Cara Ellen Sparks
Poverty, Oppression, and Development in Africa
December 7, 2017
MOZAMBIQUE – ABSTRACT
The Republic of Mozambique is an African country and a former colony of Portugal. Mozambique has a long and complicated past but also a promising future. This paper starts with an overview of the geography, people, culture, history, politics, agriculture, resources, and economy of Mozambique. This will serve as a background and a starting point for the exploration of the poverty, oppression, and development in Mozambique. The latter part of this paper will discuss the development indicators and challenges in Mozambique. The key issue of poor economic growth will be examined in particular, as well as potential solutions to this development challenge.
Geography and Population
Mozambique is located in Southeast Africa and bordered by 6 countries: Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Mozambique is slightly less than twice the size of California, with a total area of roughly 800,000 square kilometers (Trading Economics). The climate ranges from tropical to subtropical. The terrain is mostly coastal lowlands, with uplands in the center, high plateaus in the northwest, and mountains in the west. The Zambezi valley is Mozambique’s most dramatic geographic feature. (Penvenne & Sheldon).
The capital, Maputo, is a port city located in the far south of Mozambique. It is situated on the west side of the Maputo Bay, and is sometimes referred to as “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean”. The city is a commercial and cultural center of the country. “Maputo is the country’s principal urban settlement, followed by Matola, Beira, Nampula, Quelimane, Nacala, Tete, and Chimoio. Most of these are port, transportation, and communications centers, which grew in order to service the needs of Mozambique’s western neighbors” (Penvenne & Sheldon). Maputo is the largest city in Mozambique, with a population of about 1.2 million people. In comparison, the estimate for the total population of Mozambique in 2017 was 29.67 million, which ranks the country 50th in the world (World Population Review).
People, Society, and Culture – Ethnic Groups, Languages, and Religions
Around 99% of Mozambicans are descended from indigenous tribes. The Bantu people make up 97.8% of the population. The Makua people make up the largest ethnic group with over four million people (Mwaniki). There are about 43 languages spoken in Mozambique. “Of these, 41 are indigenous and 2 are non-indigenous” (Simons & Fennig). Almost all of the indigenous languages are Bantu. Makhuwa (or “Emakhuwa”) of the Makua people is the most popular indigenous language and is spoken by three to four million people in Mozambique. Makua and Lomwe are spoken by almost half of the population.
Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique, but it is the main language of only about half the population. “It is spoken as a lingua franca by some two-fifths of the country’s inhabitants. Portuguese speakers are strongly concentrated in the capital of Maputo and other urban areas” (Penvenne & Sheldon). Portuguese serves as a common tongue, or a lingua franca, between people who speak different indigenous languages.
The daily food staple of most Mozambicans is either massa, a cornmeal porridge, or cassava (manioc), which is cooked and pounded into a soft mound and served with a sauce. (Penvenne & Sheldon). The society and culture of Mozambique have traditionally revolved around family and village life. Traditions and cultural practices are generally based on local, not national influences. “Mozambican cultural institutions underwent a fundamental transformation after independence, as the new government sought to eliminate colonial-era influences” (Penvenne & Sheldon).
Before Mozambique gained independence in 1975, almost one-third of the population was Christian, and a small number were Muslim. After independence, the government (led by the Mozambique Liberation Front, i.e. FRELIMO) presented conflicting messages regarding religion. Frelimo established a policy of “open and free religious affiliation,” but “its overall political and ideological emphasis discouraged religious expression and organization. … By the end of the 1980s, however, Frelimo had changed its approach, and religious organizations began to reemerge as an important popular force. … About one-half of the population now adheres to some form of Christianity, and fewer than one-fifth are Muslims” (Penvenne & Sheldon).
The history of Mozambique begins long before the arrival of the first Portuguese settlers in Mozambique in the 16th century. “From at least the 3rd century CE, Iron Age people who practiced agriculture and kept both cattle and small livestock moved into Mozambique as part of the migration of Bantu speakers from west-central Africa toward the south and east” (Penvenne and Sheldon). The early people of Mozambique, like their successors, lived in a society where the economy was driven by agriculture.
The Portuguese gained control of the Island of Mozambique in the early 16th century.1 “By the 18th century, slaves had become an increasingly important part of Mozambique’s overall export trade from the East African coast. … Although the trade in slaves declined as a result of the mid-19th-century slave-trade agreements between Portugal and Britain, clandestine trade—particularly from central and northern Mozambique—continued into the 20th century” (Penvenne and Sheldon).
