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The Commonwealth



Did you know:

Graça Machel is a former Chairperson of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Maria Lurdes Mutola, born in Maputo, took the Commonwealth Games Women’s 800 Metres record at the Manchester Games in 2002.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1995
Population: 25,834,000 (2013)
GDP: 3.7% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: 2011: world ranking 178
Official language: Portuguese
Timezone: GMT plus 2hr
Currency: Mozambique metical (MT)


Area: 799,380 sq km
Coastline: 2,470km
Capital city: Maputo
Population density (per sq. km): 32

Mozambique is in south-east Africa and borders (anti-clockwise,

from north) the United Republic of Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland and the Indian Ocean.

The country is divided into eleven provinces (from south to north): Maputo, Maputo city, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica, Sofala, Zambézia, Tete, Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado.

Main towns:

Maputo (capital, pop. 1.23m in 2014), Matola (greater Maputo, 893,000), Nampula (Nampula province, 605,800), Beira (Sofala, 459,500), Chimoio (Manica, 304,900), Nacala (Nampula, 238,100), Quelimane (Zambézia, 235,900), Mocuba (Zambézia, 213,600), Tete (Tete, 205,600), Lichinga (Niassa, 204,900), Garue (Zambézia, 194,600), Pemba (Cabo Delgado, 190,700), Xai-Xai (Gaza, 127,400), Maxixe (Inhambane, 125,200), Gurué (Zambézia, 122,300), Angoche (Nampula, 104,700), Cuamba (Niassa, 101,500), Montepuez (Cabo Delgado, 91,600), Inhambane (Inhambane, 76,900) and Dondo (Sofala, 76,200).


There are 30,330 km of roads, 21 per cent paved. The road network links with all neighbouring countries except Tanzania in the north. There is a new toll road from Maputo to Witbank in the industrial heartland of South Africa.

The railway network extends to 3,116 km.

Beyond domestic needs, Beira, Maputo and Nacala are important ports for Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

International airports are Maputo International, 3 km north-west of the city, and Beira, 13 km from the city.

International relations:

Mozambique is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.


Mozambique occupies the eastern fringe of the great southern African escarpment. The mountains of the interior fall to a broad plateau, which descends to coastal hills and plain. Rivers generally run west to east. The coastal beaches are fringed by lagoons, coral reefs and strings of islands. The extensive low plateau covers nearly half the land area. The Zambezi is the largest of 25 main rivers.


Tropical and subtropical. Inland is cooler than the coast and rainfall higher as the land rises. The hottest and wettest season is October to March. From April to September the coast has warm, mainly dry weather, tempered by sea breezes. The country is vulnerable to cyclones.


The most significant environmental issues are desertification, pollution of surface and coastal waters, and persistent migration of people from the hinterland to urban and coastal areas.


The plateau is savannah – dry and open bushveld and wide stretches of grassland. There are patches of forest in the western and northern highlands. Dense subtropical bush characterises the coastal plain. Forest covers 49 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises seven per cent and permanent cropland 0.4 per cent of the total land area.


Mozambique has four national parks. Gorongosa, the biggest, extends to 3,770 sq km. There are also many forest and game reserves harbouring zebras, water buffaloes, giraffes, lions, elephants and rhinos, and many varieties of tropical water birds such as flamingos, cranes, storks and pelicans. Some 179 species of mammals have been recorded, 12 of which are endangered (2014).


From the 10th century or earlier, Arabs and Indians traded with populations in the Mozambique area. Portuguese traders took prominence from the 15th century onwards, vying with Arabs and Swahili people along the coast in the commodity and slave trades. In time, Portuguese settlers came, establishing large estates. However, Portuguese control was fiercely resisted and by 1885, when the colonial powers met for the Berlin Conference to formalise colonial boundaries, Portugal only controlled coastal strongholds and a few scattered inland areas. After a series of military campaigns to subdue the African population, Portugal auctioned off land concessions. The Mozambique Company, the Niassa Company and the Zambezi Company, representing largely non-Portuguese (especially British) capital, established plantations in north and central Mozambique, using forced local labour. Many Mozambicans from the south found employment in South Africa’s expanding mining industry.

In 1951 Portugal declared Mozambique to be its overseas province and by 1970 some 200,000 Portuguese settlers – mainly peasant and working class people – had been brought to the country by the Portuguese government.

Nationalist groups began to form in the 1960s; three banned groups merged to form Frelimo (Frente de Libertaçâo de Moçambique), which led a war of attrition to win independence. Frelimo’s first President, Dr Eduardo Mondlane, was assassinated by the Portuguese in 1969. After the 1974 revolution in Portugal, the new government soon started negotiations with the liberation movements in the overseas provinces on self- determination. Mozambique became independent on 25 June 1975. Some 90 per cent of the Portuguese settlers left the country, creating a skills vacuum.

Frelimo, under Samora Machel, the country’s first President, came to power with strong socialist ideals and the aim of rapid development; initially it made considerable improvements in health and education. However, authority was rigidly centralised and some policies were heavy-handed – in particular, the forced creation of communal rural villages.

Civil war broke out in the late 1970s between the government and Renamo (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana). Renamo was first supported by the white regime in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and later by South Africa. Commanding widespread support from the disaffected, Renamo was especially active in central provinces such as Sofala, Manica and Zambézia, and later on in the south. Through sabotage, Renamo managed to destroy much of the country’s economic and social infrastructure: roads and railways, schools and health centres, houses, shops and factories. Millions of Mozambicans fled as refugees into neighbouring countries, or became deslocados (the internally displaced people). More than one million people were killed. Machel was killed in a mysterious air crash in 1986 and was succeeded as President by Joaquim Chissano, the former Foreign Minister.

The new constitution adopted in 1990 introduced into the country a multiparty democratic system and a free-market economy, thus paving the way for the peace process. Negotiations mediated by the Italian Roman Catholic community of Sant’Egidio culminated in a peace agreement in October 1992; a UN peacekeeping force arrived in July 1993, and demobilisation of troops began in mid- March 1994. In the multiparty elections of October 1994 President Chissano was re-elected with 53 per cent of the votes, his main rival, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, securing 34 per cent. In the parliamentary elections Frelimo won 129 seats (44 per cent of the votes), Renamo 112 seats (38 per cent) and the Democratic Union nine seats (5 per cent).

Mozambique, which had long been interested in Commonwealth membership, became the Commonwealth’s 53rd member (and the first not to have once been associated with the British Empire) with the agreement of all the other members, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in New Zealand in November 1995.

History of Mozambique

Full Documentary 2017 Ross Kemp Extreme World - Mozambique

Learn more about Mozambique on The Commonwealth site
Society, Economy, Constitution & politics, History and Travel.

General Facts from the Portuguese Embassy (pdf)

Mozambique Country Report
Current Intelligence Country Handbook 1966 (pdf)

Mozambique: Reeling From Economic Blows
CIA Intelligence Report 1984 (pdf)

Fifty Days on board a Slave-Vessel in the Mazambique Channel
In April and May, 1843 by The Rev. Pascoe Grenfell Hill Chaplain of H.M.S. "Cleopatra" (pdf)

Glimpses of Mozambique, 2015

Visit Mozambique

Business in the Commonwealth
Web site of the Country

Return to our Commonwealth Page


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