Mozambican Defense Minister Filipe Nyusi, the frontrunner to become president after Oct. 15 elections, invited investors to help develop a country in need of railways and roads to export its coal reserves.
“We will create solid platforms of mutual trust, investing in a situation by which each and every one of you can contribute to the growth of our country,” Nyusi said at a fundraising dinner for his Frelimo party in Johannesburg attended by South African President Jacob Zuma. “We will stabilize our countries because poverty destabilizes us.”
The ruling Frelimo named Nyusi their candidate as President Armando Guebuza is barred from extending his two terms in office. The party has been in power since independence from Portugal in 1975 and it’s estimated to win more than 60 percent of the vote in October, according to Mark Rosenberg, director for Africa at New York-based Eurasia Group.
Mozambique’s 25.2 million people remain among the world’s poorest. The country ranks 178th of 187 countries in the latest United Nations Human Development Index. It’s also the site of the biggest natural gas discovery in the last decade. The nation’s coal deposits have drawn interest from companies including Rio Tinto Plc and Vale SA.
Rio sold its Mozambican coal project after having to write-down its value because it was unable to export the raw materials.
A conflict between the government and fighters loyal to the opposition Renamo party in the country’s central Sofala province has added to caution from investors. After independence, Renamo, once backed by the white-minority governments of neighbors Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, and South Africa, fought Frelimo until a 1992 peace deal.
Nyusi, a trained mechanical engineer who worked as executive director of the country’s northern railways, called for investment in developing the structure to export resources. “You’re invited in areas of infrastructure,” he said at the dinner yesterday. “The opportunities are enormous, such as the construction of roads, bridges, rail lines.”
Mozambique’s lawmakers approved petroleum laws this month that open the way for new oil and gas bids, as well as tax breaks for offshore fields operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Eni SpA.
“Our objective is that the wealth produced in Mozambique is distributed in a transparent manner,” Nyusi said. He also stressed the importance of agricultural development. “The area that I really prioritize, because we cannot eat gas, it will be agriculture. Agriculture creates jobs,” he said.
Earlier, Nyusi wore mining overalls and spoke to about 400 mineworkers from a portable stage with his image and ’Vota Frelimo’ printed on the side, at a stadium near the Marikana site where 34 protesters were killed by police two years ago. South Africa draws migrant workers to its mines from countries including Mozambique.
Nyusi appealed for unity in Mozambique, ending his speech by saying, “Let’s stop the war, let’s unite, and let’s develop Mozambique.”
Ben Magara, chief executive officer of Lonmin Plc, which owns the Marikana mine, said the company employs about 1,900 Mozambican workers.