NNENNE IWUJI-EME

Mozambique 2020 | DIPLOMACY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to NneNne Iwuji-Eme, High Commissioner of the UK to Mozambique, on the second mandate of President Nyusi, the UK's role in Africa, and the traditional, sustainable fashion.

What are the UK's expectations for President Nyusi's second mandate?

We would like to commend President Nyusi for his strong leadership during the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, which kicked in just 2 months after his re-election. From a bilateral perspective, we have a good relationship with the Mozambican government, and we are looking to deepen that relationship during president Nyusi's second mandate. Our relationship has traditionally been tilted toward development; however, we have been increasingly focusing on building a true partnership based on strong commercial and cultural ties. Our aim is to unlock mutually beneficial economic opportunities and sustainable jobs for Mozambique's talented youth, so to be active part of the country's positive story. From a political perspective, we have closely followed the whole peace process. It was a privilege to witness the signing of the cessation of hostilities between FRELIMO and RENAMO in Gorongosa and to see both parties present and publicly reiterating their commitment to peace when the Pope visited in September 2019. We hope that the second mandate is an opportunity to cement and complete the whole disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process, putting an end to the attacks in the center of the country and to leaving this chapter behind Mozambique once and for all.

How has the UK-Africa Summit redefined the UK's role in Africa, and what were the outcomes for Mozambique?

First, we thank President Nyusi for attending that summit as it was only one week after being sworn in. He brought a strong delegation to the conference with a clear message about Mozambique's priorities and where they saw our relationship aligning. While gas will play a pivotal role in Mozambique's next future, we want to unlock potentials in other sectors to push for a sustainable growth. In this regard, we identified interesting opportunities in sectors such as agri-business, renewable energy, and SME development. Moreover, we were keen to see the summit produce concrete outcomes, such as the announcement of a GBP100-million trade finance facility by Absa bank and CDC to support SMEs in five countries including Mozambique, or the UK's commitment to provide GBP40 million to support the agriculture sector, in addition to the GBP17 million injected into the African network of Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) initiatives to support financial inclusion. The UK has also committed to scale up female economic empowerment programs such as Mover, to ensure that young women partake in the gas sector's eventual success. The endpoint of the UK-Africa Summit is to build a mutually beneficial relationship with the African continent, and Mozambique has the potential to be one of the beacons in this framework.

What are the most prominent areas of trade between the UK and Mozambique?

We are excited for the future of the gas sector and for the opportunities it will offer to UK companies. There are already a number of UK companies involved in other sectors, from agriculture to renewables to manufacture, and so on. We have seen our total trade in goods and services between the UK and Mozambique increase by over 45% in the last quarters to 2019. An important sector where we want to increase our investments is technology: the digital economy and fintech are in their infancy in Mozambique, with great room to expand. People in Africa are quick to embrace technology, creating an amazing potential for technology leapfrogging.

How should the international community and the UK shape their response to assist the government against the growing insurgency in Cabo Delgado?

Stability and security in Cabo Delgado is of the utmost importance to the UK government. The UK signed a defense MoU in May 2019 with the government of Mozambique, and we continue to work in partnership to address security issues of mutual concern. While we remain concerned about security, we need to respect the sovereignty of the nation to address the insurgency in a humanitarian way, but there is plenty of help the international community can provide. The immediate priority is addressing the humanitarian assistance required to support the thousands of displaced people who were directly affected by the insurgency. This is all the more urgent given that until recently May 2020 half the cases of COVID-19 in Mozambique originated from the Cabo Delgado province. We are working on with the Minister for Social Protection and the international community, through partners and NGOs, to make sure assistance is provided. From a more long-term perspective, it is key to address the socio-economic inequalities in the north to mitigate tensions and limit the spread of the insurgency. We commend the Mozambican government, which recently announced the creation of the Integrated Development Agency of the North (ADIN) to foster the economic development of the north, including Cabo Delgado. The international community must work with the government to come up with a strategic plan to make sure that resources produced by the gas industry are invested in Cabo Delgado's economy to create real jobs for the youth and a real alternative to crime or insurgency as a deterrent. Agriculture and agri-business will undoubtedly be the focus of this strategy, as more than 70% of the population works in this sector, and the LNG industry will bring growth in demand for food and agricultural produce.

You are celebrated as the first black female High Commissioner for the UK. Why is it important to tell this story?

The world is currently undergoing a profound movement of change, prompted by racial tensions. It is in moments like these that I remember why it is important to tell this story. It is important to be able to see yourself in different walks of life, and by representing the UK abroad, I can contribute to changing the international perception about what the UK is and looks like. In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts the UK offers is a rich and diverse diaspora that forms part of its human capital. The UK is not only Downtown Abbey; our strength is our diversity, and we must recognize this. I do not know why it took this long to have a black female High Commissioner, but I hope it can inspire other black children to aspire to fulfill their dreams regardless of skin color or social class, and that ten years from now it will not be so unique to see a black diplomat in the UK.

From a personal perspective, what makes you excited about Mozambique's future?

Mozambique is a young country demographically, and it deserves a bright future. As 2019's cyclones and regular droughts sadly prove, Mozambique is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, and it should address sustainability as a central priority of its future. If we start offering the opportunity, there is great potential to see the growth of sustainable entrepreneurship models and create a sustainable future. I have been personally involved in “Green is the New Black," a project about sustainable fashion. The clothing industry is one of the highest contributors to global pollution, so it is important we change the way we do fashion. This project is also a way to support entrepreneurship for talented youths without the means to start their career. We started with 10 youths, who have done different trainings online and have had an amazing virtual exhibition of their pieces. Some of them are currently making the capulana (traditional Mozambique sarong) masks that we see everywhere in the streets. Some have even started providing sustainable designs for larger designers here.