PoliticsNews & AnalysisMozambique: Move on up


Posted on Thursday, 07 March 2013 15:34

Mozambique: Move on up

By Nicholas Norbrook

Will resource wealth bring “more for everyone” or just benefit the elite?/Photo©MARIO MACILAUThere is now a clear opportunity to use Mozambique's massive gas and coal wealth to fund a yawning infrastructure gap. This in turn will help bring development to the furthest reaches of the country. The government has created a new development bank and is taking a tougher line with multinational companies in order to reach its goals.


For all Mozambique's explosive growth and impressive hydro-carbon discoveries, inequality remains stubborn.

"No Mozambican can feel proud to open their car door and see a hungry person looking for something to eat in the rubbish."

The phrase carries all the weight of a former president of Brazil who successfully reduced poverty.

Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva spoke to businesspeople on a tour of the country in late November organised by Graça Machel, the former wife of Mozambique's liberation-era president, Samora Machel, himself a great friend of o povo (the people).

For writer Joseph Hanlon, this was a clear attack on President Armando Guebuza.

Graça Machel is part of a political camp within the ruling Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo) party that has been pushing for more inclusive growth.

President Guebuza is unmoved. Speaking in Xai-Xai in November 2012, he said "only the lazy believe we cannot end poverty", arguing that farmers and fisher- men need to work harder.

He will not be troubled by the voices of disgruntled insiders or hectoring outsiders, especially now that he has launched a development bank, the remodelled Banco Nacional de Investimento, eight years after donors stopped a previous incarnation.

A rise in popularity of the Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (MDM) may worry Guebuza more, especially if the Beira mayor and newly confirmed MDM flag bearer David Simango can articulate the inequality message beyond his Sofala power base.

The new development bank, based on Brazil's Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social, is headed by former Bank of Mozambique governor Adriano Maleiane.

It goes hand in hand with other 'strong government' measures of recent times, from the unusual forcing of Anadarko and Eni to share infrastructure in January 2013, to the renegotiation of old 'megaproject' contracts like the Mozal aluminium smelter and Vale and Rio Tinto's initial mining deals.


And foreigners seem to be putting their faith in Mozambique.

It may be apocryphal that Portuguese taxi drivers are plying routes in Mozambique's capital to escape recession back home, but other more structured Portuguese economic interests certainly are in town, from Visabeira, a communications conglomerate, to Millennium BCP, which owns the largest bank.

The attractions are obvious. Mozambique is undergoing a sustained boom.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised growth estimates for 2012 up- wards to 7.4 percent and agreed with the government's predictions of 8.4 percent growth in 2013.

The country groans with coal, gas and agricultural potential, all situ- ated across the Indian Ocean from resource-hungry Asian markets.

The energy revolution is most promising.

The government will auction off 12 new blocks in the first months of 2013 that are adjacent to the world-class finds uncovered in the Rovuma Basin by Italy's Eni and US firm Anadarko.

Given the bruising fight to buy Cove Energy, which owned a small stake in a proven block, the government expects a lively and lucrative bidding round.

Companies estimate that a total of 130 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves can be found beneath the waves, another figure that could be revised upwards.

Qatar's reserves, by comparison, are around 900tcf.

Oil majors appear confident that re- serves will be found elsewhere too. In a farm-in agreement with Malaysia's Petronas in September 2012, France's Total acquired shares in two blocks in the south of the Rovuma Basin.

Jacques Marraud des Grottes, Total's senior vice-president for Africa, believes they "might equal the gas potential of the northern part".

Meanwhile, the first shipments of coal from Vale's mines in Tete Province left the new minerals terminal at Beira port bound for Asian markets in February 2012.

India's Jindal Steel & Power expects its first coal exports of 1.3m tn to leave in January 2013 and plans to ramp up its exports to 10m tn per year by 2017.

The resource boom is attracting money into infrastructure (see sidebar), with countries from the BRICS grouping – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – doing the heavy lifting.

China-Mozambique trade in 2012 was more than $1.1bn.

