On the top floor of the Maputo Central Hospital is the most modern laboratory of any public health service in Africa. This is the molecular biology laboratory that analyses samples of blood from HIV-positive patients in order to determine when they should begin treatment with the life-saving anti- retroviral drugs.
The laboratory has been funded by an Italian Roman Catholic NGO, the Sant'Egidio Community, and is part of the community's DREAM programme - DREAM standing for Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition.
A second DREAM laboratory is now installed in the central port city of Beira, and within a month a third should begin operations in the northern city of Nampula.
The Italian laboratory coordinator, Dr Mario Calgaro, told AIM "This type of laboratory is new to Africa". The Mozambican public health system is the first on the continent to be equipped with this machinery - although Calgaro suspected that some private clinics in South Africa might have similar labs.
Some 15-20 health centres send samples to this laboratory for testing. Calgaro says the lab handles 1,700 patients a month, with more than one sample from some patients.
The equipment allows the staff to count CD4 cells - the cells in the human immune system that are attacked by HIV. The normal guideline from the World Health Organisation is that when the CD4 count drops to 200 cells per microlitre of blood, it is time to start anti-retroviral treatment.
The equipment at this laboratory, Calgaro says, is the most sophisticated currently available for doing the CD4 count. It can also detect if there is anything else wrong with the blood. It does a haemoglobin count, which can detect if a patient is in urgent need of a blood transfusion - in such cases the originating health centre is informed at once.
But the laboratory can look below the cell level: its equipment can also count the patients' viral load - that is, how much HIV they have in their blood. The anti-retroviral drugs work by reducing the viral load, sometimes to vanishingly small levels - though no drug has yet been found that can destroy HIV altogether.
Once treatment has begun, follow-up samples are sent to the laboratory, which can determine the effectiveness of the drug through increased CD4 cell counts, and reduced viral loads. In principle, these tests can also detect whether there is any viral resistance to the drugs.
It is the tests at this laboratory that give the DREAM programme its confidence that drug treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women is preventing their babies from being born with the disease. The children's blood is tested at birth, and at three months, and six months old.
The negative results from these tests allow the programme to state that 97 per cent of the babies born to the women it is treating are free of HIV.
When AIM visited, Calgaro was the only Italian in sight. He stressed that "Sant'Egidio does not want to stay here forever". Instead, it wanted to train up Mozambicans to handle the equipment: and those Mozambicans would then be in charge of further training.
Currently the laboratory team consists of two biologists and five laboratory technicians, all of them Mozambicans, and two Malawian biologists undergoing training.
The cost of setting up this laboratory was about $350,000, provided by Sant'Egidio, which raised money in Europe, notably from an Italian bank, Unicredito. The reagents used are now supplied by the Health Ministry. Calgaro says that funding for the laboratory is guaranteed for at least five years.
The greatest advertisement for the programme is its success. DREAM has been treating AIDS patients since March 2002 - and claims that 95 per cent of its patients are not only alive, but now enjoy a decent quality of life. Without the anti-retroviral therapy, most of them would be dead or dying.
Mozambique is facing a grain deficit of about 430,000 tonnes for the period 2004-2005, despite an 11 per cent growth in overall grain production in the 2004 harvest, according to a report from the country's agricultural authorities.
The report says that there is a maize surplus estimated at 85,000 tonnes, and a millet surplus of 30,000 tonnes. The country produced 1.4 million tonnes of maize, a 14 per cent increase on the 2003 figure. Maize accounts for 70 per cent of all grain grown in the country. But the rice harvest was disappointing. At 118,000 tonnes, it declined by seven per cent from the 2003 figure. Mozambique's total rice needs are estimated at 449,000 tonnes a year. As for wheat, although this crop is not grown in Mozambique, some 315,000 tonnes of it are consumed every year, thanks to urban residents' taste for bread and pasta.
Stocks at the start of the 2004/2005 agricultural year are 40,000 tonnes of rice and 60,000 tonnes of wheat. So import needs are 291,000 tonnes of rice and 255,000 tonnes of wheat.
In much of the country, the main staple is not maize, but cassava. Though statistics are not yet available, the harvest report claims there was satisfactory growth in cassava production, despite the outbreak of brown streak virus in some of the cassava producing areas.
Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has lodged a formal appeal against the decision of the National Elections Commission (CNE) to register Mozambicans living abroad as voters. According to a report "Noticias" on 6 August, Renamo has requested that the Constitutional Council annul the CNE decision. The seven member Constitutional Council is the body that validates election results and has the final say in electoral complaints.
The Renamo complaint claims that the CNE has given no grounds for its decision to register the Mozambican emigrants, and that the decision is not valid because it has not been published in the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica".
Furthermore, Renamo adds, the CNE's executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), published the dates for registering the emigrants before this timetable had been approved by the government.
