Primary Investigator: Dr Joshua Kirshner (Department of Environment and Geography, University of York)
External Collaborators: Sheffield University; Oxford University; University of Eduardo Mondlane; AVSI Foundation; Electricidade de Mocambique
Funder: British Academic (Sustainable Development Programme 2016) and GCRF
Achieving universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy requires addressing socio-political constraints, particularly in conflict-laden areas. In Mozambique, where armed conflict is resurging, achieving energy access can support economic development and the eradication of extreme poverty.
Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique: Socio-Political Factors in Conflict-Laden Urban Areas is a research project supported by the British Academy’s Sustainable Development Programme, which examines multiple aspects of Mozambique’s energy system to understand the existing energy access challenges and propose ways of overcoming them.
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 unprecedented rates. What then explains the persistence of energy poverty there? Why do some populations lack reliable sources for basic needs such as lighting, cooking and heating water? We argue that to facilitate energy access we need to understand the socio-political conditions that prevent it, particularly the underlying conflicts related to energy provision. The project uses quantitative and qualitative methods developed through co-production processes to analyse the socio-political roots of energy-related conflicts and how they can be overcome.
Aim and objectives
The research aims to understand the social and political conditions that constrain universal energy access in urban areas in Mozambique. The project has three main objectives:
1) To understand the uneven geographical patterns of energy access in Mozambique
Research on energy access tends to pay attention to individual limitations to consumption patterns, but seldom examines or maps how local and regional differences in terms of availability of energy sources influences household practices. The project aims to understand how these practices are shaped by geographical and historical differences in the impact of political and armed conflict, regional and local investments, and the proximity to urban areas.
2) To examine how the political economy of Mozambique influences energy access
Political and armed conflict around access to resource wealth between the ruling and the opposition parties (FRELIMO and RENAMO) creates focalized areas of violence. This has created instability in how the political and business elites are inserting Mozambique in different global and regional circuits of capital and resource circulation, particularly involving much needed energy generation projects. The projects aims to examine how conflict shapes the political economy of energy investments to improve energy access rates.
3) To examine the everyday processes of symbolic and economic violence constraining energy access
There is an established literature that demonstrates how everyday processes of management influence the unequal provision of services. In Mozambique, utilities and other local managers may construct particular forms of deserving and undeserving subjects, thus promoting unequal patterns of energy provision over time and space that can lead to social and political unrest. The project examines how management practices may enact forms of symbolic and economic violence that lead to inequality of service provision.
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. A household survey of energy access in the cities of Beira, Maputo and Tete, developed in partnership with local actors, will support a process of mapping local and regional differences in energy access. Qualitative research with key experts in the energy sector will analyse the country’s political economy of energy. Participant observation with EDM, the national electricity utility, will be used to examine forms of violence that are enacted by experts in the process of grid management and expansion. A participatory workshop will be held at the end of the project to discuss these findings with local actors.
Links to external partners:
University of Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique)
Electricidade de Mocambique (EDM) (main electricity provider)
‘SEAM’ project website