Mozambique is located in the southeastern coast of Africa, bordering South Africa, eSwatini, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania, with an Indian Ocean coastline of 2,700 Km.
The country is endowed with important natural resources, such as arable land, forestry, water, energy and mineral resources, including the third largest reserves of natural gas in the continent, recently discovered in the Rovuma river basin, bordering Tanzania, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
With a population of approximately 28 million (INE, 2017), of which 68% lives in rural areas and 60% live along the coastline, livelihoods in Mozambique depend to a large extent on natural resources, such as rain-fed agriculture and fishing. In addition, three strategic seaports in the cities of Nacala (north), Beira (centre) and Maputo (south), as well as regional transport corridors serving its neighboring landlock countries offer many opportunities for regional trade and economic growth.
Mozambique achieved significant economic growth between 2000 and 2015, with real GDP growth rates averaging 7%, among the highest in the continent. Mozambique’s strong economic performance owes to a combination of sound macroeconomic management, several large-scale foreign-investment projects in the extractives sector and significant donor support. It also benefitted from the impact of the commodity price boom of the 2000s in the agricultural and mineral sectors. However, growth has not been equitable and has not necessarily translated into similarly gains in living standards of the population.
Poverty remains high, with up to 46.1% of the population living below the national poverty line in 2014/15, down only by 6.7 percentage points from rates prevailing at the beginning of the 2000s: 52.8% in 2002/3. Notwithstanding the reduction in poverty incidence from previous poverty assessments, in absolute terms the number of poor people in Mozambique has remained relatively unchanged. Other measures of basic wellbeing, such maternal mortality (489 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015), infant mortality (53.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017), primary completion rates (46.4% in 2007) or access to electricity (24.2% of the population in 2016) also remain problematic and below regional averages, despite large investments going into social sectors in Mozambique over the past two decades. Moreover, improvements in living standards have not been evenly spread across the country, with improvements heavily concentrated in urban areas and in the southern part of the country.
Since 2016, Mozambique’s economic performance has experienced a sharp reversal, with a slowdown in economic growth, a worsening of the government’s fiscal position and raising debt levels, mainly due to falling global commodity prices, the impact of the el Nino drought, and spiraling debt. More recently, in 2019, Mozambique has been heavily affected by two tropical cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, that resulted in significant loss of life and widespread damage to crops and infrastructure.
In the short term, Mozambique’s economic performance is likely to remain weak, with real GDP growth projected to reach only 1.8% in 2019, compared to the 4.7% initially projected by the government in the 2019 state budget. This is mainly due to losses to agricultural production and disruptions to transport, communications and services. With annual population growth in Mozambique estimated at 2.9% in 2018, this would involve the first drop in GDP per capita levels in Mozambique in almost two decades, since 2000. Inflation is estimated at 8,5%, against the initially planned 6.5%.
However, the economic outlook for the medium term is expected to improve. Growth is projected to recover in 2020, as a result of a recovery in agricultural production and reconstruction efforts, and to reach 4% annually in 2021-22. From 2023-24 growth is expected to accelerate due to the start of natural gas production, while other sectors are expected to maintain their growth rate of 4% annually.
Mozambique has faced a complex socioeconomic environment that presents key challenges but also opportunities for the future.
For instance, Mozambique ranks 10th in countries most vulnerable to disaster risks. The country is exposed to extreme climate-related events, with floods, cyclones and droughts being the most frequent threats. These natural hazards have always been part of the country’s history and have always had a long-term impact especially on the lives of the poorest due to their limited capacity to cope. However, with climate change, climate-related hazards are occurring with increasing frequency, which may pose serious constraints to national development.
At the same time, investments in the nascent gas industry in the north of the country represent an important source of national revenue in the medium and long term. The prospects of a new phase of growth driven by additional revenues from the extractive industry calls for Government’s focus on achieving economic diversification through policies that promote investment and job creation in non-extractive activities, and at the same time provide more equal access to social services.
To respond to these and other challenges, UNDP Mozambique is committed to support the Government of Mozambique finding integrated policy solutions, which require a cross-cutting approach in the spheres of social, economic and environmental governance, to build resilience and sustainable development.