May 30, 2012, 8:26 am
Source: CIA World Factbook
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Maputo seen from the air, from southeast (2006). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Mozambique is a nation of twenty three-and-a-half million people in southeastern Africa, bordering the Mozambique Channel (across which lie Madagascar), between South Africa to the south and Tanzania to the north.

It is composed mostly of coastal lowlands, with uplands in the center of the country, and high plateaus in northwest, and mountains in west. The Zambezi River flows through the north-central and most fertile part of the country. In the west, Mozambique borders on Lake Nyasa.

Mozambique's major environmental issues include:

It is susceptible to severe droughts, as well as devastating cyclones and floods in central and southern provinces.

Almost five centuries as a Portuguese colony came to a close with independence in 1975.

Large-scale emigration, economic dependence on South Africa, a severe drought, and a prolonged civil war hindered the country's development until the mid 1990's.

The ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) party formally abandoned Marxism in 1989, and a new constitution the following year provided for multiparty elections and a free market economy. A UN-negotiated peace agreement between FRELIMO and rebel Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) forces ended the fighting in 1992.

In December 2004, Mozambique underwent a delicate transition as Joaquim Chissano stepped down after 18 years in office. His elected successor, Armando Emilio Guebuza, promised to continue the sound economic policies that have encouraged foreign investment.

President Guebuza was reelected to a second term in October 2009. However, the elections were flawed by voter fraud, questionable disqualification of candidates, and Frelimo use of government resources during the campaign. As a result, Freedom House removed Mozambique from its list of electoral democracies.



Location: Southeastern Africa, bordering the Mozambique Channel, between South Africa and Tanzania

Geographic Coordinates: 18 15 S, 35 00 E

Area: 801,590 km2 (784,090 km2 land and 17,500 km2 water)

Arable land: 5.43%
Permanent crops: 0.29%
Other: 94.28% (2005) 

Land Boundaries: 4571 km. Border countries: Malawi 1569 km, South Africa 491 km, Swaziland 105 km, Tanzania 756 km, Zambia 419 km, Zimbabwe 1231 km

Coastline: 2470 kilometres

Maritime Claims: Territorial sea to twelve nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone to 200 nautical miles.

Natural Hazards: severe droughts; devastating cyclones and floods in central and southern provinces

Terrain: Mostly coastal lowlands, uplands in center, high plateaus in northwest, mountains in west. Its lowest point is the Indian Ocean ( metres) and its highest point is Monte Binga (2,436 metres).

Climate: Tropical to Subtropical

Topography of Mozambique. Source: Wikimedia Commons



Satellite view of Mozambique. Source: The Map Library

Ecology and Biodiversity

1. Southern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic

2. Eastern Miombo woodlands

3. Zambezian and Mopane woodlands

4. Zambezian flooded grasslands

5. Southern Malawi montane forest-grassland mosaic

6. Southern Rift montane forest-grassland mosaic

7. Southern Miombo woodlands

8. Eastern Zimbabwe montane forest-grassland mosaic

9. Zambezian coastal flooded savanna

10. East African mangroves

11. Zambezian halophytics

12. Southern Africa bushveld

13. Maputaland coastal forest mosaic

14.  Southern Africa Mangroves

See also:

  1. Regional biodiversity hotspot (Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany)

Source: World Wildlife Fund

People and Society

Population: 23,515,934 (July 2012 est.)

Mozambique's major ethnic groups encompass numerous subgroups with diverse languages, dialects, cultures, and histories. Many are linked to similar ethnic groups living in neighboring countries. The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous, with about 45% of the population. The estimated 4 million Makhuwa are the dominant group in the northern part of the country. The Sena and Ndau are prominent in the Zambezi valley, and the Tsonga and Shangaan dominate in southern Mozambique.

Despite the influence of Islamic coastal traders and European colonizers, the people of Mozambique have largely retained an indigenous culture based on small-scale agriculture. Mozambique's most highly developed art forms are wood sculpture, for which the Makonde in northern Mozambique are particularly renowned, and dance. The middle and upper classes continue to be heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial and linguistic heritage.

