Jul 22, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

The next Maputo

In in association with the Portuguese, Mozambicans are planning a new city in the outskirts of Maputo that should house up to 400,000 people in 2040. I was told this today by a demographer that is currently in Maputo doing research for the project. At first the idea sounded farfetched, but I reconsidered when I learned that in three decades the population of Mozambique is expected to nearly double, reaching 45 million people. During that time, there will be 3 billion more people in this planet, the majority of which will be borne in the African continent.

Demographic and migratory trends inside Mozambique have been causing alarm for a while now.  The nation is already dealing with problems caused by the flows of people that come south in search of (very few) jobs and opportunities in the capital. When I was in Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique, I heard countless times that development slowed down and everyone just left for Maputo (I am not sure which came first). Population growth rate is still high: women have on average 4 or 5 children in larger cities and 6 in rural areas.

It is clear that Mozambique does not currently possess the infrastructure, the services or the economy necessary to create good living standards for the population that it will host. It barely does now – social indicators are terrible, and the country has the fourth lowest rank in the UNDP human development index. Literacy rate, for example, is around 52%; unemployment is about 27%, with only 32% of jobs found in the formal market.

In 1999, the government published the National Population Policy (PNP), a plan that was supposed to help the country reach an economically sustainable growth rate. It clearly has not worked out so far, and there is a lot of pressure for a review of the plan. According to Antonio Francisco, a researcher from IESE (Institute of Social and Economic Studies), a think tank based in Maputo, there are three basic ways in which Mozambican politicians failed in their attempts to address the issue. The first is that they “convey an exaggerated and non-critical fascination” for the vast territory of the country and its abundant natural resources, with a “vulgar, romantic and unrealistic perception about the relationship between population, economy and development”. The second is that the desire for a quick reduction of mortality rates is not accompanied by family planning efforts and opportunities; and the third is related to inadequate migration policies.

All of these could be improved by political will. Do the politicians here have the right incentives to do so? It is hard to be optimistic of anything that depends on political will here. It is certainly an exciting time, and there is lots of hope about the future in Mozambique due to new discoveries and investments in mineral resources. Indeed, megaprojects would offer a window of opportunity for employment and development, but only if well managed, which is not the case today.

If well planned and cared for, the expansion of Maputo that is being planned can be a good thing. However, I have yet to see that same investment being made in family planning, service reform, and other areas that could have an even great impact in the population growth issue.

Still, Mozambique is in a better position to face its population challenges than many other Sub-Saharan countries.



  • I think the political economy of Mozambique suggests the analogy of population planning and urban development doesn’t fit. Arguably, there isn’t a lot of money good population planning. There is a lot of money in urban development, however, much of it from state contracts. Someone is going to have to build the new roads, schools, housing, etc. and the state will probably provide a lot of the funds for this new development (via donor funds, no doubt). It’s an excellent way for the state to steer contracts to politically well-connected private businesses. Thus, there may be some hope for this project, not because politicians are acting in the public interest, but because they will be acting in their private financial or political interests. Needless to say this is far from optimal urban development and there certainly will be a lot of waste. However, it might produce a significant amount of much needed urban development.

  • In Luanda they had the same problem and decided to built a city for half a million people. This is what happened: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18646243

  • *build

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