Mozambique at a turning point
Mozambique has natural resources, a climate favourable for agriculture and an excellent location. The future of the country largely depends on whether it can give its young population quality education and jobs that pay a living wage, according to Finland’s Ambassador to Mozambique Anna-Kaisa Heikkinen.
How would you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges in Mozambique?
In recent years, Mozambique has been in the international news mostly because of the Islamist conflict in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique. The conflict started some five years ago and it is a major challenge for the government of Mozambique. It has created a massive humanitarian crisis and internally displaced around one million people.
Moreover, the conflict in Cabo Delgado has halted the deployment of the nearby large offshore gas deposits.
Mozambique is facing the same kinds of economic challenges as other countries. The waves of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have hit Mozambique, too, through soaring fuel and food prices. High rate of inflation hits especially hard on the poorest people, and unfortunately the majority of the population is poor, as Mozambique is still one of the poorest countries in the world.
How is Finland supporting Mozambique?
Mozambique has been Finland’s development partner for decades, and over the years, we have been involved in many projects in Mozambique. At the moment, we have two main objectives for our support: we want to strengthen gender equality and crisis resilience and to improve the education system and learning outcomes. In all our work, we emphasise the importance of human rights, social and regional equity, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights. This year our Country Programme had a budget of EUR 15 million.
Close cooperation with other international bodies is an important part of our work. For example, most of our support to the education sector is channelled through a multi-donor trust fund. This way we can pool resources and improve coordination of assistance.
I would also like to mention cooperation projects between Finnish civil society organisations and Mozambican educational institutions. It is a joy to watch this active and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Finland’s relationship with Mozambique is no longer focused on development cooperation alone. Times are changing, and it is important to keep the overall picture of the cooperation up to date. The political relations between our countries are excellent. In addition, we are seeking to deepen our commercial and economic relations.
How do you see the future of Mozambique?
There are many elements of hope in the future of Mozambique. The young population is smart and open to new things, just like everywhere else. Mozambique has natural resources, a climate favourable for agriculture and a location excellent for logistics. For example, Mozambique has huge potential to develop its tourism sector, even in ecologically sustainable ways.
However, the future of the country largely depends on whether it can give its young population quality education and jobs that pay a living wage. In particular, Mozambique should ensure the equal participation of girls and women in all spheres of society to harness the country’s full potential. Another important matter is good governance, which means that the common good is shared by everyone and not just the elite. The effects of climate change in Mozambique is a major question globally, as the country is among the world’s most vulnerable countries in this respect.
What has uplifted you personally in Mozambique and what can we learn from the locals?
This is my first posting in the African continent, and living in Mozambique has opened a unique opportunity for me to learn about the nature on our planet from completely new perspectives both on dry land and under the surface. Visiting the country’s nature reserves and diving in the Indian Ocean have been amazing experiences.
We could definitely learn from the relaxed and cheerful attitude of the locals. Mozambicans are really friendly and warm people. Local WhatsApp messages have taught me that even people like me, who are nearing middle age, could use emoji and memes in richer ways.
In this article series, Finnish ambassadors around the world tell what is happening in their duty station.
Text: Milma Kettunen