Mozambique after 40 years of independence — Part 2: The Development Ladscape

Cartaz Guebuza

One of the reasons why Mozambique became a ‘donors’ darling’ in the period that followed the peace accords was precisely because of its impressive achievements of stable and positive macroeconomic indicators, in particular growth rates of over 7% a year and low inflation rates. Whilst these indicators have been generally sustained over the last 15-20 years, when it comes to human development indicators, the scenario is much less optimistic, showing, instead a situation of ‘development paradox’, where the degree of success achieved in the case of macro-economic indicators is not reflected in the case of human development. In this post I briefly discuss some aspects that lie behind this paradox.

First, it should be noted that the ‘positive macroeconomic indicators’ hide a far more complex problem, which is the fact that Mozambique is far from auto-sufficient. In fact, for several years following the Peace Accords, Mozambique became one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world [1]. While this situation has been slowly changing in the last 10 years, the prospects of self-sufficiency are still grim, one of the reasons being the very model of development adopted and which ultimately consolidates an economy of consumption instead of production [2]. This model, in its current stage, privileges the investment in the so-called megaprojects, concentrated mostly in the mineral sector. As noted in a recent report from Chatham House, it is not yet clear the extent to which these projects will benefit the ordinary Mozambican, and even less clear is when these benefits will come. A central problem, in this regard, is that any success on this front will depend on the unstable price of international commodities, which in the case of gas and coal — main resources in Mozambique — is even more problematic given the level of competition posed by other countries which also have the same resources.

Second, a long-standing problem in Mozambique is the concentration of resources in the hands of a small political elite. This problem stems for the historical conditions that have characterised the emergence of an entrepreneurial class in Mozambique [3]. In particular, it reflects the dynamics of this country’s transition from socialism to a market economy. As discussed by Anne Pitcher [4], privatisation in Mozambique, instead of reducing the state, was characterised by a process of ‘transformation through preservation’, that is, the private sector became dominated by a small bureaucratic elite, which, by default, belonged to the dominant party. This feature became even stronger in time. As noted by the Mozambican watchdog CIP, in the last ten years, the distinction between the private and the public state sphere has been increasingly blurred as the discovery of mineral resources in the country has created a major rush from several members of the government to create enterprises in order to control part of the extractive sector [5]. This situation exemplifies one of the biggest problems of post-war Mozambique, which is the distribution of the peace dividend.

In fact, these dynamics were part of the reasons that led Renamo to resume arms more recently. Yet, whereas in the case of Renamo the use of arms and threats has proved to be at least partially effective to change the political game, the benefits of the current development strategy to everyday Mozambicans is far from clear. Whereas indicators show that poverty has decreased on a regular basis in the last 20 years, the national poverty rate is still very high, having stagnated at 54% [6] and calling into question the efficacy of the poverty reduction strategy plans (PARPAs/PARP) implemented so far. The ‘fight against poverty’, at the core of (previous) President Guebuza, has proved to be more a popular slogan than the expression of an efficient policy to tackle poverty.

A major problem here seems to be the definition of priorities as well as the coherence of the development strategy adopted in Mozambique. In a country where poverty is high and the vast majority of the population live in the countryside and depends of agriculture for their own subsistence, prioritising megaprojects — which moreover lead to the relocation people from often  fertile lands— instead of agriculture seems the wrong way to go (although it may lead to praises from the IMF). It is time to see whether the new government will push for a significant change in this regard. New projects in field of agriculture are on the table, but their efficacy shall be determined by their alignment with other national policies. Moreover, the chances of success of any new policies will also be conditioned by the government’s ability to deal with another chronic problem in Mozambique — corruption.