During the colonial era, Christian missionaries were active in Mozambique, and many foreign clergy remain in the country. Under the colonial regime, educational opportunities for black Mozambicans were limited, and 93% of that population was illiterate. Most of today's political leaders were educated in missionary schools. After independence, the government placed a high priority on expanding education, which reduced the illiteracy rate to about two-thirds of the population, as primary school enrollment increased. In recent years, school construction and teacher training enrollments have not kept up with population growth. With post-war enrollments reaching all-time highs, the quality of education has suffered.

Ethnic groups: African 99.66% (Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Sena, and others), Europeans 0.06%, Euro-Africans 0.2%, Indians 0.08%

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 45.9% (male 5,295,776/female 5,245,485)
15-64 years: 51.1% (male 5,550,501/female 6,174,668)
65 years and over: 3% (male 313,892/female 368,536) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: 2.442% (2012 est.)

Birth Rate: 39.34 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 12.79 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: -2.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 52.02 years 

male: 51.26 years
female: 52.8 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 5.4 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: Emakhuwa 26.1%, Xichangana 11.3%, Portuguese 8.8% (official; spoken by 27% of population as a second language), Elomwe 7.6%, Cisena 6.8%, Echuwabo 5.8%, other Mozambican languages 32%, other foreign languages 0.3%, unspecified 1.3% (1997 census)

Literacy (2003 est.): 47.8% (male: 63.5% - female: 32.7%)

Urbanization: 38% of total population (2010) growing at a 4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)


Mozambique's first inhabitants were San hunter and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples. Between the first and fourth centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from the north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. The Bantu were farmers and ironworkers.

When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries. From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts became regular ports of call on the new route to the East. Later, traders and prospectors penetrated the interior regions, seeking gold and slaves. Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, its power was limited and exercised through individual settlers who were granted extensive autonomy. As a result, investment lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East and to the colonization of Brazil.

By the early 20th century the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of the country to large private companies, controlled and financed mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to neighboring countries and supplied cheap--often forced--African labor to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies and South Africa. Because policies were designed to benefit white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid to Mozambique's national integration, its economic infrastructure, or the skills of its population.

After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal clung to the concept that Mozambique and other Portuguese possessions were overseas provinces of the mother country, and emigration to the colonies soared. Mozambique's Portuguese population at the time of independence was about 250,000. The drive for Mozambican independence developed apace, and in 1962 several anti-colonial political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), which initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule in September 1964. After 10 years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975.

From the mid-1970s, Mozambique's history reflected political developments elsewhere in the 20th century. Following the April 1974 coup in Lisbon, Portuguese colonialism collapsed. In Mozambique, the military decision to withdraw occurred within the context of a decade of armed anti-colonial struggle, initially led by American-educated Eduardo Mondlane, who was assassinated in 1969. When independence was achieved in 1975, the leaders of Frelimo's military campaign rapidly established a one-party state allied to the Soviet bloc and outlawed rival political activity. Frelimo eliminated political pluralism, religious educational institutions, and the role of traditional authorities.

The new government gave shelter and support to South African (ANC) and Zimbabwean (ZANU) liberation movements while the governments of first Rhodesia and later apartheid South Africa fostered and financed an armed rebel movement in central Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo). Civil war, sabotage from neighboring states, and economic collapse characterized the first decade of Mozambican independence. Also marking this period were the mass exodus of Portuguese nationals, weak infrastructure, nationalization, and economic mismanagement. During most of the civil war, the government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital. An estimated 1 million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighboring states, and several million more were internally displaced. In the third Frelimo party congress in 1983, President Samora Machel conceded the failure of socialism and the need for major political and economic reforms. He died, along with several advisers, in a 1986 plane crash which has been the subject of many conspiracy theories. A South African commission with an international membership and with access to the plane's black box found gross crew error to be the cause.

His successor, Joaquim Chissano, continued the reforms and began peace talks with Renamo. The new constitution enacted in 1990 provided for a multi-party political system, market-based economy, and free elections. The civil war ended in October 1992 with the Rome General Peace Accords. Under supervision of the ONUMOZ peacekeeping force of the United Nations, peace returned to Mozambique.

By mid-1995 the more than 1.7 million Mozambican refugees who had sought asylum in neighboring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, a further estimated 4 million internally displaced people returned to their areas of origin.

