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Mozambique has now had a long period of peace and stability while Frelimo retains its grip on power

Mozambique can be divided by the Zambezi River into two main geographical regions. The southern part of the country is mostly flat and low-lying, apart from highlands on the eastern border. North of the river the land rises to plateaux and to mountains along the border with Malawi.

The Zambezi also divides the country's many different ethnic groups. Most of the population is concentrated in the better land north of the river, particularly in the north-east. Groups here include the Makua, who are farmers, and the Muslim Yao. South of the river, where people live more along the coast, are groups such as the Tsonga. None of their languages is widely spoken around the country so the official language is Portuguese.

Mozambique's civil war, which ended in 1992, devastated much of the country's social infrastructure, destroying schools, hospitals, and clinics—in what was already one of the world's poorest countries. Since then, the government has managed to rebuild most of the schools. School attendance has been rising and 60% of children are now enrolled in primary schools. Even so, adult literacy is still only 48%. The health system also needs more investment. The HIV/AIDS infection rate in 2007 was 5%.

Most people are very poor. Although the capital, Maputo, is now a lot smarter, more than half the population languish below the national poverty line. Poverty is severe in the rural areas and particularly in the north. Those who have had few employment opportunities at home have traditionally migrated to neighbouring South Africa which currently has around one million immigrant Mozambicans.

Around 80% of the workforce make their living from agriculture. Given good weather, Mozambique should be self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs such as maize and cassava. The main cash crops are cotton and especially cashew nuts. Production of both food and cash crops has increased, but farmers are still hampered by poor infrastructure; many parts of the country are cut off during the rainy season.

Mozambique also exports prawns, along with some shellfish. The fishing industry was less affected than others by the war. Even so, the local fleet is relatively small and the government gains extra income by selling licences to boats from Europe, South Africa, and Japan.

Mozambique's industrial sector was badly damaged by the fighting. Since the mid-1990s, however, and following an extensive programme of privatization along with foreign investment, industrial output has revived. One of the country's largest enterprises is the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric dam on the Zambezi which exports electricity to South Africa and also supplies local demand, including the new $1.3-billion Mozal aluminium smelter, a joint venture led by BHP-Billeton, which has turned Mozambique into one of the world's largest aluminium producers. There are also plans to export natural gas to South Africa.

Development is widening the north–south divide

Much of this activity, however, has been in the southern half of the country, which also tends to be economically more integrated with neighbouring countries, thus sharpening the north–south divide.


Subjects: History

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