From New World Encyclopedia
República de Moçambique  (Portuguese)
Republic of Mozambique
Flag of Mozambique Coat of arms of Mozambique
AnthemPátria Amada
"Beloved Homeland"
Location of Mozambique
(and largest city)
25°57′S 32°35′E
Official languages Portuguese
Vernacular languages Swahili, Makhuwa, Sena
Demonym Mozambican
Government Presidential republic
 -  President Armando Guebuza
 -  Prime Minister Aires Ali
 -  from Portugal June 25, 1975 
 -  Total 801,590 km² (35th)
309,496 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 2.2
 -  2009 estimate 22,894,000[1] (54th)
 -  2007 census 21,397,000 (52nd) 
 -  Density 28.7/km² (178th)
74.3/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $21.809 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $1,010[2] 
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $9.893 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $458[2] 
Gini (1996–97) 39.6 (medium
Currency Mozambican metical (Mtn) (MZN)
Time zone CAT (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+2)
Internet TLD .mz
Calling code +258
1 Estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.

The Republic of Mozambique, or Mozambique, is a country in southeastern Africa, bordering South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Comoros lie offshore to the northeast, and Madagascar lies to the east across the Mozambique Channel.

Mozambique is still recovering from the destruction wrought by nearly two decades of civil war during the Cold War era. Millions of refugees fled their homes, the economy shriveled under socialism, agriculture withered, and education suffered. These privations came after centuries of neglect under the colonial domination of the Portuguese.

The previously socialist FRELIMO party still is the dominant force in the country. But the multiparty government elected in the 1990s has made large strides in resurrecting Mozambique, moving toward privatization and a free market and making national and municipal elections progressively more transparent. Nevertheless, Mozambique remains one of the world's least developed countries.


Mozambique's first inhabitants were San hunters and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples. Between the first and fourth centuries C.E., waves of Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from the north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually spread 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 route to the east. Later, traders and prospectors penetrated the interior regions seeking gold and slaves. Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, its power was largely 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 twentieth century the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of Mozambique to large private companies, controlled and financed mostly by the British, that 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 in 1975 was about 250,000. In 1962, several anti-colonial political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese rule in 1964. After ten years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975.

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. At the time of independence, 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 (African National Congress) 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). In addition to civil war and economic collapse, the first decade of independence was marked by the mass exodus of Portuguese nationals and nationalization. During most of the civil war, the government was unable to exercise effective control outside urban areas. An estimated one million Mozambicans perished, 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 suspicious 1986 plane crash. His successor, Joaquim Chissano, continued the reforms and began peace talks with RENAMO. With a new constitution that provided for a multiparty political system, market-based economy, and free elections, the civil war ended in October 1992. Under United Nations supervision, peace came to Mozambique. By mid-1995, the refugees who had sought asylum in neighboring states to avoid war and drought had returned, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in Sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated four million of those internally displaced also returned to their areas of origin.


Map of Mozambique

Mozambique is located in eastern Africa, on the continent's largest coastal plain. It covers 309,495 square miles (801,590 square kilometers). In the west, the mountain peaks reach 8,200 feet (2,500 meters); Monte Binga, near Lake Niasssa, is the highest peak in Mozambique at 7,992 feet (2,436 meters). The major elevations are near the borders with Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi. The country is divided by the Zambezi River. Mozambique is divided into eleven provinces: Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica, Maputo (city), Maputo, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, Tete, and Zambezia.

The 1,535 miles (2,470 kilometers) of irregular coastline is covered by vast swamps in the middle section of the country. The soft sand and clear blue water of the many Mozambican beaches are excellent for tourism.

Mozambique has a hot, rainy season from November to March. The average temperature in the region surrounding the capital, Maputo, ranges from a daytime high of 81 °F to 88 °F (27 °C to 31 °C). Rainfall during this season can average more than eight inches (200 mm) monthly. During the cool, dry winter season, from July to September, the average daily daytime temperature ranges from 75 °F to 81 °F (24 °C to 27 °C). Rainfall averages less than two inches (50 millimeters) monthly.

Two islands that belong to Malawi lie entirely within Mozambique's Lake Niassa (Lake Malawi) territorial waters.


Mozambique has been a multiparty democracy since adoption of the 1990 constitution. The executive branch comprises a president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. There is a National Assembly and municipal assemblies. The judiciary comprises a Supreme Court and provincial, district, and municipal courts. Suffrage is universal at eighteen.

