Washington, DC — For five years, Mozambique has had high GDP growth rates, seen inflation decline from double digits to single digits and developed a sound financial system, Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano told an audience of business executives and government officials at a dinner in Washington, DC on Monday night.
"We are proud of what we have achieved," said Chissano. But he added that his country was only "at the start of a long journey."
Optimism about Mozambique's future was echoed by two business executives, Jack Edlow of ERL services and Mima Nedelcovych from Schaffer Africa Global Group, principal sponsors of the event. Both spoke glowingly of their companies' experiences as investors in several infrastructural projects and of the country's growth potential.
Though business and economic issues dominated his half-hour address at an event hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa, Chissano also stressed that democracy was as crucial as economic planning.
"We have established precedents for the rule of law, and allowing change in government through an open electoral process. Open and transparent mechanisms for commercial dispute resolution are a fundamental hallmark of any commercially successful nation."
Chissano offered no comment on the death of Unita leader Jonas Savimbi in Angola on Friday, but he told his audience that investing in Mozambique was part of the fight against terrorism. "We all have to move together to address the root causes of poverty and marginalization which breed extremism and terrorism."
One major practical goal of his visit here is to advance his government's discussions with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Army Corps of Engineers and USAID in an effort to develop the Zambezi River valley which comprises almost a third of Mozambique and contains a third of the population.
He told dinner guests: "The Zambezi River is a huge economic resource and it is the policy of our Government to develop it in a similar fashion to which the mighty Tennessee River was harnessed by the Tennessee Valley Authority ."
The Tennessee River, which ran through seven states, was dammed in 1916. In 1933 an act was signed into law creating the TVA to improve navigability on the Tennessee River, provide for flood control, plan reforestation and the improvement of marginal farm lands, and assist in industrial and agricultural development. That act also mandated the TVA to improve "the economic and social well-being" of the people living in the river basin.
Chissano wants to adapt this model. Mozambique's "most important economic challenge," Chissano told his audience, "is the challenge of rural development." Mozambique's primary development - "a colonial legacy" - has taken place along narrow east-west corridors running from three ports into neighboring countries. In between them, "vast areas" of fertile lands and abundant natural resources remain largely undeveloped and untapped.