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Just off Mozambique’s northern coastline lies 65 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. On shore, the country’s northern provinces house 25 million metric tons of natural graphite reserves. To call the area “resource-rich” would be an understatement, yet it is also among of the world’s most challenging operating environments for businesses. This report focuses on two of the most salient factors behind that assessment: security and logistics.


The country’s north was widely regarded as a backwater by the national government and the rest of the world until the discovery of the natural gas fields and the realization that natural graphite will be a key input to the clean energy transition. Despite those discoveries, the northern provinces remain the poorest region within one of the world’s most impoverished nations.


Years of neglect bred resentment which gave rise to the Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a (ASWJ) insurgency around 2017. The prospect of billions of dollars flowing into the region – almost none of which would affect the local population – certainly added to the locals’ frustration. By 2021, the conflict became so serious that TotalEnergies placed its 20 billion USD liquified natural gas (LNG) project on indefinite hold.


Today the fight against ASWJ involves military forces from 10 African nations. The Mozambican government claims the insurgency is nearly vanquished, but the author traveled to the capital of Cabo Delgado province in January 2024 and heard a very different narrative from local experts. Recent developments have proven them correct. The conflict is likely approaching an inflection point, and its trajectory will affect the future of at least three LNG projects and the prospects for graphite mining in the region.


Logistics are a less acute issue, but the underdeveloped state of roads, bridges, and ports pose a significant challenge for any company operating in the region. Logisticians with decades of collective experience in Mozambique shared their insights into the state of infrastructure in the province and how to work around the many pitfalls – which now include attacks by increasingly radical insurgents.


The contents of this report are the result of one month of behind-the-scenes research and one week of field work in Mozambique from 7-13 January 2024. The author traveled to Maputo – the capital of Mozambique – and then to Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province in the north. The report combines the author’s observations, information obtained from more than a dozen conversations with experts who have spent years in the region, and open-source information. It is intended to complement Report 2024-03, a forthcoming report about Mozambique’s mining sector and business environment.


The report differs from standard market research reports in the sense that it does not attempt to provide a comprehensive, high-level view of Mozambique using information gathered from databases. Rather, it provides a view into the reality on the ground, as assessed by a former Marine reconnaissance officer and current Harvard MBA candidate.


This report does not disclose its sources’ identities. Instead, it provides general information about their position so that readers can assess the information’s credibility. This is primarily to protect the interviewees’ safety – given the political and security climate in Mozambique – but also because they were not always authorized by their employers to speak with the author.


The table of contents is available in the attached image.

Ground Truth in Northern Mozambique: Security & Logistics

SKU: 2024-02
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