29 June 2015
In the more than two decades since democratic elections signalled a new era in Mozambique, a great deal has been accomplished. Nearly all development indicators have improved--often substantially--relative to the miserable levels posted in the 1980s and 1990s.
Headline economic growth has been among the most rapid in the world. Enormous efforts have been made in improving access to education with complete primary education now in sight.
Infant mortality rates have declined dramatically from about 177 deaths per 1000 live births in 1975 to about 62 deaths per 1000 live births in 2013.
But Mozambique's struggle to improve living standards, particularly raising desperately low levels of consumption for more than half of the population, has suffered in the 2000s. The fuel and food price crisis of 2008 hit hard and weather shocks magnified the impact.
New economic team has work cut out
With a new government designing its development program, now is a good time to reflect on what Mozambique can do to achieve rapid economic and social progress.
The good news is that President Filipe Nyusi, who formally replaced Armando Guebuza in January 2015, has selected an excellent economic team.
The triumvirate of Adriano Maleiane at the Ministry of Economics and Finance, Ernesto Gove at the Central Bank and Pedro Couto in the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources is perhaps one of the most promising on the continent. Jose Pacheco is an experienced head of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The bad news is that the team faces enormous challenges. Among these are:
* Renewed political instability with the potential for violent confrontation with the principal opposition party, RENAMO;
* A persistent majority of the rural population mired in very low productivity subsistence agriculture;
* The "easy to say but hard to do" task of converting raw natural resources below the ground, such as coal and gas, into productive physical and human capital above the ground; and
* Job creation for a young and rapidly growing population with high expectations.
The government confronts these and other thorny challenges with a weak administrative apparatus and open splits within FRELIMO, the dominant political party.
Even under favourable assumptions it will take time for the Nyusi government to gain traction and address the weaknesses in development policies that have become evident over the past five years.
While development is a multifaceted process that requires...