Maputo — The Mozambican Minister of Energy, Salvador Namburete, and the Norwegian Minister of International Development, Heikki Holmas, signed in Maputo on Thursday night a memorandum of understanding covering the cooperation between the two countries in the area of energy.
The memorandum covers no new projects, but stresses the determination of the two governments to continue their fruitful relations in this area.
Namburete declared that Norwegian aid “has played a very central role in the expansion of access to energy in Mozambique, particularly rural electrification. With your help, we have grown from just seven per cent of Mozambicans with access to electricity in 2004 to 38 per cent today”.
“It is not enough”, Namburete added. “The majority of our people are still in the dark”.
Norway “is our largest partner in the energy sector”, said Namburete. It was also assisting with the ambitious project to build new power lines from the Zambezi valley to Maputo, needed to transmit electricity when new power generating projects (hydro-electric and coal-powered come on stream in Tete province. Norway is funding studies for this project, usually known as the “backbone” of the national grid.
Holmas declared that hydropower was the key factor in transforming Norway from a poor to a rich country. There was a “strong connection between energy and development”, he said, and around the world “there is a massive need to generate more electricity”.
Namburete noted that when Norway electrified, it did not have to cope with opposition from environmental groups – but in Mozambique “we have a very noisy organisation that opposes all the hydro-power projects we try to develop. But the fact that we are partners with Norway means that we are learning from best practices, and how to avoid making mistakes that were made elsewhere”.
Namburete regretted that, despite all Mozambique’s efforts, the proposal to interconnect the Mozambican and Malawian electricity grids came to nothing under the previous Malawian government, headed by the late Bingu wa Mutharika. But, with a new President, Joyce Banda, in office in Lilongwe, the project could be revived “and maybe we will succeed this time”.