Government and Politics
Mozambique gained independence from Portugal on the 25th of June 1975. After independence Frelimo ruled under a single-party system with Samora Moises Machel as the first president of Mozambique. Machel had been the head of FRELIMO in its ten-year guerrilla war for independence. Two years after independence from Portugal there was a civil war lasting from 1976 to 1992. “Categorized as a low-intensity, intra-state conflict, the Mozambican Civil War is notorious for the scale of human suffering and lives lost” (World Peace Foundation). Although the conflict officially ended in 1992 there are still repercussions. “In the early 21st century, as many as one million unexploded land mines still remained along the country’s trails and roads, and much political strife continued between the major opposition forces and the central government” (Penvenne and Sheldon).
The constitution was amended in 1990 to allow a multi-party system. In 1992, the UN arranged a peace deal to end the fighting between Frelimo and Renamo.2 Filipe Jacinto Nyusi was the candidate of the ruling party, Frelimo, in the presidential elections of 2014, and was sworn in as president in on January 15, 2015. He is the current (2017) and fourth president of Mozambique. President Nyusi previously served as Minister of Defense from 2008 to 2014.3 Mozambique is a presidential republic. The legal system of Mozambique is a mix of Portuguese civil law and customary law (CIA).
“Mozambique’s political landscape bears the scars from the 16-year civil war that followed independence from Portugal in the 1970s, leaving the country and its economy in ruins” (The World Bank). Corruption has become a major concern due to tensions that still remain between the ruling party (Frelimo) and the opposition (former rebel group Renamo) (BBC).
Resources, Agriculture, and Labor
Mozambique’s natural resources remained largely underdeveloped during the 1980s. Mozambique has what may be the world’s largest reserves of mineral tantalite (Penvenne and Sheldon). Mozambique’s key natural resources are coal, titanium, natural gas, hydropower, tantalum, graphite, etc. (CIA). Fertile soils in Mozambique are perfect for agriculture, and the Zambezi River provides water for irrigation and hydroelectric power. At the beginning of the 21st century, almost all of Mozambique’s electricity was generated by hydroelectric power. (Penvenne and Sheldon). “A key factor in Mozambique’s economic growth was the opening of an aluminum smelter near Maputo in 2000. It is one of the world’s largest smelters of aluminum, which has become an important export for Mozambique” (Penvenne and Sheldon).
“During the colonial era, Mozambicans worked in neighboring countries as contract laborers and independent migrant workers, particularly in the mining areas of South Africa” (Penvenne and Sheldon).4 Agriculture makes up roughly four-fifths of the country’s workforce, meaning that Mozambique is primarily an agricultural society. The most important agricultural products in Mozambique are: “cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea, cassava (tapioca), corn, coconuts, sisal, citrus and tropical fruits, potatoes, sunflowers; beef, poultry” (CIA). Settlement patterns show the “agrarian focus: only about one-third of the population is settled in urban areas” (Penvenne and Sheldon). About 70% of Mozambique’s population live and work in rural areas (The World Bank). Although Mozambique is an Agrarian country, only about one-fifth of Mozambique’s GDP is gained from agriculture (Penvenne and Sheldon).
POVERTY, OPPRESSION, AND (UNDER)DEVELOPMENT IN MOZAMBIQUE
Mozambique’s economy during colonial times was “characterized by private monopolies, central planning, and state marketing of key products—all designed to promote capital accumulation by the state, Portuguese settlers, and Portuguese-based commerce and industry” (Penvenne and Sheldon). At independence in 1975, Mozambique was one of the world’s poorest countries. “Socialist policies, economic mismanagement, and a brutal civil war from 1977 to 1992 further impoverished the country” (CIA). About half the population (46.1%) currently lives below the poverty line, despite recent economic growth. (CIA). Mozambique as a whole remains very poor and donors account for about half of its budgetary expenditures (World Population Review). “Mozambique grew at an average annual rate of 6%-8% in the decade leading up to 2015, one of Africa’s strongest performances, but growth slowed in 2016 to about 3.5% as low commodity prices reduced export earnings” (CIA). However there are prediction for a growth increase in 2017 with the expansion of coal exports.
Indicators of Development
Mozambique’s population growth rate is lower than most other countries in Africa, which is due to a number of factors (such as the AIDS crisis). Currently there are 1.5 million people living with AIDS in Mozambique, which ranks it as one of the worst in the world for HIV/AIDS prevalence, HIV/AIDS deaths, and life expectancy at birth. (CIA)
45% of the population is younger than 15 years old. The country’s infant mortality rate is among the highest in the world. The average life expectancy is among the lowest in the world. (Penvenne and Sheldon). About half the population lives below the poverty line. “Mozambique’s high poverty rate is sustained by natural disasters, disease, high population growth, low agricultural productivity, and the unequal distribution of wealth” (CIA).
