Wednesday, 26 October 2011

China takes over Moz (financing) from Portugal

The Maputo-Catembe bridge over the Bay of Maputo will make a significant difference in the lives of the people living in the Catembe area. No longer will they have to rely on the one, slow, unreliable ferry to cross the bay every day. Some time in 2014, they will be able to use the brand new Maputo-Catembe bridge. The bridge will be huge - 2700 m long and 48m high. It will also connect Maputo to the tourist resort of Pourto de Ouro in the South - possibly increasing tourism.

The project has a price tag of $300 million. Originally, it was being financed by Portugal, Mozambique's former colonial masters. But now Portugal is facing its own economic crisis and will not be able to meet these commitments. So China has taken over the project. Yet another investment by China in the Mozambican economy. Some estimates suggest that China will be Mozambique's largest investor within a year, overtaking Portugal and SADC neighbour South Africa.

So here's my question: Why? What does Mozambique have to offer China that they'd be so keen to own Moz's economy? The country does not appear to have mineral wealth, they don't have masses of productive farmland, there are no huge markets for Chinese goods. What could possibly attract a manufacturing giant like China to a pristine beach holiday retreat like Mozambique? Unless it has to do with the discovery of gas and possibly oil off Mozambique over the last couple of years. Which would suggest exploration and mining - and basically ownership - of the Mozambique channel. Which, besides ravaging a precious natural area and one of the only homes of the very endangered dugong, would be a geo-political nightmare for South Africa. Perhaps Mozambique has some hidden value that will become apparent in the future. For now, they join several other Southern African countries (notably including Zambia and Botswana) in which China seems to hold a rather significant share.

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