Geographic location: South-eastern Africa
Area: 799 380 km2
Population: 19 371 057 (2001)
Other important cities: Beira, Nampula and Quelimane
Independence date: 1975
Government type: Democratic republic
Official language: Portuguese
Major religions: Indigenous beliefs, Christian and Muslim
Mozambique is located on the South-eastern coast of Africa and is bordered by South Africa and Swaziland, to the southwest, Zimbabwe to the west, Zambia and Malawi to the northwest and Tanzania to the north. To the east lies the Indian Ocean, which, thanks to the Mozambique canal, separates the country from the island of Madagascar. The country’s total area is 799 380 km2 . The main cities are Maputo (former Lourenço Marques), the capital, with 932 000 inhabitants (1991), Beira (299 000 inhab.) and Nampula (250 000 inhab.).
The river Zambezi, the largest in the country, divides Mozambique into two zones, and is a natural frontier between the two different geographic regions that exist in the country: the northern region, with highlands, fertile soils and thorn forests; and the southern region, with lowlands and poorer soils, with savannahs.
The climate in Mozambique is tropical humid and there is a humid season (from November to March) and a dry season (From April to October). The intensity of the climate varies according to the altitude. It should be noted that the northern region is more humid than the southern, also because of the monsoons from the Indian ocean that affect primarily the northern coast, since the southern coast is in some way protected by a geographic barrier that corresponds to the island of Madagascar.
The main economic sector is agriculture, in which the main productions are corn, manioc, beans and rice, as well as cattle breeding. Moreover, the agricultural production is based on sugar, tea and citrus, products that were incremented during the colonial period and that are still produced. Also, the forest exploration decreased after the independence, despite the interest shown by international investors. Fishing has been progressing, since the income from the capture of mackerel, sardine, tuna and, especially, shrimp and lobster, have been increasing since the 1970s.
The industrial sector includes small industries in the area mining or manufacturing of raw materials for exportation. Both these activities are still poorly explored, especially mining, despite the abundance of resources in the country – Mozambique has the biggest tantalum reserve in the world (a rare ore, extremely important for electronics), and it is easy to find other high quality ores, such as iron, bauxite, copper, graphite, marble, garnet (a precious stone), and limestone. Mozambique’s main commercial partners are South Africa, Spain, Japan and Portugal.
In 2001, Mozambique had 19 371 057 inhabitants (excluding refugees in neighbour countries, approximately 1 000 000 people). Birth and death rates are, respectively, 38%o and 23%o. The average life expectancy is 38 years. Specialists believe that, in 2025, Mozambique will have 20 638 000 inhabitants. In terms of ethno-linguistic characteristics, the biggest group are the Macuas (47%), followed by the Tsonga (23%), the Malawi (12%) and the Shonas (11%). Indigenous beliefs are practiced by 48% of the population, 31% of the Mozambicans are Catholic and 13% are Moslem. The official language is Portuguese.