Written by Boaventura Mandlate
Translated by Francisco Chuquela
The lack of a production chain in the country may to some extent result from what the country inherited from the policies of colonialism. Portuguese colonialism left Mozambique with a costume that doesn’t allow competitiveness, both internally and regionally from the point of view of the production chain.
Current projections indicate that Mozambique will remain for another 15 years without being competitive in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Until then, there is no sign of any miracle that could dampen the high operating costs in our ports, dictated essentially by the current infrastructure of transport and the incidence of taxes and customs procedures.
The country thus pays a historical heritage of an infrastructure designed to serve neighboring countries without access to the sea and not to serve the domestic economy. With the current configuration, which will take 15 years to change, the Portuguese colonial power wanted to ensure the effective occupation of countries of greater physical size, like Angola and Mozambique.
The weakness of Portuguese capital to ensure an effective occupation, as the Berlin Conference, forced the transport infrastructure to be turned to the hinterland, the source of capital that could help to achieve this goal. A configuration incompatible with the current context and today is thought of a new costume capable of making the country competitive in the region. Our railways maintain the traditional east-west orientation, linking Mozambican ports to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
A clear reversal in the efficient use of the four modes of transport: maritime, rail, road and air. The road is the (most expensive) route most preferred to the detriment of the sea, which represents a near zero preference. Following the road comes the average face, the railway. Most of the Mozambican ports are of international cargo arrival, which transits to and from the hinterland countries. The country has never had a maritime structure allowing the sea, from the north to the south, to be the preferred route of transportation. As a result, Mozambique remains tied to an inefficient transport infrastructure, compared, for example, with South Africa.
A country like Mozambique should have the first option of transportation, the sea, followed by the railroad and the road would be the third option, basically to feed the railroads.
Moreover, the domination of the road transport system induces distortions that have an impact on economic development and often contribute to the perpetuation of regional imbalances. There are studies proving that in many countries and over time the efficiency of road transport under the best management conditions is only verified when the distance traveled doesn’t exceed 500 kilometers. (x)