Corruption has spread in Mozambique during its transition to a market economy and has remained a chronic problem ever since [7]. As noted by Transparency International, the problem is not the lack of regulation per se, but the fact that corruption-related crimes go largely unpunished. A 2013 report from CIP has noted that the deviation of funds from the state has actually been on the rise since 2005, and the major cases of corruption (linked with major political figures) are usually omitted from public reports, which favour instead cases of petty corruption usually involving low ranking state employees. The expansion of the extractive and the many promises of rewards behind it unfortunately offer the locus for this phenomenon to rise. An important step for effective change should be a fierce policy against corruption.

What to do? The 2010 donors’ strike seems to have had little effect in fundamentally changing corruption patterns in Mozambique, not least because of donors’ lack of unity on the matter. In the cities, there have been occasional popular protests, such as the riots in 2008 and 2010 following the increase of food price, however they have not been effective in fundamentally changing policies. In the rural areas, where nearly 70% of the population still live, there are fewer options regarding what to do in order to change things. At the micro level, contesting power may often have immediate costs and jeopardize what are perceived as the main means to get out of poverty [8]. Yet, it is doubtful that meaningful change will come unless there is strong social pressure. The crux of the issue is thus how to ensure that the existing democratic space is used in such a way as to influence development policies, a challenge made even bigger in the current political context.

[1] See Hanlon, J. and de Renzio, P. (2007) Contested Sovereignty in Mozambique: the Dilemmas of Aid Dependence. Managing Aid Dependency Project. GEG Working Paper 2007/25. Available at: (Accessed: 8 January 2010).

[2] Weimer, B.; Macuane, J. J. and Buur, L. (2012) A Economia do Political Settlement em Moçambique: Contexto e Implicações da Descentralização. In: Weimer, Bernhard (org.) Moçambique: Descentralizar o Centralismo. Economia Política, Recursos e Resultados. Maputo: IESE, pp- 31-75; Africa Economic Outlook (AEO) (2013) Mozambique. Available at:

[3] See Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco (2014) Growth, capital accumulation and economic porosity in Mozambique: social losses, private gains, Review of African Political Economy, 41:sup1, S26-S48.

[4] Pitcher, A. M. (2002) Transforming Mozambique. The Politics of Privatization, 1975–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[5] See also Hanlon, J. (2004) Do donors promote corruption?: the case of Mozambique, Third World Quartely, 25(4), pp. 747-763; Cunguara, B. (2012) An Exposition of Development Failures in Mozambique. Review of African Political Economy, 39, pp. 161-170; Hanlon, J. (2009) Mozambique’s Elite — Finding its Way in a Globalised World and Returning to Old Development Models. Paper presented at a Crisis States Research Center Seminar, 7 October 2009; Weimer et al., ibid.

[6] See debate on poverty indicators in Mozambique: Republic of Mozambique (2010) Pobreza e Bem-estar em Moçambique: Terceira Avaliação Nacional. Maputo: DNEAP, Ministério da Planificação e Desenvolvimento; de Brito, L. (2012) Pobreza, “PARPAs” e Governação. In: de Brito, Luís; Castel-Branco, C. N., Chichava, S., Francisco, A. (orgs.) Desafios para Moçambique 2012. Maputo: IESE, pp. 1-25; Hanlon, J. and Smart, T. (2008) Do Bicycles Equal Development in Mozambique? Suffolk, Rochester: James Currey; AEO, 2013, ibid.; Alfani, F., Azzarri, C., d’Errico, M. and Molini, V. (2012) Poverty in Mozambique. New Evidence from Recent Household Surveys. Policy Research Working Paper 6217. The World Bank. Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Department. Available at: (Accessed: 14 February 2014).

[7] See Hanlon, 2004, ibid.; Cramer, C. (2001) Privatization and Adjustment in Mozambique: a ‘Hospital Pass’? Journal of Southern African Studies, 27(1), pp. 79-103.

[8] I develop this argument in Maschietto, Roberta H. (2015 forthcoming). What Has Changed with Peace? Local Perceptions of Empowerment in Mozambique, Journal of Peacebuilding and Development.


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