In 1994 the country held its first democratic elections. Joaquim Chissano was elected President with 53% of the vote, and a 250-member National Assembly was voted in with 129 Frelimo deputies, 112 Renamo deputies, and 9 representatives of three smaller parties that formed the Democratic Union (UD). By 1999, more than one-half (53%) of the legislation passed originated in the Assembly.

The second general elections were held in December 1999, with high voter turnout. International and domestic observers agreed that the voting process was well organized and went smoothly. Both the opposition and observers subsequently cited flaws in the tabulation process that, had they not occurred, might have changed the outcome. In the end, however, international and domestic observers concluded that the close result of the vote reflected the will of the people.

The third general elections occurred in December 2004. Frelimo candidate Armando Guebuza won with 64% of the popular vote. His opponent, Afonso Dhlakama of Renamo, received 32% of the popular vote. The estimated 44% turnout was well below the almost 70% turnout in the 1999 general elections. Frelimo won 160 seats in parliament. A coalition of Renamo and several small parties won the 90 remaining seats. Armando Guebuza was inaugurated as the President of Mozambique on February 2, 2005. Elections in Mozambique’s 43 municipalities took place on November 19, 2008. Frelimo mayoral candidates won in 42 of the 43 contests.

In October 2009, Mozambique held simultaneous presidential, legislative, and provincial assembly elections. The results were much the same as 2004 with Frelimo candidate Armando Guebuza winning 75% of the presidential vote and Afonso Dhlakama of Renamo coming in second with nearly 14%; Daviz Simango of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) had 9.28% of the votes. Following parliamentary elections, Frelimo held 192 seats, Renamo 50, and MDM 8.

Formed in early 2009 by incumbent Mayor of Beira and former Renamo rising star Daviz Simango, MDM represented the largest new face in the 2009 elections. Almost 2 months prior to election day, the National Elections Commission (CNE) released the list of eligible parties for the three races. Alleging missing registration documentation, CNE excluded multiple opposition parties, most notably MDM, from running in the National Assembly and provincial assembly electoral process. MDM, now excluded from 7 of 11 provinces due to CNE’s decision, appealed to the Mozambican Constitutional Council, which in turn upheld CNE’s ruling. Amidst rumors of Frelimo ties to both the Constitutional Council and CNE, the donor community voiced unified concern regarding the transparency of Mozambique’s multi-party elections and continues to work with the Government of Mozambique to further electoral reform. Election day itself was considered well-run, peaceful, and generally well-organized, and most scrutiny was directed toward the pre-election decisions by the CNE and Constitutional Council. As a result of the irregularities in the election process, Freedom House removed Mozambique from its list of electoral democracies.

Despite the government's strong anticorruption rhetoric, corruption in the executive and legislative branches was widely perceived to be endemic in 2009. The World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a serious problem. Petty corruption by low-level government officials to supplement low incomes, and high-level corruption by a small group of politically and economically connected elites continued to be the norm. Corruption largely resulted from a lack of checks and balances, minimal accountability, and a culture of impunity. Local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Center for Public Integrity, and media groups continued to be the main civic forces fighting corruption, reporting and investigating numerous corruption cases. Mozambique ranked 116 out of 178 countries in Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perception Index, up from a 2009 ranking of 130 out of 180 countries. The law requires that all members of the government declare and deposit their assets with the Constitutional Council, but does not require that such information be made available to the general public. Comprehensive anti-corruption legislation is currently pending parliamentary approval.


Government Type: Republic

Mozambique is a constitutional democracy with an estimated population of 23 million. The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) has been the ruling political party since independence in 1975, heavily influencing both policymaking and implementation. While civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces, there have been some instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently.

Capital: Maputo - 1.589 million (2009)

Maputo. Source: Hansueli Krapf/Wikimedia Commons.


Other major cities:  Matola 761,000 (2009)

Administrative Divisions: 10 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia), 1 city (cidade)*;

  1. Cabo Delgado,

  2. Gaza,

  3. Inhambane,

  4. Manica,

  5. Cidade de Maputo*,

  6. Maputo,

  7. Nampula,

  8. Niassa,

  9. Sofala,

  10. Tete,

  11. Zambezia

Independence Date: 25 June 1975 (from Portugal)

Legal System: based on Portuguese civil law system and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Source: Wikimedia Commons


International Environmental Agreements

Mozambique is party to international agreements on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands.