The World Bank faults Mozambique’s overreliance on South Africa for its poor development, saying that it underscores “the importance its economic, political, and social development to the stability and growth of Southern Africa as a whole” (The World Bank). The CIA blames this over-reliance as well, but adds additional factors: “Large-scale emigration, economic dependence on South Africa, a severe drought, and a prolonged civil war hindered the country’s development until the mid-1990s” (CIA).
Key Development Challenge
According to United Nations Development Programme Evaluation Office, “the most critical development challenges are endemic rural poverty, inequalities, unequal development and regional disparities, high rates of illiteracy especially among women and the rural population, high vulnerability to natural disasters and the growing threat of HIV/AIDS” (ADR). All of these issues are addressed by the solution to the development challenge put forth by the World Bank. According to the World Bank, “Mozambique’s overarching development challenge is to translate its impressive performance in terms of economic growth to poverty reduction and improved development outcomes” (The World Bank).
As with many countries in Africa, unequal distribution of wealth is a problem that plagues Africa. “Mozambique’s pressing human development challenge is to broaden the base of its economy to include the poor areas of the country as factors in its economic and human development strategy, essentially to make the agricultural sector more productive and to include and extend the benefits to a much broader portion of the population” (ADR).
The ADR assessment of Mozambique’s development is very thorough, and provides a full picture of Mozambique’s economic and developmental challenges. It also offers various solutions… “The emergence of generalized budget support as a way to provide aid to Mozambique and the growing trend towards harmonization of approaches and aid instruments among key donors is positive for overall development effectiveness” (ADR)
There are various short-term goals for improving Mozambique’s economic potential. “The main challenge facing Mozambique in the short-term is restoring the momentum of growth and ensuring fiscal and debt sustainability” (Frey). Seeing as this issue is a result of government processes, the government is the key player in working toward a solution. The government of Mozambique has already implemented (often successively) a number of strategies and policies to address both short-term and long-term goals for combatting development challenges. For example, Mozambique’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (known as “PARPA”). “The key change in Mozambique’s relationship with its donors has been the shift away from project aid and towards direct budget support, which is now the most important source of aid money for Mozambique” (Stewart).
“Mozambique is entering an era of unprecedented economic growth spurred on by natural resource development and increased infrastructure delivery” (World Finance). In 2017 the government of Mozambique approved and economic and social plan to regain stability. It serves to stabilize inflation, increase exports by 7.7%, achieve a primary school attendance rate of 86.5% (as well as hire more teachers), expand vaccination coverage to 90% for children under the age of one, improve healthcare for women and children, and rehabilitate 300 kilometers of roads (and improve overall transportation). The plan passed with 138 deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party voting in favor, against the opposing votes of 91 members of the rebel movement Renamo and of the Mozambique Democratic Movement. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique).
In conclusion, Mozambique’s rich cultural history and abundance of mineral resources show that there is potential for economic growth. In terms of aid from the international community and from the Church, the best way to go would be to support the local processes and policies that are already underway. Mozambique is already moving away from the need for foreign aid. Instead of trying to solve Mozambique’s problems, these institutions should encourage and support the efforts that are already proving successful. On a spiritual level, never underestimate the power of prayer. Desmond Tutu said, “I certainly know that I would not be able to survive if it were not for the fact that I am being upheld by the prayers of so many people.”
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1 Mozambique is actually named after the island of Mozambique. “The island was apparently named after Mussa al-BIK, an influential Arab slave trader who set himself up as sultan on the island in the 15th century” (CIA).
2 FRELIMO = The Mozambique Liberation Front; RENAMO = The Mozambican National Resistance
3 Filipe Nyusi “was educated at Frelimo Primary School in Tunduru. He pursued his secondary education at the Frelimo school at Mariri in Cabo Delgado and at Samora Machel Secondary School in Beira. In 1990, he completed his mechanical engineering degree at the Brno University of Technology in Czechoslovakia. He also studied a postgraduate degree management at the Victoria University of Manchester in England” (BBC).
4 “During the colonial period men often left to take paying jobs in neighboring countries, and women remained behind to grow cash crops as well as crops for domestic consumption. Although women produced a significant portion of the agricultural products, they did not receive equal pay and rights. After independence, many women moved to the cities to take advantage of new economic opportunities”. (Penvenne and Sheldon)