THE ECONOMY OF Mozambique is, on the surface, moving impressively upstream against a particularly strong current. An inspection team from the International Monetary Fund visited the country last month. The main conclusion from this IMF mission was: “Mozambique’s macroeconomic performance in 2008 has remained strong. Growth this year is projected to slow only to 6,5% from 7% in 2007.”
Given the gloomy outlook that’s overtaken the world economy generally in recent months, that would seem yet more confirmation of its status as the lead “tiger” of sub-Saharan Africa. However, just a few months earlier Mozambique’s economic situation appeared far less cheery. In June the economics department of Standard Bank observed: “Eco- nomic activity in Mozambique slowed to 3,5% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2008 from 10,3% in the preceding three months.”
But there were special circumstances at work then – crucially, the major power supply problems being experienced by SA’s electricity utility, Eskom. Standard commented: “Eskom at that time asked its main customers, including Mozal, to cut their electricity consumption by 10%.” Mozal is an aluminium smelter near Maputo controlled by the multinational BHP Billiton group. Mozal plays a key role in Mozambique’s total industrial production.
The IMF report makes no mention of any current problems at Mozal.