from the Financial Times..
July 4, 2013
By Andrew England in Maputo
With its tree-lined avenues, warm sea breezes, sidewalk cafés and Portuguese-style villas, Maputo has a reputation as one of southern Africa’s most charming cities.
Its crumbling, cracked pavements and sleepy air also give testimony to the fact that the city is the capital of one of the world’s poorest countries. But its image is fast changing as Mozambique starts to cash in on the rush of mining and gas companies to its shores, a phenomenon that has sparked an unprecedented property boom in Maputo.
From roads that snake a path along Maputo bay to the city’s interior, crane after crane reaches high up into the sky as buildings spring up, particularly residential blocks and office towers.
Yet even as the construction sites have multiplied, supply has lagged behind demand as expatriates – a mix of those associated with the extractive industries and Portuguese turning to their country’s former colony in search of work – have flocked to the country.
There are at least 15 buildings under construction and another 120 potential projects in the pipeline as the International Monetary Fund forecasts that Mozambique’s $14bn economy will grow by 8.4 per cent this year and 8 per cent next.
A key driver behind the economic activity is the discovery of substantial coal resources in Tete province and gasfields off Mozambique’s Indian Ocean coast…
Yet as in many fast growing African nations, the growth is coming off a low base and the impressive macroeconomic numbers have done little to improve the livelihoods of an impoverished population.
Instead the gap between a small wealthy elite and expatriates who can afford to drink and eat in the swanky new cafés and bars, and the masses is becoming more conspicuous. “There are more people not happy today than two or three years ago,” says a Mozambican executive. “People are seeing all the information about the mega-projects but their lives are not changing.”
A Mozambican banker says the challenge for the government is to devise strategies that tie the foreign investment inflows to local development, such as supporting small businesses. “The next five years will be crucial,” he says. “If you do not have the correct strategy it could be dangerous because of the social problems.”
Still, for those who can afford it, the rapidly changing face of Maputo has boosted lifestyles, with more options to drink, eat and shop and less need to cross the border into South Africa to pick up supplies or sample a little bit of luxury.