Focus: Transport

The Sky’s the Limit

The Sky’s the Limit

May. 9, 2013

As demand starts to overtake capacity, the government looks for different avenues on how to upgrade infrastructure.


Mozambique has four main ports for transporting goods: Beira, Maputo, Tete, and Nacala. These ports are essential for exporting the country's natural resources as the rail system across the African continent can be unreliable. However, due to a lack of funding in the past, the World Bank rates these ports at an average of 3.4 out of 7 on its quality and efficiency scale. However, this number has been rising steadily as money has been pouring into the ports. The government has recently invested $500 million into the ports of Maputo and Beira to upgrade facilities to deal with the increased demand from the mining industry according to the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Foreign investment has also been coming into the country from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is providing $33 million to refurbish the port of Nacala in Nampula province. The Mozambican government has also been working to acquire a $1.5 billion loan from one of its main business partners, China, to build a new deepwater port in the Nacala-a-Valha district in northern Nampula. The new venture would be able to handle over 20 million tons of cargo per year.


With the vast amount of resources at Mozambique's disposal, the rail network is the most affordable and efficient means to move goods around the country. In 2010, there were 3,116 kilometers of rail lines, which moved, on average, 695 million tons of cargo per kilometer. The system also managed to move 114 million passengers per kilometer in 2010. The network is essential for moving coal to either the ports or the borders for exporting. Paulo Francisco Zucula, the Minister of Transport and Communications explained, “Priority number one is to finish the Sena line, which is the shortest distance between the coal mines of central Mozambique and the port of Beira." Currently, coal is moved along the Sena line, which is being repaired and expanded at the moment. Once the repair work is completed, the line will have the capacity to move 6.5 million tons per annum. When the expansion is finished, it will be able to move 20 million tons per year. Vale is also investing $5 billion in a new deep-water port at Nacala and a rail link to the Moatize coal basin in the western province of Tete. The work is expected to be complete in 2015 and should have a capacity to move between 18 million and 30 million tons of coal a year. The government also has plans for expansion. It wants to build between 700 and 800 kilometers of new rail links up to Moatize, which will include industrial terminals that will integrate with local ports.


Mozambique has an extensive network of roads covering the country at a little over 30,000 kilometers. However, the main problem is that only 20.8% of those roads are paved. These dirt roads are often severely damaged during the rainy season and become unusable. One of the reasons why there is a low percentage of paved roads is because it costs on average $750,000 to build one kilometer of road and a maximum of $5,000 per year to maintain that kilometer. Thus, it would cost $17.2 billion to pave all the roads in Mozambique, which the country can ill afford at the moment as more pressing transport issues exist. However, the government is finding ways to invest in new roads, either from its own funds or via foreign investment. The Japanese government has donated $1.7 billion to Mozambique with an aim to build 13 bridges to link roads in the provinces of Zambézia and Niassa. In 2011, the government invested $350 million in building 500 kilometers of new roads. It is also experimenting with privatization by handing over road network expansion and maintenance in Tete province to a Portuguese-Mozambican consortium. It has already earmarked €110 million to build a second bridge across the Zambezi River. The current bridge is reaching capacity with a daily traffic of around 800 trucks, carrying between 40 and 60 tons every day.


The aviation industry in Mozambique is still developing. At the moment, there are major renovations and upgrades being carried out on the airports. Maputo Airport has just completed its renovations, but the extension of the runway is still ongoing. Vilankulo and Nacala are also being upgraded, and a new airport in Pemba is under construction. Work will also begin on a new airport in Tete later in 2013. Once all the modifications have been completed, the country will be able to provide a more robust domestic air network. Currently, Maputo is the only major international airport in the country; however, “Nacala, Pemba, and Tete will also start to see more direct international services," Minister Zucula told TBY, once current work is complete. All of the work will cost a total of $1.5 billion, which includes the construction of Tete and Pemba airports, runway extensions, and terminal modernization. The upgrades are being carried out not just to modernize old infrastructure, but also to cope with the increasing demand from passengers. In 2010, over 550,000 passengers passed through Mozambique's airports, compared to approximately 490,000 people the year before. And it is not just the passengers that are demanding space in the airports. Over 8.09 million tons of cargo was moved in 2010 compared to 6.7 million tons the year before. Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique (LAM) is the main airline operating in the country and is owned by the state. “Two years ago, we were flying two or three times a week to our destinations, but we are now flying twice a day," Marlene Manave, the CEO of LAM, told TBY, describing the increased demand for flights. In 2009, there were 10,943 departures from Mozambican airports, which went up to 13,687 in 2010. The larger the capacity the airports have, the more the demand will grow as cash from natural resources flows into the economy.

The government knows that at the moment its current infrastructure needs to be upgraded as demand from the people and business increases. However, it is actively seeking funds and new ways of developing the infrastructure to satisfy the needs of the country.