All About Mozambique


Officially the Republic of Mozambique, Mozambique is in southeast Africa with the Indian Ocean to the east. Malawi and Zambia are to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest, and Tanzania to the north. The current population is 31,143,723- world population review (2018).

In 1498, Vasco da Gama explored the area and Portugal colonized it in 1505. It gained independence in 1975 and became the People’s Republic of Mozambique shortly after. An intense civil war took place between 1977 and 1992. The country’s name comes from the name the Portuguese gave the Island of Mozambique, which came from the name of an Arab trader living there.

The country belongs to the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Commonwealth of Nations, and is an observer of La Francophonie.


Early Migrations

Bantu speakers migrated to the area between the 1st and 5th centuries AD. Bantu’s brought technology such as iron making, which allowed them to conquer their neighbors. Prior to the arrival of Arabs and Portuguese, Swahili trade ports were along the coast. In 1498. Portuguese explorers reached East Africa. After 1500, Portuguese trading posts displaced the Arab community and quickly became regular ports of call for European sea routes.

Vasco da Gama’s voyage around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 began Portugal’s entry into the Indian Ocean. in the early 16th century, it gained control of the island of Mozambique and the city of Sofala. In the 1530s, traders and prospectors from Portugal entered the interior to look for gold. they set up posts on the Zambezi River. Through land grants, the Portuguese tried to legitimize their claims. While originally Portuguese, these became African Portuguese centers defended by Chikundu, large slave armies.Slavery was historically present in Mozambique. Portuguese, Arab traders, and tribal chiefs bought and sold African slaves. These slaves were mostly supplied by raids on warring tribes.

Portuguese influence expanded but its power was limited to officials and settlers granted autonomy. Between 1500 and 1700, the Portuguese took much of the coastal trade from the Arabs. In 1698, the Arabs took a key Portuguese foothold, which began to turn the tide. Portugal focused on Far East and Indian trade as well as colonizing Brazil. The Portuguese were forced to retreat further south as Arabs reclaimed the Indian Ocean trade in the 1700s and 1800s. In the 1800s, the British and French also became more involved in the region’s trade.

In the early 20th century, Portugal began to administer the area by using large private companies mostly financed by the British. Despite slavery being abolished, these companies used forced labor in the mines and early British colonies.

Due to unsatisfactory performance, the companies’ contracts were not renewed when they expired. These typically continued to operate in the agricultural sector. In 1951, the African Portuguese colonies were renamed the Overseas Provinces of Portugal.

Independence Movement

Independence movements were established as anti-colonial and communist ideologies spread in Africa. These groups were upset that little attention was paid to the needs of native communities. Statistically, white Europeans were better off than the indigenous population. In response, the Portuguese gradually instituted policies promoting equality for all.

A guerilla campaign was started by the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) in 1964. This fighting, along with that in Angola and Portuguese Guinea, became known as the Portuguese Colonial War. Guerillas focused on the rural areas while the Portuguese kept control of the cities. The Portuguese also paid more attention to the country’s social and economic development to combat the rebel influence.

After a coup in Portugal returned it to a democracy and ten years of sporadic fighting, FRELIMO took control of the territory. The Portuguese in the colony fled within a year. Mozambique gained formal independence on June 25, 1975.

Conflict and Civil War

President Samora Machel’s new government supported South African and Zimbabwean freedom movements. These governments financed a rebel movement in Mozambique, RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance. A violent civil war was waged in the country from 1977 to 1992 between the Marxist FRELIMO regime and the anti-Communist RENAMO militias. The war and sabotage from neighboring South Africa and Rhodesia, along with policies and economic collapse, marked Mozambique’s first decades of independence. The flight of Portuguese from the country hurt infrastructure and investment. The government could not control rural areas effectively. Approximately one million people died in the civil war and 1.7 million fled to neighboring countries and millions more were displaced internally.

In 1986, President Machel’s plane crashed in the Lebombo mountains. The president and 33 others died, including several ministers and government officials. The Soviet Union claimed a false beacon was used by South African operatives to bring down the plane. Other nations dispute this theory.

Jaoquim Chissano, the successor to Machel, started capitalist reforms and peace talks. A new 1990 constitution set up a multi-party system, market economy, and free elections. In 1992, the Rome General Peace Accords ended the civil war. The U.N. supervised the peace process.

By 1995, the refugees that fled the civil war to neighboring countries returned in what was the largest repatriation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Foreign Relations

Mozambique has had an increasingly pragmatic foreign policy. The pillars of this policy are good relations with neighboring countries and expanded ties to development partners.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the country’s foreign policy was linked to the problems in South Africa and Rhodesia. Both countries sought to destabilize Mozambique.

In 1984, the Nkomati Accord opened relations between Mozambique and South Africa, but it did not end South Africa’s support for RENAMO rebels. In 1993, full relations were restored after apartheid ended. Relations with other neighboring countries remain strong despite some strains.

Immediately after independence, Western countries assisted Mozambique. The Soviet Union became the primary supporter, causing the country’s foreign policy to align with the Eastern Bloc. When Mozambique’s relations shifted to the West, other nations quickly picked up support, including Scandinavian countries.