A CNE source told "Noticias" that he was surprised by the Renamo appeal, since it seemed to contradict statements made by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who earlier said he was "unequivocally" in favour of emigrants having the right to vote.
Commentators suggest that the grounds for annulment are weak. The CNE is not one of those bodies obliged to publish all its decisions in the official gazette. As for the reasons behind the decision, these were explained by CNE spokesman Filipe Mandlate the day the CNE voted to register the emigrants - namely that all citizens, regardless of where they are living, "have a right and a duty to participate in the nation's political life", and registration is a necessary condition before anyone, inside or outside the country, can vote.
The emigrants are to be registered, at Mozambican embassies and consulates, from 6-25 September. This registration will cover the nine countries with the largest numbers of Mozambicans emigrants - seven in Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia. Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya), and two in Europe (Portugal and Germany).
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has demanded that the voter registration, which took place between 28 June and 15 July, be repeated. At a Maputo press conference on 2 August Dhlakama claimed that the updating of the electoral registers had been marred by a series of problems ranging from the late arrival of material in rural areas, to computerised registers that are "completely adulterated", and citizens prevented from registering.
Dhlakama claimed that the registration was "a surgical operation with the sole objective of depriving large numbers of Mozambican citizens of the elementary right of choosing their government through their votes".
He claimed that this was a way of creating "large percentages of artificial abstention" in the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 1-2 December. The right to vote would be held "almost exclusively by the comrades and their party political clientele", he alleged (a reference to the ruling Frelimo Party and its supporters).
The elections were starting "in the worst possible way", he alleged, and "all of us, politicians, civil society and the international community have the obligation to unite our efforts to help correct it".
However, official figures contradict these claims: the target for the voter registration was that 700,000 people should register (including first time voters, people who have changed address, and people who had lost their voter card and were applying for a new one). This number looks certain to be surpassed, since every province that has so far reported says it has exceeded its targets. The larger than expected turnout is as true of Renamo strongholds such as Beira as of Frelimo ones such as Maputo.
Reacting to Dhlakama's demands, the spokesperson for the National Elections Commission (CNE), Filipe Mandlate, said that repeating the registration was completely out of the question. "I don't see any legal basis for this", he said. Mandlate categorically denied that there had been any shortage of registration materials. There had been slight management problems, which resulted in this or that area running out of stocks briefly - but the brigades were quickly resupplied.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama on 3 August swore into office the members of the election office of the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, an alliance between Renamo and ten minor parties.
To the surprise of the journalists attending the event, the director of the election office is someone they have known for many years in quite a different capacity - he is Eduardo Namburete, whose full-time job is that of press officer for the country's largest higher education establishment, the Eduardo Mondlane University.
The Renamo national election agent is a prominent parliamentarian, Francisco Machambisse, while a leader of the Renamo Women's League, Gania Mussagy, heads the political department in the election office. The Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, is in charge of the office's communications and press relations.
Lutero Simango, leader of the National Convention Party (PCN), becomes head of electoral logistics. Although he is not a member of Renamo, and heads a different organisation, Simango, like the other members of the office swore to "serve faithfully", not the coalition, but the Renamo Party. When AIM asked if he was happy with this oath, Simango described it as "part of our integration with Renamo".
Dhlakama told the ceremony that, in reality, the electoral office had been in existence for some time, and had organised Renamo's monitoring of the June-July updating of the electoral registers. The ceremony thus merely made official a body that was already in operation.
Dhlakama argued that 2004 would be "the year of change". He claimed "even if Frelimo were governing well, the people would want change. 30 years in power is a long time - all the more so in Mozambique's current situation, with a public administration that doesn't work".
Namburete told the ceremony that a long and difficult path lay ahead, "but we are sure that the result of our work will be victory". The Renamo-Electoral Union, he said, would "fight for the moralisation of Mozambican politics", and "restore hope to our people".
President Joaquim Chissano on 5 August inaugurated an electricity sub-station in the town of Cuamba, which brings power from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi to the northernmost province of Niassa.
The sub-station has been functioning for the past month, and is part of a project to extend the Cahora Bassa power lines to the far north, budgeted at $45 million, and funded by the Norwegian and Swedish development agencies, NORAD and SIDA.
So far 100 kilometres of transmission line has been built from Gurue, in the neighbouring province of Zambezia, to Cuamba. By 2005, the line will have been extended a further 225 kilometres to the Niassa provincial capital, Lichinga, and electrifying a number of smaller towns and localities.
During the inauguration ceremony, the chairperson of the publicly owned Mozambican electricity company, EDM, Vicente Veloso, said that, prior to the new line, the power supply to towns such as Cuamba was assured through diesel-fired generators, which was extremely expensive.
