As a background to the recent riots over price rises in Maputo, extracts from an article published two months ago by The Economist:
At the end of the civil war in 1992, Mozambique was arguably the world’s poorest country. Its transport, education and health systems were in ruins. Many Mozambicans with marketable skills had fled. But now its economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world. In the past 15 years it has swelled by an average of 8% a year, dipping slightly to 6% during last year’s global meltdown, with nearly 7% expected this year, well above the 4% the World Bank forecast for southern Africa as a whole.
Mozambique’s government is democratically elected and stable, its macroeconomic policies sound, its press reasonably free. Often held up as one of the best examples of post-conflict recovery in Africa, it has become a donor darling. This year international aid will total some $1.6 billion, worth more than half the total state budget. Foreign investment is pouring in.
But the country has a long way to go. In various international rankings, it is still among the world’s worst performers: 129th (out of 133 countries) in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index; 172nd (out of 182) in the UN’s human-development index; and still in the bottom dozen in terms of GDP per head a year, at less than $1,000 in purchasing-power parity, according to the IMF. Despite a much-aired fall in the poverty rate from 69% in 1997 to 54% in 2003, the absolute number living below the poverty line rose to 11.7m in a population of around 20m. The latest national household survey, due out in August, is expected to show little improvement. Inequality has been growing.
International donors, keen to point to Mozambique as a rare African aid success, have been getting worried. Earlier this year a group of 19 Western countries threatened a “donor strike” unless Mozambique cleaned up its act. Only after its government meekly agreed to implement the 35 reforms proposed by the so-called G19 did the aid start flowing again. Far from sounding resentful, however, Mozambique’s prime minister, Aires Aly, says the threatened strike was “in some ways good for us, because it made us realise that some issues in our programme needed review.” Without the aid, he knows his country would not be such a star performer.
[Full article here]