14 January 2014

Mozambique's Foreign Policy - Pragmatic Non-Alignment As a Tool for Development


SAIIA Occasional Paper No 160, November 2013

In October 2012 Mozambicans celebrated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Rome General Peace Accord (GPA), which brought an end to the 15-year civil war that broke out two years after the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges of reconstruction and rehabilitation that have consistently positioned the country as one of the poorest in the world,1 Mozambique enjoys a particular prestige in the international community as being one of the 'success stories' for internationally assisted post-conflict reconstruction.

Like many African countries with limited resources, Mozambique has been pragmatic in crafting and executing its foreign policy as an instrument to secure external support for its national interests. Extreme dependency on donor support (which has ranged from 70%2 of gross domestic product or GDP in 1992 to 39% in 2012) coupled with a limited fiscus3 has influenced the way in which the government has sought to engage regionally and with the rest of the world.

Thus, Mozambique's foreign engagement has focused on carving out a policy space befitting that of a small, highly aid-dependent, low-income country in a somewhat unstable region.

The government's dependence on the Group of 19 (G-19)4 donors for budget support - its proximity to South Africa, Africa's economic and political hegemon, and the extent of post-war reconstruction challenges - are other important factors influencing the ebb and flow of Mozambique's external engagements.

An examination of all these factors through a foreign-policy paradigm makes it possible to discern three distinctive periods in the country's external relations.

The first of these was dominated by the liberation and civil-war period. Foreign engagement at this time centred on the need to secure support for the ruling party, Frelimo (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique), in the armed struggle against the Portuguese colonisers and, later, Renamo (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana).

The second period was characterised by a need to consolidate peace and bring about stability in the country. This necessitated increasing engagement and integration into the region, bolstered by support from the donor community.

Finally, the third period is demarcated by a slight shift in focus to diversifying and harnessing international engagement to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) into Mozambican mining, industry and agriculture as the bedrock of the country's national economy, with the view to addressing the country's many development challenges.

This paper identifies the exigencies that are distinctive of these periods and illustrates how the country's elites have fared against their own foreign-policy objectives. An assessment of the principles underpinning Mozambique's foreign policy forms the necessary baseline for the discussion.

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