In 1994, the country held its first democratic elections. Joaquim Chissano was elected president with 53 percent of the vote, and a 250-member National Assembly was voted in with 129 FRELIMO deputies, 112 RENAMO deputies, and nine representatives of three smaller parties that formed the Democratic Union (UD). Since its formation in 1994, the National Assembly has made progress in becoming a body increasingly more independent of the executive. By 1999, more than one-half (53 percent) of the legislation passed had originated in the Assembly.

In 1998, after some delays, the country held its first local elections to provide for local representation and some budgetary authority at the municipal level. The principal opposition party, RENAMO, boycotted the local elections, citing flaws in the registration process. Independent slates contested the elections and won seats in municipal assemblies. Turnout was very low.

In the aftermath of the 1998 local elections, the government resolved to make more accommodations to the opposition's procedural concerns for the second round of multiparty national elections in 1999. Working through the National Assembly, the electoral law was rewritten and passed by consensus in December 1998. Financed largely by international donors, a very successful voter registration was conducted from July to September 1999, providing voter registration cards to 85 percent of the potential electorate, more than seven million voters.

The second general elections were held December 3-5, 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.

Chissano won the presidency with a margin of 4 percentage points over the RENAMO-Electoral Union coalition candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, and began his five-year term in January 2000. FRELIMO increased its majority in the National Assembly with 133 out of 250 seats. The RENAMO-UE coalition won 116 seats; 1 went independent.

The opposition coalition did not accept the National Election Commission's results of the presidential vote and filed a formal complaint to the Supreme Court. One month after the voting, the court dismissed the opposition's challenge and validated the election results. The opposition did not file a complaint about the results of the legislative vote.

The second local elections, involving 33 municipalities with some 2.4 million registered voters, took place in November 2003. This was the first time that FRELIMO, RENAMO-UE, and independent parties competed without significant boycotts. The 24 percent turnout was well above the 15 percent turnout in the first municipal elections. FRELIMO won 28 mayoral positions and the majority in 29 municipal assemblies, while RENAMO won five mayoral positions and the majority in four municipal assemblies. The voting was conducted in an orderly fashion without violent incidents. However, the period immediately after the elections was marked by objections about voter and candidate registration and vote tabulation, as well as calls for greater transparency.

In May 2004, the government approved a new general elections law that contained innovations based on the experience of the 2003 municipal elections.

Presidential and National Assembly elections took place on December 1-2, 2004. FRELIMO candidate Armando Guebuza, a wealthy businessman, won with 64 percent of the popular vote. His opponent, Afonso Dhlakama of RENAMO, received 32 percent of the popular vote. FRELIMO won 160 seats in Parliament. A coalition of RENAMO and several small parties won the 90 remaining seats. Armando Guebuza was inaugurated on February 2, 2005. The state-run Radio Mozambique is the country's main source of news and information, and RENAMO claims that its candidates receive inadequate coverage.

Foreign relations

While allegiances dating back to the liberation struggle remain important, Mozambique's foreign policy has become increasingly pragmatic. The twin pillars of Mozambique's foreign policy are maintenance of good relations with its neighbors, and maintenance and expansion of ties to development partners.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Mozambique's foreign policy was inextricably linked to the struggles for majority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa as well as superpower competition and the Cold War. Mozambique's decision to enforce UN sanctions against Rhodesia and deny that country access to the sea led Ian Smith's regime to undertake overt and covert actions to destabilize the country. Although the change of government in Zimbabwe in 1980 removed this threat, the apartheid regime in South Africa continued to finance the destabilization of Mozambique.

The 1984 Nkomati Accord, while failing in its goal of ending South African support for RENAMO, opened initial diplomatic contacts between the Mozambican and South African governments. This process gained momentum with South Africa's elimination of apartheid, which culminated in the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1993. While relations with neighboring Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania show occasional strains, Mozambique's ties to these countries remain strong.

In the years immediately following independence, the Soviet Union and its allies became Mozambique's primary economic, military, and political supporters, and its foreign policy reflected this. Things began to change in 1983; in 1984 Mozambique joined the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Western aid quickly replaced Soviet support, with the Scandinavians, Finland, the United States, the Netherlands, and the European Union becoming increasingly important sources of development assistance. Italy also maintains a profile in Mozambique as a result of its key role during the peace process. Relations with Portugal, the former colonial power, are complex and of some importance, as Portuguese investors play a visible role in Mozambique's economy.

Mozambique is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and ranks among the moderate members of the African Bloc in the United Nations and other international organizations. Mozambique also belongs to the African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity) and the Southern African Development Community. In 1994, the government became a full member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in part to broaden its base of international support but also to please the country's sizable Muslim population. Similarly, in early 1996, Mozambique joined its Anglophone neighbors in the Commonwealth. In the same year, Mozambique became a founding member and the first president of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), and it maintains close ties with other Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) states.


