Maputo — The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with the French multinational company Total, under which, according to a USAID press release, both organisations agreed to invest five million US dollars each "to promote improved community health outcomes, prevent child marriage, and encourage positive youth development in Cabo Delgado province".
At the ceremony, in the Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba, the US government was represented by Ambassador Dennis Hearne, while Total was represented by its Vice President and Mozambique Country Manager Ronan Bescond.
Also attending the event were the Cabo Delgado provincial governor, Valige Tauabo, and the Mayor of Pemba, Florete Motarrua.
Last year Total purchased all the African assets that once belonged to the US oil and gas company Anadarko. Foremost among these was Anadarko's holding in Offshore Area One of the Rovuma Basin, off the Cabo Delgado coast, where enormous natural gas reserves have been discovered.
Total has thus taken over from Anadarko as the operator in Area One, and so heads the consortium developing the Mozambique LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) project, which plans to built two gas liquefaction plants on the Afungi Peninsula in Palma district.
USAID claims that its partnership with Total "will address many of the challenges faced by women and girls in Cabo Delgado Province", notably the shockingly high rate of child marriage.
The release points out that "while the child marriage rate in Mozambique is already among the highest in the world, Cabo Delgado, at 61%, has the highest child marriage rate of any province for girls under 18 years of age"
"Marrying young and having children as adolescents endangers girls' health and robs them of the opportunity to go to school", the release continues. "The long-term consequences can be devastating for women, for their families, and for the nation's development".
Hearne stressed the commitment made by the Mozambican and US Governments and Total to address these problems together, saying, "Cabo Delgado needs youth who are healthy, empowered and full of hope for the future."
He claimed this partnership offers "an example of how the public and private sector can work together to tackle the difficult challenges facing the people of Cabo Delgado."
For his part, Bescond said, "We are pleased to establish this partnership with USAID, which will strengthen our actions to support community health in the districts of Mocímboa da Praia and Palma. As a responsible employer, we consider health to be a priority. In all of our host countries, we are firmly committed to contributing to the health and well-being of our employees and their families and, by extension, local communities."
"We believe that by joining our efforts with the Mozambican Government and USAID to develop community health, education and the creation of economic and social opportunities for young women and girls, we are working on youth inclusion and contributing to Mozambique's sustainable development," he added.