|General background: Almost five
centuries as a Portuguese colony came to a close with
independence in 1975. Large-scale emigration by whites,
economic dependence on South Africa, a severe drought,
and a prolonged civil war hindered the country's development.
The ruling 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 with rebel forces ended the fighting
Area comparative: Slightly
less than twice the size of California.
Tropical to subtropical
coastal lowlands, uplands in center, high plateaus in
northwest, mountains in west
Ethnic groups: Indigenous tribal groups 99.66%
(Shangaan, Chokwe, Manyika, Sena, Makua, and others),
Europeans 0.06%, Euro-Africans 0.2%, Indians 0.08%
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian
30%, Muslim 20%
Language: Portuguese (official), indigenous
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on Portuguese civil law
system and customary law.
Economic overview: 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. In 1988, the government
embarked on a series of dramatic macroeconomic reforms
designed to stabilize the economy and reduce government
participation. These steps combined with the political
stability that has prevailed since the 1994 multi-party
elections have led to dramatic improvements in the
country's growth rate fuelled by foreign and domestic
investments and donor assistance. Inflation was brought
to single digits during the same period, although
it has returned to double digits in 2000 and 2001.
Foreign exchange rates have remained relatively stable.
Fiscal reforms, including the introduction of a value-added
tax and reform of the customs service, have improved
the government's revenue collection abilities. In
spite of these gains, Mozambique remains dependent
upon foreign assistance for much of its annual budget,
and the majority of the population remains below the
poverty line. Subsistence agriculture continues to
employ the vast majority of the country's workforce.
A substantial trade imbalance persists, although it
has diminished with the opening of the MOZAL aluminium
smelter, the country's largest foreign investment
project. Additional investment projects in titanium
extraction/processing and garment manufacturing should
further close the import/export gap. Mozambique's
once substantial foreign debt has been reduced through
forgiveness and rescheduling under the IMF's Heavily
Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Enhanced HIPC initiatives,
and is now at a manageable level.
Communication/Telephone system: Fair system
but not available generally.
Places of interest: Pristine beaches and lush
plant growth on coastal areas.
Travel tips: It has been estimated that more
than one million land mines - laid by both sides during
the war - remain unexploded in Mozambique.