Maputo is rumoured to have about 1.2 million inhabitants ( though when considering the slums and ghettos, that number is much higher). My first impression of Maputo was on a five-day visit in august 2007 during the dance project organised by Qudus Onikeku. Those limited days weren’t enough to have a grasp of the entirety of life in the city. We left thinking that Maputo is a habitat for “happy people”. Now, much of that notion still remains the same but only with a better insight into their “happiness” having spent already 3 weeks in the place.
Before I left Paris for this journey, I picked up a pamphlet from the Mozambican embassy where I read a two-page interview of the president (Amando Armilio Guebuza) on his prospect for the country. He talked about useful strategies to maximise the potential of the country, from human capital, to investment in energy, tourism and major exports. He emphasised continuously on the inevitable importance of foreign investment (and investors) as an efficient way of boosting country towards a long term economic independence (in this he talked about how the aim is to create a favourable atmosphere to attract lots of foreign investors). He also talked of what he called the “the first thing” which is to ensure self-esteem on each and every Mozambican, i.e. every citizen ought to be proud of being a Mozambican. He mentioned the tedious but assuring step towards peace and political stability saying that “before development can take place, there must ( first of all) be peace”.
After reading this interview, I was quite impressed by his ideas , especially as it seems these are not mere white elephant promises – Mozambique is currently considered to have the fastest growing economy in Africa today. Coupled with this good-economic-news and the good omen of a quiet travel from Johannesburg (in what I expected to be the most hectic of all travels), I was really looking forward to nothing less than a good time in Maputo. On the other hand I was really curious as to how the words of the president on paper play out on the people in real life(because that is usually the case: eloquent interviews on New York and financial times ,but total neglect of those whose daily lives they claim to defend).
Therefore, besides going about my scheduled project in Maputo, I spent my time comparing and contrasting, using the words of the president as a reference point. From here onwards, this blog will be my reflections on the realities of the city and from a very personal point of view.