Mozambique at a cross road – what will happen next?

Instable political setting and decreasing urban development

The 2015 presidential election resulted in the election of President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, who still represents the Frelimo party. Though there is hope that he will bring progress, there is hard work ahead of him. The central part of Mozambique still faces political instability and violent conflicts. During our latest program visit, local media reported on an attack of yet another bus in the Zambezi river area where several people died. Recently, party leaders met on neutral ground in China to negotiate a solution, partly supported by embassies and foreign investors who were pushing for a peaceful solution. It seems that despite the commitment of the Frelimo and Renamo leaders to negotiate a solution, their political power is challenged by the lack of willingness to compromise among the members of the two parties.

The northern Cabo Delgado province has in recent years been subject to huge gas explorations which has transformed the sleepy provincial capital Pemba into a buzzling town full of 4x4s, expats, construction work, new restaurants, petrol stations, etc. However, during DFE’s last program visit in May 2015, Pemba was a different sight. With the recent price drop in oil and current renegotiation of concession contracts, most of the urban development was put on hold pushing Pemba back to being the slow mode town it used to be before the gas adventure started. This illustrates how quickly the changes in natural resource extractions can influence the local socio-economic context.

Critical financial situation

Recently, national media has reported serious financial problems, with external donors such as the IMF and the G14 group threatening to pull out their financial loans and state budget support. This happened after discovering secretly kept loans of state owned companies for more than 1.6 billion USD. Reports of a potential state debt of more than 8 billion USD and a potential 12% decrease in the national budget if donors pull out is worrying for the future of Mozambique. At the same time, China has just promised investments of 1,4 billion USD, seeing Mozambique as a strategic entrance to the African, Asian and Middle Eastern markets.  However, locally the Chinese are still known for their engagement in illegal logging, resulting in unfair competition with local forest concessions.  The rapidly decreasing forest resources have resulted in a current three year stop to renew and grant forest concession licenses. This needs, however, to be followed up by stronger law enforcement to secure the remaining forest resources. 

Booming small and large scale mining sectors

The mining sector continues to boom with new discoveries and extraction of precious stones and raw minerals both at a small and large scale. This creates chaotic and dangerous situations where the temptation of quick money makes farmers leave their fields to engage in artisanal mining activities. The police controls vehicles moving along the roads from Tanzania to the local communities but there is little regulation within the settlement areas where illegal sales of precious stones take place. Communities living within the mining concessions face resettlement problems while the private mining, forest and hunting concessions deal with illegal miners entering and settling on concession land. This has resulted in violent situations and cases of deadly shootings, clearly challenging the dialogue between the local communities and private companies.

DFE’s focus and local support

Despite these contextual challenges, DFE continues to work with the local communities to ensure that their rights are respected and that they also get a voice to influence the current development of Mozambique. Under our new program agreement, we work with the partner organization Ama (Assoção do meio ambiente), among others, to address some of these conflicts. We capacitate local communities to be organized into Community Based Natural Resource Management Committees and train them in their rights and capacity to organize, manage and control their natural resources. We also support and empower them to engage in dialogue with the private concessions, local authorities and district departments.

We will in the next ten-months increase our support to train and legalize these committees to support securing their resources, solve the local conflicts and secure their share of the natural resource revenues collected by the government. Communities are also supported to develop plans to invest their forest revenues into local development projects such as markets, schools etc. Further, we support coordination in larger networks through establishment of two District Councils representing the communities, civil society, local district officers, authorities and private concessions. This aims to improve stakeholder dialogue and ensure rightful payment of revenues and resettlement compensation.