Focus: Diplomacy & Politics

Uplifting Change

Uplifting Change

May. 7, 2013

With a strengthening democracy and the support of the global community, Mozambique is on its way to becoming a model nation for the emerging economies of Africa.

The devastating civil war during 1976-1992 between FRELIMO and the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), which followed the Independence Civil War during 1962-1975, left Mozambique's infrastructure and economy in tatters. Under the leadership of President Chissano, however, Mozambique's economy turned from its communist ideals to embrace a market economy and multi-party rule. The Mozambican Parliament re-opened for the first time after the civil war in 1995 and embarked on an extensive privatization process to jumpstart the country's flailing economy. The first democratically elected and multi-party parliament had 250 members, comprising of 129 FRELIMO representatives, 112 RENAMO representatives, and nine from the small Democratic Union coalition. The 2009 elections had a 44.4% voter turnout, and resulted in 191 seats for FRELIMO, 51 for RENAMO, led by Afonso Dhlakama, and eight seats for the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), led by Daviz Simango. President Guebuza won the presidency with 75% of the vote. The Election Observer Mission from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum concluded that the results “were a true reflection of the will of the people of Mozambique."

The implementation of multi-party politics in Mozambique was a result of the 1990 Constitution, which has been amended once, in 2004, to include provisions that substantially expanded the political debate around democracy and elections. The amendment also added greater protection for citizens by incorporating detailed provisions covering their fundamental rights.

Each of the 10 provinces of the country including Maputo City, Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica, Maputo, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, Tete, and Zambezi, has a governor. Each province functions as a source of talent for cabinet positions. After a cabinet reshuffle in October 2012, Guebuza replaced Prime Minister Aires Ali with the governor of coal-rich Tete province, Alberto Vaquina.


Historically, Mozambique's diplomatic sway lay in its vast 2,500 kilometers of coastline, which provides access to Zimbabwe, Malawi, and parts of Botswana and Zambia. This makes Mozambique the owner of important access routes for hinterland countries—the majority of the country's transport links travel east to west rather than north to south. While the coast and impressive natural ports remain key to Mozambique's regional importance, it is the country's energy resources that are stealing the limelight. The Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric Dam is already a major regional electricity supplier, but Mozambique's hydrocarbon energy discoveries are sure to magnify its regional and global importance. South African petrochemicals company Sasol is a major player in Mozambique's onshore natural gas development, and the country's national oil company, PetroSA, is not far behind.

Mozambique's foreign policy has two central themes to maintain good relations with its neighbors, and expand its international development partners. In 2013, Mozambique will play a leading role in both the SADC and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP). President Armando Guebuza is the current Chairperson of the SADC and President of the CPLP.


BRIC countries have assumed a leading role in the development of Africa, and trade between them is estimated to pass the $500 billion mark by 2015. Unsurprisingly, given the shared linguistic ties, Brazil is a key actor in Mozambique's economic and social development.

One of the country's largest companies and investors is Brazil-based mining and logistics giant Vale. However, state aid from the South American nation is also significant. Having successfully contributed to its own domestic agricultural development, Brazil's agricultural research corporation, EMBRAPA, is providing on-the-ground agricultural expertise for adapting soybeans, rice, and other crops to Mozambique's savanna, which has a climate and soil similar to that of Brazil. The country is also funding the packaging, storage, distribution, and quality control of the antiretroviral drug, Nevirapine.

China has also built on its historically friendly relationship with Mozambique, having made inroads into the country's infrastructure deficit by financing major projects such as connecting Maputo to Catembe, a 20,000-strong community on the other side of Maputo bay. China signed a deal to loan $72.5 million for a two-mile-long bridge in July 2012. In total, 33% of all roads in the country are being built by Chinese companies. In addition, China has also played a role in the development of Maputo International Airport, the national soccer stadium, a national conference center, communications networks, and water supply projects. China's support is to be expected given its strong backing of FRELIMO during the civil war and decades of interest-free development loans. Macau's connection with the lusophone countries of Africa is also an important part of the relationship with Mozambique, especially concerning investment. Of a total of 43 countries that have invested in Mozambique thus far, China is the second-largest contributor, with projects in vital sectors of the local economy, such as agriculture, infrastructure, science, and technology.


Attracted by Africa's fastest-growing economy in 2013, thousands of Portuguese workers have flocked to the nation. Portuguese construction companies are leading the pack in ramping up their operations in a country that is desperate for improved infrastructure. Not only is Mozambique welcoming an increasing number of Portuguese entrepreneurs and investment into its economy, 2012 also marks the beginning of a bright future between the two countries with the signing of the agreement to sell an 85% stake in the Cahora Bassa Dam, a critical generator of electricity, to Mozambique. Portugal retained control of the dam after independence in 1975, creating a long-standing point of contention between the young nation and its former colonial ruler.


Despite the country's strong economic growth, it can't be ignored that more than 50% of Mozambique's population live on less than $1 a day. Mozambique continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 185 out of 187 according to the 2013 UNDP Human Development Report.

The government of Mozambique benefits from financing from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and other multilateral banks; Mozambique will benefit from financing of around $1.4 billion to fund various projects in the period 2012-2015 from the World Bank alone. In 2012, the portion of official development assistance (ODA) in the budget was around 32%, down from 50% in 2008. The US also plays an extensive role in the country's political, social, and business development through USAID and its subsidiary agencies, notably the SPEED program. However, the economic crisis in Europe, combined with a number of highly publicized megaproject investments, has curbed the willingness of traditional bilateral aid partners to pledge large sums. The challenge remains for this emerging nation to implement much needed socioeconomic development in the interim before energy revenues start streaming in.