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Foreign investors flood Mozambique's solar energy sector despite continuing Islamist insurgency

An Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique has not deterred large-scale private investment into the country's solar projects, Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA) chief executive John van Zuylen has said.

The rebellion in the natural gas-rich Cabo Delgado region broke out in 2017.  According to the non-governmental organisation the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, over 4,330 people have died in the conflict and almost 1mn have been displaced.

However, Pv magazine cited van Zuylen as saying on November 15 that investors with a high appetite for risk are undeterred.

“It probably limits some of the international companies to really consider Mozambique, but then again, it also attracts other companies, which would otherwise not be interested,” he said. “You also have developers who are looking for that risk element because they know that in exchange of that risk, they may demand a higher level of return on their investment.”

The gas discoveries could be stimulating the investment, he argued, as gas “fuels everything.” Political will is yet another possible factor. 

Mozambique launched the European Union-funded Renewable Energy Auctions Programme (PROLER) in 2020 which seeks to facilitate 120 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy.  The country had recorded 108 MW of solar installed capacity at the end of 2022, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Major projects in the country include the 19 MW Cuamba solar PV and 7 MW energy storage plant north of the country, which was switched on two months ago. The project is managed by independent power producer Globeleq and Mozambique’s national utility, Electricidade de Moçambique, among others.

“More and more people are now in a position to say solar-plus-storage has become a viable source for them,” he added. “They've been facing the same issues with unreliable or lack of electricity supply on the grid and so because they're businesspeople, they need to conduct business and when a solution finally becomes viable, they don't think too long.”

He however said the fact that Mozambique is a basically Portuguese-speaking creates difficulties among potential investors who speak English and no Portuguese.