Mozambique News Agency
The chairperson of Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), Joao Leopoldo da Costa, on 9 July swore into office the chairpersons of the 11 Provincial Elections Commissions. Each provincial commission consists of 11 members: five appointed by the parliamentary political parties (three by the ruling Frelimo Party and two by the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition), who then co-opted six people nominated by civil society organisations. For all the commissions, the chairperson must be one of the civil society nominees.
At the ceremony, Costa stressed that all those whom he had just sworn into office must seek to defend national interests. "Only thus will you be able to direct the electoral process in a free and transparent fashion", he said.
He urged the provincial chairpersons to ensure compliance with the electoral legislation, and stressed that the challenge facing them is to ensure appropriate conditions for the forthcoming elections - elections for provincial elections in December this year, municipal elections in 2008, and presidential and parliamentary elections in 2009.
The provincial election commissions, under CNE supervision, must now establish each of the 128 district elections commissions. These also consist of five appointees from the political parties, and six members co-opted from civil society bodies.
It will certainly be a major challenge to have these commissions all operational in time to start the voter registration, which is due to run from 20 August to 18 October.
"Your task now is to train the members of the district commissions", said Costa, "and if at district level commission members are unable to work professionally, this could undermine the entire process".
Under the electoral legislation, the CNE should also organise the public recruitment of the senior figures in its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).
A further problem is financing the voter registration and the provincial elections. The estimated cost is $44 million, but only $12 million is available from the Mozambican state budget. As in all of Mozambique's previous multi-party elections, the bulk of the funding must come from foreign donors.
So far no donor has made any public expression of interest in funding the provincial elections. The government has mentioned organising a donor conference to raise funds, but no date had yet been fixed.
Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on 2 July promised that funds will be available to implement the Strategic Plan for the development of the western province of Tete. The Prime Minister was speaking at the end of a provincial conference to launch the document, which took place in the town of Songo, overlooking Tete's most important economic asset, the Cahora Bassa dam.
The entire plan, to be implemented between 2007 and 2011, is budgeted at $2 billion. Diogo said that 84 per cent of this sum is earmarked for the construction or rehabilitation of social and economic infrastructures, which are the responsibility of the state.
She also stressed the importance of partnerships with foreign investors - such as is currently happening with the Indian consortium Rites and Ircon International, which is rebuilding the Sena railway line that runs from the port of Beira to the Moatize coal mines in Tete.
The Brazilian company Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) is set to employ more than 1,000 Mozambicans over the next two years to prepare the take off of coal mining at Moatize, in the western province of Tete.
This guarantee came from Galib Chaim, director of the CVRD subsidiary Rio Doce Mocambique, on 3 July at the ceremony at which the Mozambican government handed CVRD the mining concession title, valid for the next 35 years.
Working in open cast mines, the company plans to extract about 11 million tonnes of coal a year. This will include 8.5 million tonnes of coking coal for export, mostly for use in the steel industry, while the remaining 2.5 million tonnes will be used to generate electricity.
The investment planned is over $1.5 billion: $135 million will be spent on training staff, while $35 million will be spent on housing, education, health care and other social areas. CVRD is putting up $170 million of its own money, while the rest of the investment will be financed from bank loans.
The government has agreed that, in the first five years, 30 per cent of the work force at the Moatize mines can be foreigners (much more than the five per cent allowed under the labour law passed by the Mozambican parliament earlier this year).
"As from now, with this title, conditions have been created for the massive take off of our activities", said Chaim. "We will start within the next six months to move people who are living in the concession areas to resettlement areas pre-selected by the government after reaching consensus with the communities in question".
He explained that CVRD has already been working on the resettlement sites, demarcating the plots, opening roads, and building social infrastructures such as schools, health units, water sources, and markets.
The Minister of Mineral Resources, Esperanca Bias, said that the government expects this kind of undertaking to become instruments of local development, hence the focus on social and community projects with immediate impact, but which also have repercussions for the future life of the people concerned.
"The projects and training projects to be carried out during the development and production stages will complement the social projects carried out during the stage of feasibility studies, such as the rehabilitation of the Moatize Mid-level Geology Institute, and the Moatize District Hospital, the building of a block with 40 paediatric beds in Tete Provincial Hospital, and the Acoma Orphanage, that caters for 90 children, whose parents died of AIDS', she said.
As part of the concession arrangement, CVRD will grant the Mozambican state a five per cent stake, free of charge, in Rio Doce Mocambique. A further ten per cent of the company can be sold to Mozambican investors.
Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on 1 July described cooperation with India as "very positive". Addressing reporters shortly after a meeting with the Indian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anand Sharma, Diogo said, "cooperation between Mozambique and India has been ever growing and it has been in areas that contribute to the relief of poverty, such as energy, mining, health, education, agriculture, and in the international arena, among others".
Anand Sharma arrived in Maputo on 1 July for a two day working visit to the country, which included his participation in a conclave between India and Southern African countries held in Maputo on 2 July. The main objective of the conclave was to exchange experiences and enhance cooperation in trade and industry, and to explore investment and business opportunities between India and Southern Africa.
Speaking at the opening of the conclave, Minister of Energy, Salvador Namburete, said that the gradual growth of Indian investment has now put that country among the top ten investors in Mozambique.
Namburete said the government hoped to see further Indian investment in such areas as agriculture, food processing, mining and energy. "We would like to see Indian involvement in the field of renewable sources of energy", he said. "India has a very advanced experience in this area, in solar energy and in bio-fuels. Its technology is good, simple and easy to use, and that's what we need to fight against poverty".
Namburete pointed out that the government had to take a pro-active role in attracting investment, though "a consistent and coherent programme of reforms to ensure macro-economic stability and efficient management in selected priority areas, such as fiscal management, public sector and financial reforms, improving the investment climate and the ongoing reform of the judicial system".
Namburete insisted that the Mozambican government remains committed to the promotion of biofuels "with the aim of responding to the national poverty alleviation agenda, as well as providing a response to high, unpredictable and volatile oil prices on the world markets".
Among the benefits of biofuels was that "they are labour intensive, and can create agricultural and agro-industrial employment, self-employment and income".
Producing biofuels would not threaten food security. Namburete pointed out that Mozambique has 36 million hectares of arable land of which only nine per cent is in use. Furthermore, the main plant mentioned as a source of Mozambican biofuel, the shrub jatropha, can be grown "on an additional 41.2 million hectares of marginal land, giving people in rural areas the opportunity to generate an income out of land that did not produce anything at all".
President Armando Guebuza on 29 June inaugurated a new public university, the University of Lurio (Unilurio), in the northern city of Nampula, the first public institution of higher education in the country to have its headquarters outside of Maputo. Delivering the university's inaugural lecture, President Guebuza called for efforts to "synchronise" scientific and traditional knowledge, in the drive to achieve sustainable development.
"The knowledge that will be acquired here should result, in the first place, from constant interaction with the ancient knowledge of our people", he said.
Scientific knowledge, added the President, "is the light that illuminates our daily activities - it increases our creativity and helps us speed up the construction of our well-being".
It was this knowledge, he continued, that would allow Mozambicans to deal with problems of health and nutrition, generate more jobs, and improve the use made of the country's natural resources.
The pioneers of the new university, urged President Guebuza, should dedicate themselves to study and research to serve as an example and reference point to subsequent generations of students.
"Confront the knowledge you acquire on the campus with local reality, and afterwards be able to systematise this reality and bring it back to the campus to enrich the academic debate", President Guebuza told his audience.
The university is opening with just one faculty, of health sciences, that will train doctors, dentists and pharmacists. Initially, it has 130 students.
Next year, Unilurio hopes to expand further north, into Niassa province, where it plans to open a faculty of agricultural sciences. In the third northern province, Cabo Delgado, Unilurio will set up a computer engineering course.
The new university is strongly supported by Cuba, which has supplied three specialists to teach medical courses.
The United States' Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on 27 June approved a programme for Mozambique, valued at $506.9 million over three years after the US administration announced that Mozambique was eligible for MCC funding.
The MCC board meeting in Washington agreed programmes (known as "Compacts") for Mozambique, Lesotho and Guyana.
A MCC press release declared that the Mozambican compact "aims to reduce poverty levels through increased incomes and employment by improving water, sanitation, roads, land tenure, and agriculture. This program is expected to benefit approximately five million Mozambicans by 2015".
Despite the reference to 2015, the release says that the Mozambican compact is to cover a five-year period. Thus the funding works out at a yearly average of slightly more than $100 million.
The MCC's Chief Executive Office, John Danilovich, congratulated Mozambique and Lesotho "for developing comprehensive, unique programs to reduce poverty and spur economic growth".
The MCC administers the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), an anti-poverty measure first announced by President Bush in 2004, but only taking effect, after Congressional approval, in 2004.
The initial funding announced was a billion dollars for the 2004 financial year, but Bush promised to raise this to five billion dollars a year as from 2006, Although this lifted by 50 per cent what the US administration calls its "core development assistance", US foreign aid still came nowhere near the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of GDP.
