Diplomatic Pouch / August 30, 2012
By Larry Luxner
It used to be the poorest nation on Earth. But today, Mozambique is on a roll — boosted by a growing energy industry, lucrative mineral deposits and booming tourism.
While Mozambique isn’t exactly prosperous (annual per-capita GDP is now estimated at $450), its economy is growing at a healthy clip, and the poverty rate is decreasing. To celebrate the country’s turnaround, the Embassy of Mozambique in Washington recently co-sponsored the launching of Baía — a bilingual Portuguese-English magazine that showcases the best of Mozambican fashion, culture, sports, cuisine and music in 128 glossy, full-color pages.
Speeches, champagne and a short travel video about Mozambique marked the debut of the magazine in the United States, though deputy editor Arsénio Manhice, said Baía (which means “bay” in English) will be also distributed in Macao, South Africa, Portugal, Germany, Brazil and Angola in addition to Mozambique. The initial print run is 35,000 copies.
Curiously, Baía isn’t based in the capital city, Maputo, but in Xai-Xai, the provincial capital of Gaza (not to be confused with the Gaza Strip). It’s a privately owned publication owned by businessman Julião Machaieie, who also has interests in other sectors of the economy.
“Mozambique has a lot to offer, and we want to be able to address the needs of expatriates,” Machaieie told some 40 invited guests to the embassy fronting New Hampshire Avenue, just off Dupont Circle. “We are hoping to do business with all of you, and we want you to suggest ways we can better serve you. On behalf of the entire Baía team, thank you for being here today.”
Amélia Matos Sumbana, who’s been Mozambique’s ambassador in Washington since November 2009, made a graceful appearance, warmly welcoming her guests with a short speech in both Portuguese and English.
“Mozambique is a stable, peaceful and growing country,” she said. “It’s true that we were once among the poorest countries of the world, but after the civil strife ended in 1992, Mozambique found its way. We are now trying to overcome what were imbalances and spread the wealth all over the country.”
Discovered by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 and followed by Lourenço Marques, who established some of its first colonies, Mozambique covers 800,000 square kilometers — nearly twice the size of California — yet only 23 million people inhabit its 11 provinces. The video quoted the Economist Intelligence Unit as saying that Mozambique is in a far better position economically than neighboring Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi or Tanzania.
With 2,770 kilometers of Indian Ocean coastline, the country offers pristine beaches and spectacular coral reefs brimming with tourism potential. Maputo has more than its share of historic buildings left over from the Portuguese colonial era (which ended with independence in 1975), and Limpopo National Park offers big-game safaris.
In addition, Mozambique is an exporter of coconuts, rice, prawns and shrimp, not to mention cashew nuts, timber and cotton. It also supplies natural gas, aluminum and electricity to neighboring countries.
The latest edition of Baía features, among other things, an interview with Graça Machel, widow of Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel, and now wife of Nelson Mandela. There’s also a profile of Cape Verdean singer Nancy Vieira, a travel story about the historic Fortress of Maputo.
Other articles discuss infrastructure projects such as the $650 million Moamba hydroelectric project, and U.S. energy conglomerate Anadarko’s plans to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of Mozambique, which could end up being the largest single investment in the country’s history.
For that reason, Agostinho Vuma, vice-president of Mozambique’s Economic Association Confederation (CTA), said Baía needs to have more than just tourist appeal.
“The economy is dynamic, and this magazine will keep the world up-to-date about reforms and successes the government and CTA achieve,” he said. “A mega-project normally includes investment in the construction, industrial and commercial sectors. In this perspective, the magazine should not merely focus on tourism. Congratulations to Baía and I hope that businesspeople take advantage of the magazine.”
For more information, contact Ana Maria Raquel Alberto, commercial counselor at the Embassy of Mozambique in Washington, at email@example.com.