Fast Facts

Population:
19,420,000
Capital:
Maputo; 1,221,000
Area:
799,380 square kilometers (308,642 square miles)
Language:
Portuguese, indigenous dialects
Religion:
Indigenous beliefs, Christian, Muslim
Currency:
Metical
Life Expectancy:
34
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $1,100
Literacy Percent:
48
Flag: Mozambique
Map: Mozambique

Mozambique, on the east coast of southern Africa, is mainly a savanna plateau drained by the mighty Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers, with highlands to the north. It has a tropical climate that can produce heavy flooding along the rivers. In 2001 flooding along the Zambezi River valley forced 70,000 people to flee their homes, and the World Bank estimated that a total of 491,000 were displaced by floods throughout the country. Most people live along the coasts or in the river valleys.

Infusions of aid are essential to a country devastated by decades of war, drought, and floods. After nearly five centuries of Portuguese presence, Mozambique won independence in 1975. An exodus of skilled Portuguese workers followed, and the country became a one-party state allied to the Soviet bloc. Mozambique was drawn into a long struggle against white rule in Rhodesia and South Africa. In 1989 the government renounced Marxism, and a democratic constitution was written in 1990. Fighting between the government and right-wing guerrillas, which claimed a hundred thousand lives and displaced more than four million, ended in 1992. In 1994 multiparty elections ushered in a new government, which has focused on diversifying the country's economy away from small-scale agriculture. Production of food and manufactured goods is steadily increasing, and a large-scale aluminum smelter started in 2000. Solid economic success bodes well for the future.

ECONOMY

  • Industry: Food, beverages, chemicals, aluminum, petroleum products, textiles
  • Agriculture: Cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea; beef
  • Exports: Aluminum, prawns, cashews, cotton sugar

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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