Initially, Mozambique was one of just 16 countries approved for MCA funding in May 2004. Subsequently the number of countries eligible has risen to 41.
But prior to the board meeting on Wednesday, the MCC had signed compacts with only 11 countries, for a total of $3 billion, much less than the sums initially announced as available.
The MCC has been criticised for working very slowly. In Mozambique's case, two delegations visited the country in 2004, one of which was headed by the then MCC chief Executive Office, John Applegarth, who sounded very enthusiastic about proposals made by the Mozambican government, and said the MCC should reach a decision on funding by early 2005. In fact, the only deal signed in 2005 was a "pre-compact" worth $6 million, to finance a series of studies and assessment of projects submitted by the government.
But now the MCC has approved a substantial programme for Mozambique, targeted at four of the provinces north of the Zambezi: Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Zambezia. There now follows a fifteen-day Congressional notification period before the Compact can be signed.
US First Lady Laura Bush mentioned the MCC funding during her visit to Maputo on 27 June. She said that the money is intended for Mozambique's northern provinces, and will improve agricultural activities, as well as roads and access to clean water and decent sanitation. "With this money, the Mozambican government will provide more drinking water to the public and improve sanitation", she said. "This will result in a reduction in the incidence of malaria".
Laura Bush visited Mozambique specifically to announce a grant from the Presidential Malaria Initiative, established by her husband, US President George W. Bush. The grant of $17 million is for the fight against malaria in the central province of Zambezia.
About seven million people are living in cities and towns in Mozambique, most of them without access to basic services. According to the Planning and Development Ministry, over 36 per cent of the country's 19 million inhabitants live in urban areas.
Speaking during a ceremony marking the Mozambican launch of this year's report on "The State of the World Population", from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the head of the Ministry's Statistics and Population Department, Virgulino Nhate, said that the figures call for a reflection about urban expansion.
He added that the government has been striving to extend the basic network of social and economic infrastructures across the country, particularly in the rural areas, in order to respond to population growth and relieve the pressure on the urban centres.
The UNFPA representative in Mozambique, Petra Lantz, stressed that, just like anywhere else in the developing world, Mozambican towns have a large number of inhabitants living in informal settlements. These are characterised by a lack of decent infrastructures and basic services, improper environmental conditions, and low quality housing.
"Taking into account these challenges, the UNFPA in Mozambique is investing in the empowerment of women, in reproductive health, and in the prevention of HIV among young people and adolescents", she said.
Lantz said that globally about one billion people live in poor neighbourhoods, almost all of them in developing countries. That meant the battle to attain the Millennium Development Goals and to reduce absolute poverty must be fought in these shanty towns.
"In order to win, legislators should be proactive and start working with the residents of those neighbourhoods for realistic planning that takes into account their needs and rights", said Lantz.
The vast urban expansion in developing countries, she warned, has global implications that require a global response, because "urbanization is unavoidable".
The UNFPA report predicts that in 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world's population will be living in towns and cities, and by 2030, the urban population will be about five billion.
The document adds that in Africa and Asia it is predicted that the urban population will double in a single generation. The African urban population will reach 740 million by 2030, and in Asia it will grow from 1.4 to 2.6 billion.
The report notes that the largest growth is taking place in towns where currently less than 500,000 people live, and, where problems seem easier to solve. But Lanz warned that "these towns are often unable to respond to their needs because of a shortage of human, financial and technical resources".
The report admits that towns concentrate poverty, but they also represent the best hope for people to eliminate poverty. It urges policy-makers to stop discouraging migration from the rural areas to towns and to start providing basic services.
President Armando Guebuza on 28 July received the World Bank's Deputy President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili, who was in Maputo for a meeting of donors on the 15th replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank that provides soft loans for developing countries.
Ezekwesili told reporters she had discussed with President Guebuza foreign aid Mozambique has been receiving, the country's political and macro-economic stability, and its poverty reduction programme.
As in her earlier meeting with Prime Minister Luisa Diogo, Ezekwesili said that she was extremely impressed at the pace of Mozambique's post-war recovery.
The IDA meeting discussed the funding of IDA 15, which will run from 2009 to 2015. A World Bank document on the meeting declares "the IDA 15 period will be a critical time for the donor community to scale up assistance to developing countries in support of their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)".
The MDGs, agreed at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, include such targets as reducing by half, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the population living on less than a dollar a day, ensuring complete primary education for every child on the planet, cutting the under-five mortality rate by two thirds, and the maternal mortality rate by three quarters - again, by the deadline of 2015.
At the current rate, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are unlikely to meet the MDG targets by the cut off date of 2015.
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
email: Mozambique News Agency
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