Veloso said that by 2005, both Lichinga and Pemba (in Cabo Delgado province), the only two provincial capitals still relying on generators, will receive Cahora Bassa power. "If there are no setbacks, one of the two towns will be connected before the end of this year", he said.
"While EDM is extending the national power grid, it is also electrifying the rural areas, thus benefiting the localities along the line. In this project, localities and towns in the provinces of Nampula, Zambezia, and Niassa will be covered", he said.
However, it is not all good news. Veloso has warned that without investment in new energy projects, Mozambique is heading for electricity shortages as from 2007. Interviewed in the Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique" on 5 August, Veloso sounded the alert: future industrial projects could be endangered unless more electricity was generated.
Veloso pointed out that 2007 was not distant - in planning terms, "it's the day after tomorrow, for sources of energy we have to plan eight, nine, ten years in advance and not on the spur of the moment. What we are warning people of is that in the region, in South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, we don't have electricity for new projects".
Veloso noted that there is a project for an aluminium smelter in Beira, which will need 600 megawatts of power. "Right now EDM doesn't have a spare 600 megawatts in Mozambique", he said. "And I'm going to have difficulties acquiring 600 megawatts from South Africa. Zimbabwe doesn't have it either".
"Then there's Corridor Sands (the project to mine titanium-bearing heavy sands in Gaza province) which will need between 150 and 300 megawatts. I haven't got it!", exclaimed Veloso. "MOZAL (the aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo) wants to expand again with a third phase. That needs between 300 and 500 megawatts". "If building work on these projects starts tomorrow, I don't have the electricity for them to operate in two or three years time".
Veloso thought it was time for the governments of southern Africa to look urgently for additional sources of power - natural gas (in Namibia, Zambia and Angola, as well as in Mozambique itself) could be one such source.
But far and away the greatest potential source of power lies in the Congo river basin. The projected dams in the Democratic Republic of Congo could solve the region's energy problems for decades to come: they could generate 100,000 megawatts. But that would require billions of dollars of investment, and "it is not easy to mobilise such sums", Veloso remarked.
However, inter-ministerial committees and technical teams, involved the DRC, Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana, were working on the "Western Corridor". This could take Congolese power all the way to Cape Town, running through Angola and Namibia, and with a branch into Botswana and thence to northern South Africa. This would cost somewhere between two and five billion dollars. But even if it started tomorrow, the power would not be available for another seven or eight years.
The Mozambican government hopes to build a new dam on the Zambezi, at Mepanda Ncua, some 70 kilometres downstream from the existing dam at Cahora Bassa - but again, even if a start was made on Mepanda Ncua at once, it would take another eight years before the power would be available. And Mepanda Ncua, despite favourable initial studies, is currently stalled.
The government is looking for funding, but this has been complicated by uncertainty over the future of Cahora Bassa. Currently Cahora Bassa is effectively owned by Portugal, which has an 82 per cent stake in the dam operating company, HCB. The Mozambican state is a minority shareholder, with only 18 per cent. The government wants to take full control of Cahora Bassa, but negotiations with Lisbon have been slow. The Portuguese government claims that HCB owes the Portuguese treasury a debt of about two billion dollars.
Cahora Bassa can generate 2,075 megawatts - but most of this power is currently being sold to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Under the current arrangements, if Mozambique wants to increase the amount of HCB power purchased by EDM, it must negotiate both with Portugal, and with the South African electricity company, Eskom.
Representatives of the four companies bidding for the lease on the Moatize coal mines in the western province of Tete met with the Mozambican government on 6 August.
Pre-qualification of potential investors began in May, when a total of ten companies or consortia presented proposals. These have been whittled down to four, who must present detailed proposals by November. These four are all mining and mineral giants - the Companhia de Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) of Brazil, Anglo American of South Africa, the Australia-based company BHP-Billiton (which is the majority shareholder in the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo), and Rio Tinto of Britain.
The meeting also included representatives of the Indian consortium Rites and Ircon, which has won the contract to rebuild and operate the Sena railway line which connects the Moatize mines to the port of Beira.
The estimated coal reserves in the Moatize basin are between two and three billion tonnes. Coal could become a major Mozambican export: coal exports of five million, or even ten million tonnes a year are being mentioned.
The Moatize project also includes the possibility of building a new coal-fired power station.
The Mozambican Ministry of Public Works on 2 August announced the creation of a Zambezi Bridge Project Office, within the National Road Administration (ANE), to take control of the building of a new bridge over the river linking Sofala and Zambezia provinces.
The bridge is a key part of the country's north-south highway. Currently overland traffic between the north and south depends on an unreliable ferry service to cross the Zambezi.
