MAPUTO, Mozambique — The president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, spent a week in Ireland earlier this month for an official state visit. Over the past two decades, the Irish government has worked closely with this Southeast African country. Guebuza’s stay marks a continuation of the Ireland-Mozambique partnership to help reduce poverty, maintain sustainable development and procure foreign investors for Mozambique.
His trip included meetings with Irish Aid, an organization that has assisted the poor in Mozambique for years. President Guebuza also met with Irish corporations, NGOs and academic institutions. His meetings focused on improving the standard of living for his people by increasing food security and foreign investment. The president’s strategy of employing both foreign aid and foreign direct investment to help advance Mozambique’s economy made his visit to Ireland key for both his citizens and Ireland’s businesses.
Over the past few years, Mozambique’s economy has expanded rapidly, averaging around 7 percent growth per year. It is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and makes the country optimal for foreign investment. Its large coal and oil reserves have recently attracted global attention from corporations like Brazil’s Vale, the U.S. oil company Anadarko and Ireland’s Kenmare Resources. As a result of the growing foreign investment, the country is experiencing a rise in the newly established middle class.
Despite this growth, Mozambique remains one of the poorest nations. Over 59 percent of its population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Many in Mozambique lack access to basic necessities such as clean water, sanitation and education. The country’s rapidly changing weather causes intense flooding and droughts, leaving many without a secure source of food. The country also remains politically fragile due to the unrelenting guerrilla attacks of Renamo, the opposition party in Mozambique.
Even with these conditions, Mozambique and Ireland have maintained a strong relationship since 1996. The Irish government’s organization, Irish Aid, works with other agencies to help bring sustainable development to Mozambique. In alliance with Guebuza’s Poverty Reduction Action Plan, Irish Aid released the Mozambique Country Strategy Plan 2012-2016, which seeks to reduce poverty to 42 percent by the end of this year.
In recent years, business connections between Mozambique and Ireland have been strong. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Irish companies have employed more than 6,000 Mozambique citizens and have invested over 3 billion dollars during the past few years. With Mozambique still in large need of development assistance, the potential for profit for Irish companies is expansive.
Guebuza hopes to use the emerging market in his country as an incentive to gain more capital and jobs in order to bring his people out of poverty. His visit to Ireland marks a key step in Mozambique’s progress and development as a nation.
– Kathleen Egan