Interview with President Armando Emílio Guebuza of Mozambique
What does the recent discovery of important natural gas fields mean for development in Mozambique?
The revenue we gather from these resources will complement the ones we currently enjoy from natural resources. The government will benefit from these revenues, and as a result the people of Mozambique will also see the benefits in their daily lives. Secondly, it will create conditions for Mozambicans to have more jobs, and particularly skilled jobs. We will make sure training takes place to allow an increasing number of Mozambicans to work in this area. Thirdly, it will continue to create problems of development – sustainable and inclusive development that is. This is one of our concerns, and we have to take appropriate measures counter this. And finally, we are going to be on international markets, increasing our international exposure, raising the profile of Mozambique.
How do you plan to transfer this wealth to the broader population, and link it to job creation? What is the plan to develop value chains around these resources?
We have created a state owned company tasked with deal with developing upstream and downstream links. This company will encourage the private sector in Mozambique to develop around the gas sector, a sector that provides many business opportunities. We will also attract foreign investment, in conjunction with Mozambicans, to develop the industry. The government as such is engaging with different companies and also using its own resources to increase our capacity to train people in high-tech, high-skilled areas.
Our universities today are redirecting their curriculum in order to have more people qualified for these new demands. But at the same time, we are also sending people to do their Masters and Undergraduate degrees abroad. Education is central to the effort. Mozambique, at the time of independence, had only one university. Today we have 43 of them. Education has improved, but, of course, it is not enough. It is concentrated on social studies. We need to have a shift. Not necessarily reducing social areas in and of themselves, but increasing the focus on more technical topics.
Mozambique has traditionally been quite reliant on development assistance from donors. Now that you are discovering new wealth and new resources, how do you think your relationship with development partners should evolve, notably with the EU?
I believe the relationship has to continue. But the relationship will probably change in the sense that as time goes on, and as we have more resources in our budget, we are going to need more business and commercially oriented relations with those countries that have traditionally provided development funding. It will shift as time passes; in about 10 years time we will not be relying on donations like we are today. We can expect a gradual shift in the focus of the relationship.
How do Brazil, China and other emerging players fit in that picture?
We connect with these countries. It is an experience we did not have before. We do nurture that relationship: they are investing in Mozambique, creating more jobs, giving us knowhow, and increasing trade.
And in terms of regional integration with other African countries Mozambique is involved in the Southern African Development Community, in the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement – what are your ambitions in the region? What do you try to achieve with the multi-approach to regional integration?
We try to take advantage of the capacities and abilities that our partners and neighbours offer, and at the same time provide them with what we have to offer ourselves. Increasing the trade relations between African countries is key. We easily trade with Europe, the Far East and America, which is good, but we need to trade with our neighbouring countries much more.
There were talks in the past of Mozambique joining SACU. Is that still on the agenda?
I do not know who talked about that! No, we do not envisage this. What we do is try to learn and see how the Customs Union model is working, and learn from that. Mozambique is one of the countries that do not belong to several Free Trade Areas or Customs Union at the same time. Overlapping membership can be counterproductive.
You are still negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) in the SADC configuration. Do you expect a regional deal soon? What will it take?
We will reach an agreement by 2016; at least I hope so. We are pushing things so that we can address the issues are not resolved yet.
And should South Africa or other partners in the region decide not to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement, would Mozambique still sign an EPA?
I do not know why I should doubt their intentions. We are discussing these issues together.
One of the key questions in Mozambique is how to improve governance. Mozambique is still troubled with corruption problems and lack of transparency. What is your plan to improve the situation in the country so that your resources are better managed?
The thing is that I do not agree with that characterisation. This is just talk.
But Transparency International ranks Mozambique 120th on the corruption perception index. What is your government’s position on this?
Whoever might be saying this, it is just talk. I am not saying we have perfect governance or that we have no corruption. We have institutions that address these exact issues. These institutions do have problems, but they are working on them, improving the way they tackle corruption. Our purpose is to work fast, but they don’t work as fast as you would like. But they are getting more and more responsive, and have improved greatly. We will continue to invest more in this area. We now have trained judges in almost all districts, a thing we did not have in the past.
You have been re-elected as the head of Frelimo, the ruling party. In the past, and traditionally, the Head of the Party and the President were the same people, but you will not run for another term. Do you think this will have political consequences?
The Party is one thing, the Government another. The Government has to keep on working whatever happens. The party, for its part, is able to analyse and respond to new situations without being part of the problem, and come up with constructive solutions to whatever the matter might be. I will not run again for elections, so in any case there will be a new head of state. But I am confident Frelimo will win the elections.
This article was published in Great Insights Volume 1, Issue 10 (December 2012)