cahora Bassa is located) are on the grid, compared with just four in 2004. Also in the past five years, more than 3,300 kilometres of transmission lines have been built.

In the northern province of Cabo Delgado, nine of the 11 districts not yet on the grid are being electrified simultaneously, and Namburete expected this work to be concluded in 2011. But in the neighbouring province of Niassa, there had been serious delays in connecting the districts of Mecanhelas, Metarica, Maua and Marrupa, which Namburete blamed on the poor quality of the work done by the contractor.

But not all the country could be supplied with power from Cahora Bassa. Namburete said the government had also prioritized mini-hydropower stations, as well as wind energy and solar power. Five mini-hydropower stations were now operating in the central province of Manica, with a total capacity to supply electricity to over 500 consumers.

A wind turbines had been concluded in Inhambane province in 2009, with the capacity to supply over 1,200 consumers, and the country was now receiving visits from investors interested in the potential of wind power.

"This area is ever more promising", said Namburete, "not only because of increased awareness about climate change, but also because of technological progress in recent years, which has increased the profitability of these systems".

As for solar power, there are now hundreds of rural schools and health posts that are taking their electricity from solar panels. This was a solution "which has proved effective for consumers in areas that are still a long way from the national grid", said the Minister.

There was also an increased use of Mozambique’s resources of natural gas to generate power in the northern part of Inhambane (Vilankulu, Inhassoro and Govuro districts), and Machanga district in Sofala province.

The gas was also being used in industries in and around the southern city of Matola (including the Mozal aluminium smelter), and an increasing number of vehicles are being converted to run on gas rather than diesel. "We are making every effort to ensure the rapid expansion of the use of gas to benefit the largest possible number of Mozambicans", said Namburete.

Progress in rural electrification would have been more rapid, he pointed out, had it not been for the constant sabotage and theft of cables and other electrical equipment. This stolen material is usually sold on to unregulated scrap metal merchants.

Such sabotage, plus the theft of electricity through clandestine connections, had cost the country about 51 million US dollars over the past five years, said Namburete.

"This problem not only interferes with the supply of electricity, causing serious problems for the consumer, but it also threatens implementation of our national anti-poverty agenda", he stressed.