Fumbling in the Dark

South Africa turns to Mozambique to try to get the lights back on

By Charles Mangwiro

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Posted on June 23, 2023 10:21

 © The bulk of electricity produced in Mozambique is exported to neighbouring countries but many locals have no access to electricity. (Photo Charles Mangwiro)
The bulk of electricity produced in Mozambique is exported to neighbouring countries but many locals have no access to electricity. (Photo Charles Mangwiro)

Mozambique, where about two-thirds of the population don’t have electricity, is emerging as South Africa’s best bet for power supply.

The country’s recent agreement to supply 100MW of electricity on a short-term deal to help South Africa tackle its power crisis is the first step. That will be followed by a further 600MW within six months, minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Carlos Zacarias tells The Africa Report.

South Africa requested help from Mozambique in late May as state electricity utility Eskom implements the worst rolling blackouts, leaving households in the dark for up to 10 hours daily. The initial 100MW of electricity will come from the Nacala floating power plant, and Mozambique’s government has said this commercial agreement will be closed soon.

A further 600MW will come from a floating power station in Maputo and a thermal power station in Ressano Garcia. “We saw very quickly what we can do” and how to provide “short-term and long-term solutions,” Zacarias said after returning from a negotiating trip in South Africa.

Mozambique has frequent power shortages mainly due to extreme weather events in addition to an underdeveloped transmission and distribution network, lack of financing and the bureaucracy involved in developing new power projects.

The country’s largest power generation plant in Mozambique is the Hidro-eléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), which suffered from decades of neglect and lack of investment.

HCB currently provides 60% of its power to South Africa’s Eskom and 35% to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA). Mozambique consumes the remaining 5% and only 34% of the country’s 32.8 million people have access to electricity.


The country is lining up several energy production projects, such as the Temane thermal power station, which will produce 450MW from January 2025. The planned Mpanda Nkuwa hydroelectric project, situated downstream from Cahora Bassa in the western province of Tete, is expected to generate 1,500MW of electricity a year from 2030.

The Tete-Maputo project, an initiative of the Mozambican government and the publicly owned electricity company, EDM, is described as the backbone for expanding the Mozambican electricity grid. It is budgeted at $2.5bn and funded by the World Bank, which has already promised a loan of $420m, and other multilateral partners, including Norway, which has provided a grant of $30m.

The agreement with South Africa is a win-win situation, says Elcidio Bachita, an economist at Saint Thomas University in Maputo. “This is an opportunity for Mozambique to tap some revenue in exports because South Africa wants electricity and Mozambique also wants money for its economic development,” Bachita says.

Bachita is convinced that the electricity supply in Mozambique will improve when the $400m Tete-Maputo power line is completed by the end of this year. “Mozambique is set to become a solution for electricity in the region. This will boost industrialisation across the entire southern African region,” he says.

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