Boom time for Mozambique, once the basket case of Africa
29 March 2012
The Guardian - March 28, 2012
The shells of stylish colonial-era buildings, like shipwrecks on the ocean floor, still give Maputo a distinct character. But the capital of Mozambique no longer feels like an urban museum. Amid the crumbling grandeur rumble cranes and mechanical diggers, carving out a different skyline.
A construction boom is under way here, concrete proof of the economic revolution in Mozambique. Growth hit 7.1% last year, accelerating to 8.1% in the final quarter. The country, riven by civil war for 15 years, is poised to become the world's biggest coal exporter within the next decade, while the recent discovery of two massive gas fields in its waters has turned the region into an energy hotspot, promising a £250bn bonanza.
The national currency was the best performing in the world against the dollar. Investment is pouring in on an unprecedented scale; as if to prove that history has a sense of irony, Portuguese feeling Europe's economic pain are flocking back to the former colony, scenting better prospects than at home. Increasingly this is the rule, not the exception in Africahttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/africa, which has boasted six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies in the past decade. The first oil discovery in Kenya was confirmed on Monday, while the British firm BG Group announced that one of its gas fields off the Tanzanian coast was bigger than expected and could lead to billions of pounds of investment. Bankers, analysts and politicians have never been so bullish about the continent, which barely 10 years ago was regarded as a basket case.
From Cape Town to Cairo, there are signs of a continent on the move: giant infrastructure projects, an expanding middle class, foreign equity scrambling for opportunities in telecoms, financial services and products aimed at a billion consumers. Growth is no magic bullet for reducing inequality or fostering democracy, but the stubborn truth that it is still the world's poorest continent has done little to dull the confidence and hype about the African renaissance.