Rehabilitating infrastructure will do more for the country than just link its mines with its ports; it will form the basis of sustainable growth
A great deal of Mozambique’s infrastructure and transportation network was destroyed during the civil war and funds for reconstruction severely limited until the development of newly discovered natural resources brought commercial impetus to the building of an extensive national transportation network.
The country is, however, resolved to do rather more than simply put in place facilities to enable coal and other minerals to be transported efficiently to ports for shipment to hungry export markets. Paulo Zucula, the former Minister of Transport and Communications, emphasises the national vision of infrastructure serving the country and leading to industrialisation “to link the country as a whole” and “to unite the people” of Mozambique’s multicultural population.
Key to this process of unification, according to Mr Zucula, is the development of vertical links to join up rail roads previously isolated from each other and having been originally built more to move the exports from neighbouring or hinterland countries, rather than to develop Mozambique itself. Thus these vertical lines will bring the country and its people physically together for the first time, while mineral resource revenues are sensibly invested in education and lasting social development.
Rosário Mualeia, Chairman of Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Mozambique (CFM), the state-owned company tasked with rebuilding the nation’s ports and railways, recognises this is a transitional moment for his country. He emphasises that “a vertical backbone for Mozambique” is needed and acknowledges this as a long-term project that “will take at least 10 years to be finalised.” He lays stress on the model of public-private partnerships embraced by Mozambique to accelerate development programmes with foreign participation being welcomed, notably that of Brazilian mining titan Vale.
Key to this uniting vertical backbone is the unlocking of the Moatize coal resource through investments in the Sena and Nacala railway lines, soon to be linked through Malawi, and development of Nacala as the hub port for the Northern Development Corridor.
CFM has also invested in the renovation of ports further south at Quelimane, Matola and the capital Maputo, while the rehabilitation of the Sena line will enable much greater volumes of coal to be shipped through the country’s second largest city, Beira.
Mr Zucula states that shipments of coal are forecast to grow in the near future from 4 million tonnes a year to 22 million tonnes and this, together with the development of natural gas resources, is likely to push the present national growth rate of 7-8 per cent well into double figures. Once the Sena and Marchipanda lines are fully operational, Beira itself could ship 40-50 million tonnes.
While developing its national wealth and aspirations, Mozambique remains fully committed to also expanding the vocation of its ports as the natural outlets to the sea for neighbouring and hinterland countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). In this, the CFM will play a critical role with its rail links transporting agricultural products from Malawi, iron ore from Zimbabwe and copper from Zambia and Congo.
Testament to the realism of Mozambique’s ambitions is the involvement of Vale in the public-private partnership developing the Moatize coal mine. Ricardo Saad, Vale’s Project Director for Africa, Asia and Australia, stresses the ready support of the government in bringing to fruition the investments in the Nacala Corridor and seaport, in which Vale and CFM are partners. The Brazilian multinational has already invested $2 billion in the mine and the Sena line, and foresees spending $6.5 billion more by 2016 on the extension of the mine, the railway and Nacala port. The relationship is good and Vale is even planning a share offering on the local stock exchange.
Both Mr Zucula and Mr Mualeia are keen to stress that Mozambique sees development of its natural resource wealth not as an end in itself, but rather as a means of fostering national unity and social development.
They emphasise that the more traditional sectors of agriculture and fisheries will not be neglected, while tourism has tremendous potential, both along the 2,500km coastline and in the country’s nature parks and untouched natural spaces. Above all, their vision is of a Mozambique in which the riches of the present are used wisely to create a lasting legacy for the future. Mr Mualeia stresses the role of CFM in contributing to national recovery and to the greater self-esteem of Mozambicans. Mr Zucula goes further, talking of “the rebirth of hope” from re-found “freedom and the hope to dream of more economic independence”. The dream is in good hands.