The official currency is the metical (as of 2005, US$1.00 was roughly equivalent to 24,000 meticals). U.S. dollars, rands, and more recently, Euros are also widely accepted and used in business transactions. The minimum legal salary is around $60 per month.

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, it has experienced a notable economic recovery. Per capita GDP in 2000 was estimated at US$222, compared to US$120 in the mid-1980s. With a high foreign debt and a good track record on economic reform, Mozambique was the first African country to receive debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. In 2000, Mozambique qualified for the Enhanced HIPC program as well and attained its completion point in September 2001. This led to the Paris Club members agreeing in November 2001 to substantially reduce the remaining bilateral debt. Much of it was completely forgiven. The United States, for example, has forgiven Mozambique's debt.

The resettlement of war refugees and successful economic reform have led to a high growth rate; the average growth rate from 1993 to 1999 was 6.7 percent; from 1997 to 1999, it averaged more than 10 percent per year. Devastating floods in early 2000 slowed GDP growth to 2.1 percent. A full recovery was achieved, with growth of 14.8 percent in 2001. The government projected the economy to continue to expand between 7 and 10 percent a year, although rapid expansion in the future hinges on several major foreign investment projects, continued economic reform, and the revival of the agricultural, transportation, and tourism sectors. More than 75 percent of the population engages in small-scale agriculture that still suffers from inadequate infrastructure, commercial networks, and investment. Nearly 90 percent of Mozambique's arable land is still uncultivated; focusing economic growth in this sector is a major challenge for the government.

The government's tight control of spending and the money supply, combined with financial sector reform, successfully reduced inflation from 70 percent in 1994 to less than 5 percent from 1998-1999. Economic disruptions stemming from the floods of 2000 caused inflation to jump to 12.7 percent that year, and it was 13 percent in 2003. As a result, the metical lost nearly 50 percent of its value against the dollar after December 2000, although in late 2001 it began to stabilize. Since then, the currency has held steady at about 24,000 meticals to each American dollar.

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, those companies owned wholly or in part by the government. These include 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 highly successful value-added tax in 1999 as part of its efforts to increase domestic revenues. Plans for the future include Commercial Code reform; comprehensive judicial reform; strengthening of the financial sector; continued civil service reform; and improved government budget, audit, and inspection capability.

Imports remain almost 40 percent greater than exports, but this is a significant improvement over the 4:1 ratio of the immediate postwar years. 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-payments shortfalls. The medium-term outlook for exports is encouraging, since a number of foreign investment projects should lead to substantial export growth and a better trade balance. MOZAL, a large aluminum smelter that commenced production in mid-2000, has greatly expanded the nation's trade volume.

Traditional Mozambican exports include cashews, shrimp, fish, copra (dried coconut), sugar, cotton, tea, and citrus fruits. Most of these industries are being rehabilitated. Mozambique now is less dependent on imports for basic food and manufactured goods because of steady increases in local production.

In December 1999, the Council of Ministers approved the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Trade Protocol. The protocol will create a free-trade zone among more than two hundred million consumers in the SADC region. The ten-year implementation process of the SADC Trade Protocol began in 2002 with the immediate elimination of duties on a large list of goods. In 2003, the top tariff rate was lowered from 30 to 25 percent. Mozambique has also joined the World Trade Organization.


The population of Mozambique is estimated at 19,686,505. Life expectancy in Mozambique is 40 years for both men and women. Young people (up to fourteen years) make up 42.7 percent of the population; the median age is 18.3. The majority of the population (70 percent) lives below the poverty line, and the gross national income per capita was US$310 in 2006 (World Bank estimate). Approximately 1.3 million Mozambicans have HIV/AIDS.

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 percent of the population. The estimated four million Makua 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.

During the colonial era, Christian missionaries were active in Mozambique, and many foreign clergy remain in the country. According to the national census, about 20-30 percent of the population is Christian (with Catholicism the largest denomination), 15-20 percent is Muslim, and the remainder adheres to traditional beliefs. The Roman Catholic Church established three archdioceses (Beira, Maputo, and Nampula) in Mozambique.

Under the colonial regime, educational opportunities for black Mozambicans were limited, and 93 percent 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 48 percent overall, but that of males is nearly twice that of females. Unfortunately, in recent years, school construction and teacher training enrollments have not kept pace with population increases. With postwar enrollments reaching all-time highs, the quality of education has suffered.


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 have been 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.


  1. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified. International Monetary Fund.

External Links

All links retrieved November 10, 2022.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.