MAPUTO — Located on the southeastern part of Africa, just northeast of South Africa, lies one of the world’s poorest counties — Mozambique. So why is Mozambique poor? To answer this, one must look at the many reasons that stem from the large amount of inequality within the nation.
In answering this question, a report provided by The World Bank focuses on where economic opportunities for poor people exist compared to those of non-poor people. There is a lack of education that generationally contributes to the constant transmission of poverty among the poor, especially in the central and northern provinces. In these locales, people demonstrate low return on household assets in comparison to other provinces.
Although in recent years the country made impressive economic growth encouraged by development progress by the government, poverty continues to be a major issue in the country. The amount of citizens who live in complete poverty has been reduced from 70 percent down to 54 percent in 1997; however, despite this reduction, most of Mozambicans still live on less can $1.25 a day. These individuals still do not have proper access to services such as safe drinking water, health facilities and schools.
Another factor to consider when asking “why is Mozambique poor” is the severely low level of agricultural productivity. Although there is a huge potential for agriculture, most of the land in the region remains largely untapped; this instance is due to the lack of appropriate supports and agricultural technologies.
Also, produce markets are very distant in general, which makes them unreliable and uncompetitive for smallholder farmers who depend mainly on traditional farming methods. There are ironically not many opportunities for other sources of income outside of agriculture.
To make matters more complicated, it’s women who play a major role in agriculture — especially in growing crops and obtaining an income for their families. This responsibility, though, acts as a burden because women are particularly disadvantaged in the nation — they receive less education than men, and with that comes fewer skills. Farming consequently becomes one of their only livelihood options.
Although the 1997 Land Law affirms that women should have an equal access to land, many are still unaware of their true legal rights, and more often than not these rights are not implemented nor enforced. As more and more women in Mozambique become the heads of their households and have limited access to land, their situation escalates.
War, Disease and Natural Disasters
So, what are other factors to observe when asking “why is Mozambique poor?” War, disease and even natural disasters also contribute to the country’s high poverty levels. There was a civil war that lasted for a total of 16 years; there have been floods as well as droughts that have displaced large numbers of people to migrate to urban and coastal areas; and currently 11 percent of people within the country have the HIV/AIDS virus.
Mark Lundell, a World Bank Director for Mozambique states that, “The robust growth that the country has seen in recent times has mainly benefited the non-poor, signaling a weak inclusion in the country’s economic growth model….the country needs to focus on public policies and investments geared towards social and economic inclusion.”
Although Mozambique’s economy has improved within the last decade, there is still a long battle ahead when it comes to combating poverty and inequality within the country.
– Sara Venusti