Twenty years ago, in 1997, President Joaquim Chissano arrived in Washington DC to attend the Corporate Council on Africa’s First Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit. He came as the leader of a nation still feeling the social and economic effects of a protracted and devastating conflict.
Last month, I arrived in Washington to speak at the eleventh summit, as president of a different country. The Mozambique I lead today is a rapidly developing democracy that has gained a prominent place in Africa and the world. It is an African success story.
Over the past two decades, we have maintained one of the highest growth rates in the continent, which coupled with low inflation, has enabled us to bring millions out of poverty. At the same time, we have built an open and democratic society, complete with freedom of the press, an independent judiciary and free, fair and regular elections. Our huge natural gas find in 2012 makes us poised to become the fourth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, and we have also diversified our economy to include agribusiness, tourism and infrastructure.
Though our success is a direct result of the resilience, spirit and enterprising nature of the Mozambican people, it would not have been possible without the support of international cooperation partners and investment from foreign businesses. The partnership formed between the Mozambican government and the international community is a model of what can be achieved when we all work together.
I was elected to the presidency in October 2014 at a time when a number of factors came together to threaten our progress. The global fall in commodity prices, strong US Dollar, series of natural disasters across the region and the renewed threat of an armed insurgency, combined to slow down our economy and discourage foreign investors.
Though many of these challenges are external, my government has moved swiftly to address those we can control, and to mitigate the effects of those we cannot. Conscious of the centrality of foreign direct investment to our growth, we have taken steps to reassure the business community by demonstrating our commitment to good governance, accountability and transparency. Just recently, we agreed to undertake an independent, international and far reaching audit of state run companies, proving to our own citizens and the international community our commitment to these values.
With Mozambique moving beyond these hurdles, now is the time to look forward. My vision is for a deeper partnership between Mozambique and international stakeholders, one based first and foremost on common interests. We all have an interest in a strong, peaceful and developing Mozambique, one that offers an abundance of opportunities for those wanting to invest, while ensuring that these investments contribute towards human development of our country. We all have an interest in our international partners’ success. We all have an interest in Mozambique’s success.
In pursuit of such a partnership, I recently conducted a working visit to Washington DC. I came to consolidate Mozambique’s position as a safe and strategic destination for American investment, to reaffirm the role of the US as Mozambique’s strategic development partner, and to reiterate our willingness and readiness to raise business cooperation between our countries to the level of the excellent diplomatic relations that already exist. The US government is already the largest bilateral partner of Mozambique, and its assistance has resulted in a positive and tangible impact on the lives of our communities. I hope to increase the level of private American investment in our economy to enable American businesses to benefit from the full range of opportunities we have to offer.
Whenever I meet American business leaders I give them the same message – Mozambique is a land brimming with potential, and it is waiting for you. We not only have unparalleled mineral resources, but also extensive opportunities in sectors as diverse as agriculture, energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, communications and tourism. We can offer a skilled workforce, advanced infrastructure and an open and stable business environment. Behind this is a staunchly pro-business government that is constantly seeking to improve the climate for investors, and will continue to undertake legal and institutional reforms to make it easier to do business in Mozambique.
This was demonstrated just a few weeks ago with the signing with ENI of the $8 billion Coral South floating LNG Project in Maputo. This project will be the world’s first ultra-deep offshore FLNG project, and represents the only large FID taken worldwide in the industry in the past year. Despite the risk involved, the project attracted financing from 15 banks and five export credit agencies. Each of them performed a rigorous audit of both the project and the country, and decided to go ahead, representing a major vote of confidence in Mozambique and my government.
The relationship I envisage will lead to greater benefits for all involved. The potential of a partnership that brings together the dynamism of the business community, the commitment of our international cooperation partners, and the natural resources and spirit of the Mozambican people, is boundless. For years people have been saying that Mozambique is rising. Now it is time to soar.