The country is part of the Non-Aligned Movement and is a moderate member of the U.N.’s African bloc. It is also a member of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. It also became part of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in part to please Mozambique’s Muslim population. It also became part of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1996. It was the first country to do so that was never part of the British Empire. Mozambique maintains ties with other Portuguese speaking nations and founded the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP).

Provinces, Districts, and Posts

There are ten provinces and one capital district with provincial status. These are divided into 129 districts, which are divided again into 405 administrative posts, then to the lowest level, the localities.

Geography and Climate

The country is the world’s 35th largest at 799,380 sq. km. The Zambezi River divides the country into two topographical regions. To the river’s north, the coast moves to inland hills and plateaus. Further west, this becomes rugged highlands, including the Namuli, Niassa, Angonia, and Tete. To the Zambezi River’s south, there are broader lowlands with the Mashonaland plateau and Lembombo Mountains in the south.

Five principal rivers and several smaller ones drain Mozambique. The Zambezi is the largest and most important. There are four major lakes, all located in the north. Major cities are Neira, Maputo, Nampula, Tete, Quelimane, Chimoio, Pemba, Inhambane, Xai-Xai, and Lichinga.


The country’s climate is tropical with a wet season from October to March and a dry from April to September. The climate does change based on the altitude. Along the coast, rainfall is heavy. During the wet season, cyclones are common.

Politics and Government

Under the 1990 constitution, Mozambique is a multi-party democracy. The executive consists of the president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. There is also a National Assembly. The Supreme Court and lower courts comprise the judiciary. There is universal suffrage at 18.

In 1994, Joaquim Chissano was elected president and the National Assembly elections resulted in 129 Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) members, 112 from the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), and nine representatives from three other parties that formed the Democratic Union (UD). Since the elections, the National Assembly has become more independent from the executive.

The first local elections were held in 1998. RENAMO, the opposition party, boycotted the elections. Turnout was very low.

After these elections, the government resolved to accommodate the opposition’s concerns for more elections in 1999. The electoral law was rewritten and voter registration was aggressively pursued.

The 1999 elections saw high voter turnout and international observers believed the elections were fair despite the close result and some allegations of irregularities.

President Chissano won re-election by a 4 percent margin and began his term in 2000. FRELIMO increased its legislative majority.

The opposition rejected the results and filed a complaint with the Supreme Court. This was dismissed one month after the elections and the original results were validated.

In 2003, local elections took place with higher turnout. FRELIMO won 28 of the 33 municipal mayoral positions. No major incidents occurred but there were some objections to voter registration.

Elections took place in 2004 and FRELIMO’s candidate Armando Guebuza won 64 percent of the vote. FRELIMO won 160 of the National Assembly seats. Opposition parties claimed fraud had occurred. International observers supported the opposition’s claims. EU observers did believe the problems did not affect the overall results. Guebuza was sworn in as president in 2005 and served his term till 2014.

Filipe Jacinto Nyusi is the current president serving as the fourth President of Mozambique, in office since 2015. He previously served as Minister of Defence from 2008 to 2014. Nyusi was the candidate of the ruling party, Frelimo, in the 2014 presidential election.


The New Metical is the official currency. Other major international currencies are also accepted and used in business transactions. The country is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The World Bank and IMF have pointed to Mozambique as an aid success story however despite rapid economic growth, the country is still one of the world’s poorest.

Shifting to Inclusive Growth notes that the country is more stable since the 2016 debt crisis triggered the economic slump, but growth prospects are limited. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth was an average 3.8% in 2016 and 2017 and is expected to reach a slightly lower rate of 3.3% in 2018. Services such as tourism, transport and finance—all hardest hit by the crisis—have shown a modest increase in growth, the report says, however these gains were offset by slowed growth in the extractives sector.


Most of the people in Mozambique live in the Zambezia and Nampula provinces. 4 million Macua in the northern part of the country are the dominant ethnic groups. 95 percent are Muslim. Other groups are the Sena, Shona, Shangaan, Makonde, Yao, Swahili, Tonga, Chopi, and Nguni. 99.66 percent of the people are Bantu. Prior to independence, Portuguese lived in all areas of the country. Many left the country after independence in 1975.


Portuguese, the official language, is spoken by 40 percent of the population. 30 percent speak it as a second language. Only about 10 percent speak it is a primary language. There are several different bantu languages, including, Makhuwa, Sena, Swahili, Ndau, and Shangaan.


About 56 percent of the country’s people are Christian, of which 28.4 percent are catholic. In addition Muslim is 18 percent and Other is 26 percent.


Each woman in Mozambique averages 5.27 births. Public spending on health was 6.6 percent of GDP and $79 per capita. 3 physicians were in the country for every 100,000 people. The rate of infant mortality was 72 per 1,000 live births. 10 percent of 15 to 49-year-olds have HIV/AIDS.


Teacher training has not kept up with population since independence. Education quality suffered during the civil war. Education is compulsory through primary school but many cannot attend due to obligations to the family. While enrollments have increased, the completion rate is poor.

There is limited space in the country’s universities. Institutes also exist to give vocational training. Bilateral agreements allow Mozambican student to attend schools, including universities, in Portugal.

Scroll to Top