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March 2008

Mozambique, 1995

Mozambique, 1995

Mozambique is located in Southern Africa, along the Mozambique Channel between South Africa and Tanzania; other border countries include Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Mozambique, covering an area of 801,590 sq. km., is slightly less than twice the size of California. Maputo is the capital city; other major cities include Beira, Matola, Nampula, Quelimane, Tete, and Nacala. The Zambezi River flows through the north-central and most fertile part of the country.

The climate is tropical to subtropical and terrain varies from lowlands to high plateau. Geographic features ranging in extreme elevation are the Indian Ocean (0 m.) as the lowest point and Monte Binga (2,436 m.) as the highest point.

Natural hazards include severe droughts, devastating cyclones, and floods in central and southern provinces. Natural resources include coal, titanium, natural gas, hydropower, tantalum, and graphite.

Mozambique's 10 major ethnic groups encompass numerous subgroups with diverse languages, dialects, cultures, and history; the largest are the Makua and Tsonga. The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous, with about 40% of the population. The estimated 4 million Makua are the dominant group in the northern part of the country--the Sena and Ndau are prominent in the Zambezi valley, and the Tsonga dominate in southern Mozambique

Mozambique's first inhabitants were Bushmanoid hunters and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisani peoples. Between the first and fourth centuries AD., waves of Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from the north through the Zambezi River Valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. The Bantu were farmers and ironworkers. Despite the influence of Islamic coastal traders and European colonizers, the people of Mozambique have largely retained an indigenous culture based on subsistence agriculture. Mozambique's most highly developed art forms have been wood sculpture, for which the Makonde in northern Mozambique are particularly renowned, and dance. The modern elite continues to be heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial and linguistic heritage.

Business activity in Mozambique is centered upon import/export trading. Foreign assistance programs supply the foreign exchange required to purchase imports of goods and services. At nearly $1 billion, official imports are five times official exports. These figures exclude a vibrant and growing informal sector that conducts much of the trade along the porous borders with six neighboring countries and outside of the formal economy. Historically, principal exports have been shrimp, cashews, copra, sugar, cotton, tea, and citrus fruits.

Current issues of a long civil war and recurrent drought have resulted in increased migration of the population to urban and coastal areas with adverse environmental consequences, including desertification, pollution of surface and coastal waters, and elephant poaching for ivory.

During the annual 2008 cyclone season in the SouthWest Indian Ocean, Cyclone Jokwe made landfall in Mozambique in March.

CIA World Factbook, U.S. State Department Background Notes, 03/2008; 02/2008

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