Total Renewable Water Resources: 216 cu km (1992)

Freshwater Withdrawal: Total: 0.63 cu km/yr (11% domestic, 2% industrial, 87% agricultural).

Per capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 32 cu m/yr (2000)

Access to improved sources of drinking water: 47% of population

Access to improved sanitation facilities: 17% of population


Subsistence agriculture continues to employ the vast majority of the country's work force and smallholder agricultural productivity and productivity growth is weak.

Agricultural Products: cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea, cassava (tapioca), corn, coconuts, sisal, citrus and tropical fruits, potatoes, sunflowers; beef, poultry

Irrigated Land: 1,180 sq km (2003)


Natural Resources: coal, titanium, natural gas, hydropower, tantalum, graphite.


At the end of 2007, and after years of negotiations, the government took over Portugal's majority share of the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectricity Company (HCB), a dam that was not transferred to Mozambique at independence because of the ensuing civil war and unpaid debts. More electrical power capacity is needed for additional investment projects in titanium extraction and processing and garment manufacturing that could further close the import/export gap.

Energy in Mozambique
  Production Consumption Exports Imports Reserves
Electricity 14.98 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
10.18 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
11.21 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
3.436 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
Oil 0 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
17,000 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
0 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
14,540 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
0 bbl
(1 January 2011 est.)
Natural Gas 3.6 billion cu m
(2009 est.)
100 million cu m
(2009 est.)
3.5 billion cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
127.4 billion cu m
(1 January 2011 est.)
Source: CIA Factbook


At independence in 1975, Mozambique was one of the world's poorest countries. Socialist mismanagement and a brutal civil war from 1977-92 exacerbated the situation.

Alleviating poverty. At the end of the civil war in 1992, Mozambique ranked among the poorest countries in the world. It still ranks among the least developed nations with very low socioeconomic indicators. In the last decade, however, Mozambique has experienced a notable economic recovery. Per capita GDP in 2010 was estimated at U.S. $414, up from the mid-1980s level of U.S. $120. With high foreign debt and a good track record on economic reform, Mozambique was the first African nation and sixth country worldwide to qualify for debt relief under the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) initial HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative. In April 2000, Mozambique qualified for the Enhanced HIPC program and reached its completion point in September 2001. This led to the Paris Club members agreeing in November 2001 to substantially reduce the remaining bilateral debt, resulting in the complete forgiveness of a considerable volume of bilateral debt. The United States already finished the process and has forgiven Mozambique's debt.

During their summit in Scotland in July 2005, the G8 nations agreed to significant multilateral debt relief for the world's least developed nations. On December 21, 2005, the IMF formalized the complete cancellation of all Mozambican IMF debt contracted prior to January 1, 2005, worth U.S. $153 million.

In July 2006, the World Bank announced it was writing off $1.3 billion, all Mozambican debt to the World Bank contracted before January 1, 2005, as part of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). In 2007, under MDRI, the IMF wrote off $153 million in Mozambican debt, and the African Development Bank wrote off $370 million. As a result of the debt relief it has received, the Government of Mozambique’s outstanding debt stock has fallen to well below debt distress thresholds, according to the IMF.

In July 2007 the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a compact with Mozambique; the compact entered into force in September 2008 and will continue for five years. Compact projects will focus on improving sanitation, roads, agriculture, and the business regulation environment in an effort to spur economic growth in the four northern provinces of the country.

High growth. The resettlement of civil war refugees, political stability, and continuing economic reforms have led to a high economic growth rate. Between 1994 and 2006, average annual GDP growth was approximately 8%. Mozambique achieved this growth rate even though the devastating floods of 2000 slowed GDP growth to 2.1%. GDP growth rates hovered around 6%-7% from 2008 to 2010. Future strong expansion requires continued economic reforms, major foreign direct investment, and the resurrection of the agriculture, transportation, and tourism sectors. Focusing on economic growth in the agricultural sector is a major challenge for the government. Although more than 80% of the population engages in small-scale agriculture, the sector suffers from inadequate infrastructure, commercial networks, and investment. However, a majority of Mozambique's arable land is still uncultivated, leaving room for considerable growth.