There is scepticism, however, about how fast the infrastructure outlay can match export aspirations, something which contributed to the downfall of Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese.

Though Maputo is not in the grip of a middle-class boom, there is a strong rise in consumer-driven businesses such as banking, telecoms and retail.

Keen to reap the dividends, shareholders in Millennium bim bank agreed to increase its equity base from MT1.5bn ($51m) to MT4.5bn in 2011.

Vodacom Mozambique is ploughing $16m into an upgraded 3G network to keep pace with customer demand for mobile internet.

But the IMF resident representative in Mozambique, Victor Lledó, believes that growth is not being shared equally, and that agriculture is key.

Reforming land tenure laws is critical, he argues.

Specifically, the unregulated secondary market in land-lease rights needs to be addressed, which would allow farmers to move beyond subsistence.

"It is also important to leverage the fiscal contributions of megaprojects so that you can increase public investment in infrastructure," says Lledó.

"Mozambique is well placed to commercialise and export agricultural goods, but secondary, tertiary and feeder roads are in a terrible state, and the ports are weak."


The energy sector brings its own thorny issues, including corporate mispricing and transfer pricing – the accounting trick whereby companies extract profit without having to declare it locally.

They will be major battlegrounds in drafting energy laws.

"One of the areas we have told the government would be important for them to revisit, and which gives a lot of margin for transfer pricing, is some of their bilateral tax agreements," says Lledó.

Avoiding the 'Dutch disease' – a strengthened currency that harms other exports – is also a priority.

Mozambique's central bank has shown it has the ability to squeeze out inflation – bringing it down to under 7.5 percent in 2012 from 16 percent in 2010. It has never had to deal with the volatility that the natural resource sector will bring into the economy.

Nor have Mozambican officials had to deal with the level of temptation now on offer. The country became a compliant member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in October 2012, a welcome step.

However, a report from the Centro de Integridade Pública (CIP) anti-corruption watchdog says: "The links between technical managers and politicians are most blatant in the public Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos and in the Ministry of Mineral Resources."

Mozambique should directly bind gas and mining projects into the national economy, says Tyler Biggs, a consultant with aid agency USAID.

This will require serious engagement with the education system, however, as "even in urban centres, only 50 percent of the population has any level of education, and just 0.43% completed university."

Without it, inclusive growth will remain elusive.

Critical to this dynamic is the ability of Mozambican officials to extract technology transfers from investors and to stimulate job growth.

Indonesia signed a deal with the government to help to transfer science and technology expertise in September 2011, as did Malaysia in August 2012.

Japanese and Vietnamese experts are helping in the rice sector. In Beluluane, China Tong Jian Investment Company is opening up a $200m car assembly factory. India's promise to build a coal institute is yet to materialise.

Blessed with vast natural wealth, Mozambique would benefit from the efforts of reform-minded leaders to channel this productively.

The risks of oil money entrenching a parasitic elite remain high.

The eventual winners in this scenario, as in Nigeria, would be foreigners, not Mozambicans●

Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht is turning the Nacala airbase into an international airport. Miguel Peres, Odebrecht head of Southeastern Africa, announced the company received annual revenue of $150m in Mozambique in 2012, with predictions that it will hit $1bn by 2020. Tenders will soon be issued for Maputo airport's runway and apron modernisation, with China's AFECC already building a $36m domestic terminal. China Road and Bridge Corporation is building the ring road in the capital, as well as a 3km bridge across Maputo Bay to Catembe – set to become a high-end zone – for $725m. South Africa's Transnet and Grindrod have partnered with Mozambique's CFM and Dubai Port World to run integrated port and rail services in the Maputo Development Port – with Grindrod saying they are now planning an expansion to a 7.3m tn coal terminal by 2013, potentially expanding to 20m tn by 2018. Mirroring the fall-and-rise dynamic of Mozambique's post-colonial history, the national electricity producer Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa has repaired the damage done by apartheid South Africa, paid off its Portuguese legacy and welcomed in new Portuguese investors Redes Energéticas Nacionais. It is now firmly in expansion mode, poised to supply exploding demand in Southern Africa.

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