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News & Events New Country Portfolio on Mozambique
New Country Portfolio on Mozambique
New Country Portfolio on Mozambique
The Land Portal published a new country portfolio for Mozambique as part of our Country Insights initiative.  The initiative seeks to expand knowledge about how countries govern their land, the challenges they face and the innovative solutions they find to manage land tenure issues. 
Mozambique continues to struggle with the complex legacies of conflict stemming from a bitter anti-colonial war, followed by decades of civil strife and the current armed insurgency in Cabo Delgado. Mozambique is a fertile and mineral rich country which is also highly vulnerable to the accelerating impacts of climate change. It was recently ranked as the 35th most vulnerable and the 24th least ready country to address climate change effects. Despite having progressive land laws which entrench community land rights, these have proved difficult to implement. There is significant evidence of large scale corporate agricultural, mining and conservation investments which have displaced rural people, undermined livelihoods and fuelled discontent in the countryside.
Historical backdrop

Mozambique has a complex and contested history stretching back to the migration of Bantu speaking people from west central Africa in the third century BCE. Between the 13th- 15TH centuries parts of the coastal and the inland areas were incorporated into the sophisticated Great Zimbabwe civilisation and linked up with trade routes and coastal enclaves established by Arab African Swahili traders. The Portuguese made their first appearance in 1498 having navigated the Cape Horn, before establishing garrisons and trading posts at Sena and Tete in 1530. 

The Portuguese footprint in Mozambique slowly started to expand: firstly through the Prazos system of granting concessions to trading companies and secondly by being one the earliest European powers to profit from the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavers trafficked people captured and sold in the northern reaches of the territory. This involved transactions between Prazo and Yao slavers focused on the area around the tip of Lake Niassa. Extensive slave routes developed which shipped enslaved people to different countries including Brazil, Mauritius and Madagascar. In the first half of the 19th century numerous agreements were signed to end slavery. However, these were ineffective and “clandestine trade continued for decades”. 

Portugal was one of the last European nations to formally agree to end the slave trade. Having leased out large estates as concessions to trading companies in the period 1890-1930, Portugal sought to ensure continuity in the supply of labour. In 1899 the Portuguese introduced the system of legislated compulsory labour known as shibalo. This required that where Mozambican men were unable to find wage labour, they had to provide extensive periods of free forced labour under the control of the local administration. This forced labour code remained legally in force until 1928.

The discovery of diamonds and then of gold in South Africa irrevocably changed the face of the sub-continent. The rapidly expanding goldfields on the Witwatersrand were the catalyst for the development of Johannesburg and extended the reach of the migrant labour system throughout Southern Africa.

To know more about the Country Insights initiative and see the full list of country portfolios, click here.