However, heavy reliance on aluminum, which accounts for about one-third of exports, subjects the economy to volatile international prices. The sharp decline in aluminum prices during the global economic crisis lowered GDP growth by several percentage points. Despite 6.8% GDP growth in 2010, the increasing cost of living prompted citizens to riot in September 2010, after fuel, water, electricity, and bread price increases were announced. In an attempt to contain the cost of living, the government implemented subsidies, decreased taxes and tariffs, and instituted other fiscal measures. Real growth of 7.2% was achieved in 2011.

Some inflation concerns. The government's tight control of spending and the money supply, combined with financial sector reform, successfully reduced inflation from 70% in 1994 to less than 5% in 1998-1999. Economic disruptions resulting from the devastating floods of 2000 caused inflation to jump to 12.7% that year. Inflation ranged from 9%-11% in 2004-2006, but remained in the single digits in 2008-2009. As global food prices rose, inflation spiked to 13% in 2010. After September 2010 protests over high food prices, the government has pursued a policy of keeping its currency strong in efforts to keep the cost of living down for average Mozambicans. As of October 2011, the floating exchange rate was approximately 27 meticais per dollar, compared to 36 meticais per dollar in October 2010.

Extensive economic reform. Economic reform has been extensive. More than 1,200 state-owned enterprises (mostly small) have been privatized. Preparations for privatization and/or sector liberalization are underway for the remaining parastatals, including telecommunications, electricity, ports, and the railroads. The government frequently selects a strategic foreign investor when privatizing a parastatal. Additionally, customs duties have been reduced, and customs management has been streamlined and reformed. The government introduced a value-added tax in 1999 as part of its efforts to increase domestic revenues.

Trade imbalance continues. In 2010, Mozambique exported $2.3 billion and imported $3.8 billion in goods, creating an overall trade deficit of $1.5 billion. Mozambique imported $223 million in goods from the U.S. in 2010, mainly cereal, machinery/equipment, petroleum oils, and petroleum coke. In 2010, Mozambique exported $64.7 million in goods to the United States, consisting of primarily agricultural products. Support programs provided by foreign donors and private financing of foreign direct investment mega-projects and their associated raw materials have largely compensated for balance-of-payment shortfalls. The medium-term outlook for exports is encouraging, as a number of recent foreign investment projects have improved the trade balance. This export growth is expected to continue. Traditional Mozambican exports include cashews, shrimp, fish, copra, sugar, cotton, tea, and citrus and exotic fruits. Most of these industries are being rehabilitated. In addition, Mozambique is less dependent upon imports for basic food and manufactured goods as the result of steady increases in local production.

SADC trade protocol. In December 1999, the Mozambican Council of Ministers approved the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Trade Protocol. The Protocol envisions creating a free trade zone among more than 200 million consumers in the SADC region. Implementation of the Protocol began in 2002 and had an overall zero-tariff target set for 2008; however, Mozambique's country-specific zero-tariff goal is currently 2015. Mozambique joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on August 26, 1995.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $23.87 billion (2011 est.)

GDP (Official Exchange Rate): $12.1 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $1,100 (2011 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 28.4%
industry: 26.9%
services: 44.7% (2011 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line: 70% (2001 est.)

Industries: food, beverages, chemicals (fertilizer, soap, paints), aluminum, petroleum products, textiles, cement, glass, asbestos, tobacco

Exports: aluminum, prawns, cashews, cotton, sugar, citrus, timber; bulk electricity

Export Partners: Italy 19.6%, Belgium 18.6%, South Africa 16.5%, Spain 12.6%, China 4.1% (2006)

Imports: machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, chemicals, metal products, foodstuffs, textiles

Import Partners: South Africa 36.8%, Australia 6.1%, China 4.6% (2006)

Economic Aid Recipient: $1.286 billion (2005)

Currency: metical (MZM)

Ports and Terminals: Beira, Maputo, Nacala



Agency, C., Fund, W., & Department, U. (2012). Mozambique. Retrieved from


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