Exploring colonial continuities in Mozambique’s energy system: electricity networks and extractive relations

Joshua Kirshner, Daniela Salite, Matthew Cotton

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There are multiple ways of defining and understanding energy transitions, but many scholars now argue that systemic changes in energy systems require deep transformations in social and ecological dimensions that underpin and support social life, especially in urban areas. These systems and associated infrastructures have been shaped by distinct historical and political processes, which in African contexts involve colonial histories of settlement, spatial planning, and market formation. Accordingly, understanding energy transitions requires accounting for historical path dependencies that are embedded in energy systems, but to date these have received little attention.

In this paper, drawing on a recent collaborative project about electricity grid access in urban Mozambique, we examine the ways that colonial legacies shape Mozambique’s current energy system, and efforts by planners and public officials to shape more just and sustainable energy futures. First, we focus on electricity provision to examine the effects of power generation sources’ location in relation to that of distribution and consumption centres, and the lack of redundancy in the network, meaning that no system of electricity dispatch exists in cases of excess or deficit of electricity. Additionally, we examine the government’s plans to construct new electricity generation sources to supply external markets while building grid interconnections in the southern African region, and its parallels with colonial-era hydroelectric planning, in which whole regions were sacrificed to support national development objectives. Second, we focus on broader extractive patterns of growth, and ways that the prospects of lucrative energy investments in natural gas or large hydropower have led to the deprioritizing of distributed renewables to the detriment of local energy needs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022
EventBritish International Studies Association 2022 Conference: Can the World Survive? - Newcastle Civic Centre, Newcastle, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Jun 202217 Jun 2022


ConferenceBritish International Studies Association 2022 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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