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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 15:24 GMT
Mozambique's economic hopes washed away
Flooded roads
Floods have submerged much of the Maputo area
By BBC News Online's Russell Smith

US President Bill Clinton recently described Mozambique as the world's fastest growing economy.

In less than a decade since the 16-year civil war ended, the country's economy has been transformed with a growth rate of more than 10% in each of the past three years - almost unheard of in Africa.

Helicopter airlift
Mozambique again needs aid in large quantities
But at about the same time as President Clinton was speaking in Washington, heavy rains were falling across southern Africa, washing away Mozambique's economic miracle in the country's worst floods in 50 years.

Aid workers say the floodwaters, which have submerged vast areas of land and destroyed much of the country's infrastructure, have caused more destruction than the war itself.

War and peace

Since Portugal abandoned its colony in the mid-1970s, Renamo rebels - with the backing of apartheid South Africa - had held sway over many rural areas, but failed to dislodge the Marxist Frelimo government from control of most of the main urban areas.

Recent history
1975
Independence from Portugal
1990
Frelimo introduces multi-party system
1992
Peace deal with Renamo
1994, 1999
Frelimo beats Renamo in elections
Much of the country was too dangerous for economic activities, and for those brave enough to try, ambushes and landmines were a constant threat.

In 1992, when Frelimo and Renamo finally agreed to end the conflict, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world.

The end of the war also saw Frelimo adopt a multiparty constitution and pursue free-market economic policies.

The new government got to work ridding the country of land mines and rebuilding the country's devastated infrastructure.

Economic miracle

Although Mozambique remains poor with 70% of the population living in huts in rural areas, the corner had been turned and optimism grew.

Joachim Chissano
President Chissano: Has won two multi-party elections
Much of Mozambique's recent economic success has been to do with the opening up of relations with its wealthy neighbour South Africa.

New wealth has sprung up, concentrated in the extreme south, around the capital, Maputo - an area now badly hit by the floods.

Maputo is the port closest to the South African industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg, and South African firms have led investment in the Maputo region.

Mozambique's move away from a dependency culture and the encouragement of private enterprise, has been widely praised in the West.

Billions of dollars of its debts were written off by the West in recognition of the country's impressive efforts to transform itself.

The past year has seen Frelimo re-elected in Mozambique's second elections since the end of the war, and the first to be organised by Mozambican officials.

A stock exchange was launched, indicating how far Frelimo has travelled from its Marxist roots.

In November 1999, Queen Elizabeth visited Maputo and praised the country's move from civil war to peace saying it was an example to other African states and strife-torn nations elsewhere in the world.

Now the floods are undoing all the hard work. Roads and bridges are destroyed, crops ruined and hundreds of thousands made homeless.

Aid workers are saying it will take two years just to get back to where Mozambique was before the rains came.

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See also:

23 Feb 00 |  Africa
Mozambique: Worst still to come
24 Feb 00 |  Africa
More floods threaten Mozambique
15 Oct 99 |  Africa
Mozambique opens stock exchange
02 Aug 99 |  Africa
Mozambique debt written off
15 Nov 99 |  Africa
Queen's praise for Mozambique
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