The bridge, between Caia, on the south bank, and Chimuara, on the north bank, has been on the drawing board for some 30 years. A start was made on the access roads to the bridge in the late 1970s, but the project was aborted because of ambushes by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels.
Now that the funding for the bridge (about $80 million) has been secured, the government is pushing ahead with preparatory work on the ground.
The Project Office will be run by a director based in Caia, who will represent the Ministry and the ANE. The man chosen for this job is Elias Paulo, a civil engineer, who was previously director of public works in the northern province of Nampula.
The Zambezi Bridge Project Office will be responsible not only for building the bridge, but for managing support services and undertaking projects related to the bridge that will have an impact on the local communities.
The total rehabilitation of the 3.8 kilometre bridge linking Mozambique Island, the former colonial capital, to the mainland of the northern province of Nampula is estimated at $9 million. This figure was revealed by Public Works Minister Roberto White during a ceremony to launch emergency rehabilitation of the bridge.
The emergency rehabilitation is budgeted at $1.7 million, granted by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and will consist of replacing 115 pillars identified as being in an advanced state of decay.
White said that the government is currently striving to raise the necessary funds for a total rehabilitation of the bridge, which was inaugurated 35 years ago. During those three and a half decades, no significant repairs to the bridge have been undertaken, and users have warned that it is becoming increasingly dangerous.
"The government has never dodged its responsibilities to the bridge that gives access to Mozambique Island because, besides being an important social and economic infrastructure, it is also, like so many other parts of the island, a mirror of our culture", he said.
The Mozambican government has sold off the derelict textile company Textil do Pungue, in the central province of Sofala, to a group of Mauritian investors. The factory has been paralysed for 29 years, and the existing machinery is obsolete.
The Mauritians have renamed the company "Palmar Mocambique", announcing that they will invest $3 million in an initial phase to rehabilitate the premises and install new machinery.
Palmar Mocambique plans to employ 600 workers, and produce 7,000 pairs of jeans a day. If all goes well, the workforce will later rise to 900.
Taking advantage of the opening of the American market through AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), Palmar Mocambique plans to export much of its production to the United States, though some will be sold on the domestic market.
The Nacala Corridor Development Company (SDCN) and the Malawian government on 30 July signed a memorandum of understanding in Maputo, under which Malawian public and private interests will have a 16.75 per cent stake in the SDCN.
The Malawian demand for shares had held up the leasing out of the Nacala port and rail system to SDCN for more than four years.
An agreement in principle handing over management of the Nacala Corridor to SDCN was signed in January 2000 by the chairman of Mozambique's publicly-owned ports and rail company, CFM, Rui Fonseca, and SDCN chairman, Alberto Chipande.
SDCN is a consortium, which is 67 per cent owned by four foreign concerns, Rennies of South Africa, Tertir of Portugal, and Edlows Resources and the Railroad Development Corporation, both of the United States. The remaining 33 per cent is held by several Mozambican companies, mostly based in the northern provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado.
But the lease on the Malawian system did not take effect, because the Malawians, as the main users of the system, demanded a share.
The financial arrangements for the lease were to include American funding - $32 million from OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation). But OPIC made this sum conditional on the Malawian government signing a contract on the use of the Nacala Corridor. The Malawians, however, refused to sign until they were given shares in SDCN.
Tough negotiations culminated in the agreement, signed by Smart Katawala, representing the SDCN shareholders, and by the Malawian Minister of Public Works and Transport. Under this agreement, the Malawians obtain 16.75 per cent of the shares, and can appoint a member of the SDCN board.
Nacala, reputedly the best deep water port on the east African coast, is the natural outlet to the sea for Malawi. It should handle the bulk of Malawi's foreign trade, although in the past it has faced unfair competition from heavily subsidised road haulage companies, carrying Malawian exports and imports to the South African ports.
The European Union (EU) has pledged to grant €48 million (about $54 million) to support the Mozambican agricultural sector in the period 2004-2006, according to the head of the delegation of the European Commission in Mozambique, Pinto Teixeira.
Teixeira and Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia on 9 August signed an agreement covering €9.5 million of this sum. Two million euros is to be spent on the institutional strengthening of the National Cashew Institute (INCAJU), the Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM), and the Commercial Agriculture Promotion Office. The other €7.5 million will be spent on food security projects in the provinces of Niassa, Nampula, Zambezia, and Inhambane.
The German government on 10 August pledged to channel aid of €7.5 million (about $9 million) in direct support to the Mozambican state budget, and an agreement was signed in Maputo between the German Development Bank (KFW) and the Bank of Mozambique.
According to the German ambassador, Ulf-Dieter Klemm, this is the first time Germany has agreed to make funds directly available to the budget of any of the countries that receive German aid. He said this was a sign of the trust of the German government in the Mozambican authorities, and promised that Germany will continue to help implement the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty.
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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