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The Mozambican

On looking at the scene in Maputo flooded by a vigorous excavation for wealth by the non-citizens of the country, one could be tempted to lay blames only on the desperateness of these foreigners, but on a second look, I see that the scale is tipping way downwards from the Mozambican side of the balance. The president emphasised greatly on the saving power of foreign investment, but also he talked about boosting human capital and self-esteem amongst Mozambicans. But what I see everywhere is a total lack of ambition within the Mozambicans. In other words, they have conveniently relegated themselves to the position of consumers while the producers and hard workers are the foreigners. They are the “happy” people dancing to the tune of the harp they never play or intend to play. I am sure that when the president talked about self-esteem, he understood this as a fundamental problem, not only on the physical impact but also the psychological damage which always have the unfortunate tendencies of sipping right into the most unconscious part of the people, therefore making it almost impossible to reverse.

I had a conversation with my friend Mario, also a photographer who has been of help to me in this project. We pondered over this issue, he rightly pointed out that Mozambique is a land of economic opportunities – lots of potentials to be explored, but the Mozambicans never think beyond a few Meticais for a day or week. They have a very cheap way of looking at life that cannot even pass for modesty but utter laziness and lack of insight. There are a few exceptions: those who were able to establish a stable business to a certain level, but as soon as they have gathered a substantial amount of money, they relocate to Portugal or Brazil to start off somewhere “much better”. The one –directional movement around the circle has naturally established a mode of operation: the foreigners invest in exploring new grounds and opportunities, while the indigenes serve as mare pawns (scrambling for menial jobs) to fulfil the investors’ objectives.

A good example is the story of the Indians in Maputo. They are very industrious when it comes to business; they form the elite class of Maputo. Most of the big business establishments are owned by the Indians. The biggest and newest (only opened in 2007) shopping mall by the name Maputo Shopping Centre is owned by a wealthy Indian. Again, Mario told me of the ordeal of working for the Indians: they make you work a lot and if you are a student, they literally put you in a situation where you will have to choose between school and keeping your job. At first you are employed with the notion of working part time while you study, but after about 6 months, your boss will suggest that the amount of time which you work is not enough, therefore you ought to consider working more hours (is that a promotion after 6 months of work or a demotion?). Then the student will be obliged to suspend his studies for, say, two years, but there is a likelihood that he won’t go back to studies because the money will never be enough, not with all the expenses, both on a personal and familial level.

What is dangerous is that the Mozambicans love their life. They are very peaceful people, the friendliest city I have ever lived in. They are “comfortable” in their little scale, approachable, and warm-hearted. They have naturally accepted to be the masters of all the menial ranks in the city while the foreigners are naturally “The Boss”. They see all these influx of money (dollars, Euros, rands, etc) everywhere, but some of them would prefer to have a bit of it through over-pricing an apple or some tomatoes instead of developing a long-term idea on how to maximise potentials. They will prefer to have their own share of the dollars and Euros by working long hours for peanut salaries, as opposed to relying on the fundamental benefits of education and acquisition of knowledge for long-term dividends. That is also why in parallel to the fast growing economy there is equally a high rate of corruption.
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I am an Igbo-Nigerian visual artist and writer who lives and works between Lagos and Berlin, moving from one to the other on a frequent basis. Check bio here: http://emekaokereke.com/biography

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